best of the best

Bryson DeChambeau’s 72nd hole bunker shot at the U.S. Open was amazing, but was it a major best? Here's a golf lifer’s list

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Sean M. Haffey

Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 thanks to a stunning bunker shot Sunday on the 18th hole from 55 yards, knocking it to four feet for the par putt that gave him a one-shot victory. The bunker shot was remarkable, statistician Lou Stagner noting Sunday night that tour pros hit it that close from that distance only 1.7 percent of the time—and that’s not taking into account it was the final hole of the U.S. Open.

But was it the most clutch bunker shot ever on the final hole of a major? This one-man golf lifer decided to take a crack at trying to see where the shot stacked up compared to other historic shots. Again, here are the guidelines: final hole or final hole of a playoff in a major only. No Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship or Seve Ballesteros at PGA National in the Ryder Cup. No Tiger Woods on 18 in the third round of the 2002 PGA at Hazeltine National. Nothing against those events or the greatness of those shots, but majors matter the most and the final hole matters even more.

Feel free to disagree with that—or this list.

9. Mark Brooks, Valhalla G.C., 1996 PGA

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J.D. Cuban

Brooks came to the last hole needing a birdie to tie Kenny Perry and found the front bunker on the par-5 18th—but the reason this shot ranks where it does was its relative ease. “That was the play all week,” Brooks said. “I was hitting my 3-wood well at the time. And I knew if I caught it at 102 percent, I could carry that front bunker, but there was a 90 percent chance I was going to hit into the bunker. I knew that was the shot and I was only thinking one shot ahead.” Brooks splashed out to a few feet, made birdie and forced a playoff with Perry, which he won.

8. Curtis Strange, The Country Club, 1988 U.S. Open

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John Biever

Strange looked like he might win the title when, with a one-shot lead, he nailed a 9-iron to 12 feet on the 17th hole. Strange three-jacked, however, and now needing a par at the last, hit it in the bunker fronting the 18th green. The play, however, was fairly straightforward and Strange pulled it off, made par, then downed Nick Faldo in an 18-hole playoff the next day.

7. Sandy Lyle, Augusta National G.C., 1988 Masters

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Brian Morgan

Playing as the second most difficult hole on the course, Augusta’s 18th appeared ready to claim one last victim in the 1988 Masters when Lyle drove into the front fairway bunker. Even Lyle, as he left the tee, was pessimistic. “I thought it was all over,” he said. “I didn’t think I had a chance of getting it out of that bunker and to the green.” Moments later, it was indeed over. In a stunning turn of events, the Scot lofted a 7-iron above the daunting bunker lip to 10 feet and holed the downhill putt to win by one over Mark Calcavecchia.

6. Jack Burke Jr., Augusta National G.C., 1956 Masters

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Augusta National

At the start of the final round, Burke trailed amateur Ken Venturi by eight shots. However, ferocious winds and a balky putter for Venturi allowed Burke to make up all that ground and then some. When Burke blasted from the right greenside bunker to four feet (a shot easier then than now given the green speeds) and made the putt, he had a 71 (the low round of the day), a one-shot win and a green jacket. Limiting its spot on the list is the fact that no video of the shot exists.

5. Matt Fitzpatrick, The Country Club, 2022 U.S. Open

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Boston Globe

Holding a one-shot lead playing the 18th hole, Matt Fitzpatrick couldn’t have been happy to see his ball find a fairway bunker. “I'll be honest,” he said. “One thing that I've been really struggling with this year is fairway bunker play.” He needn’t have worried. Taking little time, Fitzpatrick hit what he deemed a “squeezy fade” from a difficult lie that found the putting surface, leaving an easy two-putt par for the win by one over Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris. “Yeah, it was amazing,” said Fitzpatrick of the shot. Indeed, it was.

4. Ernie Els, Muirfield, 2002 Open Championship

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ADRIAN DENNIS

Although Els’ amazing bunker recovery at the 13th hole at Muirfield is perhaps the better shot, we’re talking about final hole theatrics and Els produced one of those as well. With Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby eliminated in the four-hole aggregate playoff, Els and Thomas Levet returned to the difficult 18th. Levet bogeyed the hole and when Els blasted out of the sod-faced bunker to five feet, the ensuing putt gave him the claret jug and his first major since the 1997 U.S. Open.

3. Bryson DeChambeau, Pinehurst No. 2, 2024 U.S. Open

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Tracy Wilcox

We all saw it but it’s still difficult to believe. Admit it. When DeChambeau found the front right bunker on Pinehurst No. 2’s finishing hole, we all felt a playoff with Rory McIlroy was all but a certainty. But with the statistical odds of an up-and-down firmly stacked against him (less than 2 percent), DeChambeau extricated his ball and watched it stop a few feet from the hole, resulting in an easy par putt, his second U.S. Open title, and, as far as this list goes, the best final-hole bunker shot in a major ever—non-hole-out division.
RELATED: Bryson DeChambeau teaches you how to hit a power draw like he did to win the U.S. Open

2. Birdie Kim, Cherry Hills C.C., 2005 U.S. Women's Open

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Doug Pensinger

Kim was engaged in a Sunday showdown with 17-year-old amateur phenom Morgan Pressel, who was playing in the group behind her. Standing one shot ahead, Kim dumped her approach in the front-right greenside bunker. With Pressel watching from the fairway, Kim then deposited her sand shot on the green and watched it roll toward the hole and drop in like a rabbit diving into its hole. Pressel, forced to go for birdie at the last, made bogey instead to lose by two.

1. Bob Tway, Inverness Club, 1986 PGA Championship

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John Iacono

It’s one thing to hole a bunker shot to win a major. It’s another to drop one in to take down Greg Norman at his peak. That’s what Bob Tway did on Inverness’ short par-4 18th. Tied with Norman, who leaked oil to a final-round 76, Tway found a greenside bunker and looked in danger of losing outright. Instead, Tway lofted the ball out with Ping Eye2 wedge and watched as it found the cup, flipping the script on Norman who, after failing to match Tway’s birdie, instead became the owner of the Saturday Slam, having led all four majors in 1986 after 54 holes but winning only one.