Masters 2019: A highly subjective ranking of the last 33 Masters-winning putts, from ho hum to holy sh$#!
Between the collapses, the triumphs and leader board jockeying, Masters Sunday provides enough stress and anxiety for an entire year, let alone four hours on an April afternoon. The action is fast, furious and often heart-stopping. There is no Sunday like it in the sport, and that's really not up for debate.
But there is one caveat: the highly dramatic happenings rarely ever occur at the 72nd hole. We decided to go back and look at the last 33 Masters, starting with 1986 (which was a decent tournament), and we only watched the winner's final stroke of the day. What we found is that the ending of Bobby Jones' small gathering of friends is often very anticlimactic, which isn't a bad thing. It makes the rare occasions when the week's proceedings come down to the final hole all the more special. If every year the Masters ended on a heart-attack-inducing birdie putt, the moment would soon lose a lot of its luster. All we can hope for is an exciting back nine with a plethora of syrupy storylines, and if it comes down to the 72nd, hallelujah.
After watching all 33 final putts (and one chip), we ranked them from most ho-hum to most holy sh$#! Things we took into account: whether or not the putt was must-make, the crowd reaction, the winner's reaction and the overall sense of drama at the 18th (sometimes 10th or 11th) green.
Some stipulations: This ranking is purely based on the champion's very last putt, not about what happened at the 16th hole, or the 12th, 13th or 15th for that matter. The ranking is broken down into four tiers, from the snooze-fest tap ins, to the birdies that didn't mean anything but added to the excitement, to the putts with historical significance, to the few putts that had to drop and the ensuing chaos that followed. Apologies to Canada and diminutive southpaws everywhere in advance for how we kick off the ranking. Here goes.
TIER 1 - The two-putts, the tap-ins, the bogeys to win
The biggest revelation of this ranking? There have been a whole bunch of two-putts and tap ins and (GASP) even bogeys made by the winner to close out the tournament. Mike Weir three-putted ... for bogey! Bernhard Langer in 1993? Bogey. Phil Mickelson in 2006? Bogey! In addition to those, our opening tier is a hefty helping of two-putt pars. We don't mean to be disparaging, in fact, that's exactly what every player dreams of coming up the 72nd hole at a major: a nice two or three-shot cushion and a routine par. That doesn't mean we have to think they are exciting, though.
No. 33 - Mike Weir, 2003
Again, sorry Canada, but a three-putt bogey to win the Masters is quite literally the definition of anticlimactic.
No. 32 - Angel Cabrera, 2009
Still the quietest crowd reaction in the history of the tournament.
No. 31 - Bernhard Langer, 1993
No. 30 - Zach Johnson, 2007
No. 29 - Trevor Immelman, 2008
No. 28 - Jose Maria Olazabal, 1999
No. 27 - Nick Faldo, 1996
No. 26 - Bubba Watson, 2014
No. 25 - Phil Mickelson, 2006
No. 24 - Tiger Woods, 2002
TIER 2 - The birdies that weren't necessary, and other indelible moments worthy of praise
Like Tier 1, Tier 2 features a group of winners that everybody knew had it locked up as they made their way up the 18th fairway. Again, this is the dream for the player, but as the viewer, you feel cheated. We wait all year for the Masters to come around, and you invest hours of your life over this four-day period in the hopes that something insane will happen late on Sunday. And then, somebody strolls to the 18th tee with a four-shot lead. Yawn. That said, sometimes guys drop a long putt for birdie, which will always be more satisfying than a tap-in. Or, sometimes you get emotional victories from Ben Crenshaw or Phil Mickelson or Bubba Watson that, even though they didn't provide much drama at 18, make it all worthwhile.
No. 23 - Nick Faldo, 1990
No. 22 - Jose Maria Olazabal, 1994
No. 21 - Vijay Singh, 2000
Now we're getting there. You make a birdie at the last, even with a two-shot lead and the win already locked up, that's still a big deal.
No. 20 - Danny Willett, 2016
Bonus points for removing his pullover to reveal his green shirt, knowing that he was likely going to win. Have to respect that move.
No. 19 - Fred Couples, 1992
Freddy needing to pull off the shot of his life from the fairway bunker at 18 certainly bumped his two-putt par up a couple notches.
No. 18 - Charl Schwartzel, 2011
Four straight birdies to close it out, that'll do.
No. 17 - Ben Crenshaw, 1995
No. 16 - Tiger Woods, 2001
No. 15 - Bubba Watson, 2012
No. 14 - Phil Mickelson, 2010
TIER 3 - The sneaky-dramatic putts and historic moments
While somewhat anticlimactic, putts like Jordan Spieth's in 2015 or Tiger Woods' in 1997 had enough historical significance to understand that each were such enormous moments. That's why you'll find them ranked this high, among some of the most memorable final putts in tournament history that just narrowly missed out on cracking the top five.
No. 13 - Jordan Spieth, 2015
No. 12 - Patrick Reed, 2018
This may have looked like a straightforward tap-in, but it was anything but. This is a must-make to win your first major with a playoff looming if you get even a little yippy. Add in the fact that it sure sounded like everyone wanted him to miss and this was a much more intense moment than it may have felt at the time.
No. 11 - Tiger Woods, 1997
As epic as a winning putt with a 12-shot lead can get.
No. 10 - Sergio Garcia, 2017
He didn't need it to go, but it did, ending his first major in style and yielding an all-time memorable scene at the 18th.
No. 9 - Ian Woosnam, 1991
No. 8 - Sandy Lyle, 1988
This was the first time since Arnold Palmer in 1960 that anyone had birdied the final hole to win the Masters. Iconic.
No. 7 - Jack Nicklaus, 1986
Had that first one dropped, this is likely No. 1 on the list. Still, even the tap-in was a surreal moment, and it wasn't even a sure thing that he'd won yet.
No. 6 - Adam Scott, 2013
Another that may have been higher if the "C'MON AUSSIE" birdie at the 18th were his final stroke of the day, though his birdie to win at 10 is still up there. One of the greatest Masters in recent memory.
TIER 4 - The GOAT finishes
No. 5 - Nick Faldo, 1989
The sweater, the putt, the hole he made it on (bring the playoff back to 11 please), the fact it shouldn't have even happened had Hoch just made a two-footer at the previous playoff hole. A more shocking ending than The Sopranos finale. You want drama? You got drama!
No. 4 - Tiger Woods, 2005
Obviously, the chip at No. 16 is the moment everyone remembers, and that should have been the tournament right there. But Tiger went full Kenny Perry (or did Kenny Perry go full Tiger?), bogeying the final two holes to fall into a playoff with should-have-been-a-two-time Masters winner Chris DiMarco. As nerve-wracking as it must have been for Tiger fans, they got an all-time uppercut fist pump out of it.
No. 3 - Mark O'Meara, 1998
Beggars cannot be choosers, and O'Meara dropping this putt made for one of the greatest photos in the history of golf. But man, a three-man playoff with David Duval and Fred Couples would have been electric. But I guess we'll take this ...
No. 2 - Larry Mize, 1987
Do I need to say it again? BRING THE PLAYOFF BACK TO THE 11TH!
Also, Jack in '86, Mize's chip-in in '87, Lyle's birdie in '88 and Faldo's win in a playoff in '89 has a case for greatest four-year stretch in Masters history.
No. 1 - Phil Mickelson, 2004
The undisputed king of major-winning final putts. Barring a win from Tiger at the 72nd in the future, nothing will ever top 2004 at Augusta, when Mickelson broke through to win his first major in the most dramatic way possible. Extra points for the celebratory jump. Or least trying to jump.