June 24, 2013

5 clutch moments of bunker brilliance

Perhaps the most famous bunker shot of them all, Lyle at Augusta in 1988. © Getty Images

As thoughts turn to The Open, to Muirfield and its treacherous bunkers, this feels like a good time to revisit some of golf's most iconic shots from the sand.

What stands these apart is not just their skill of execution, but the fact they were played with high stakes and under intense pressure. Your average club golfer is happy enough to escape the sand; these men soared from it.

1. Sandy Lyle at the 1988 Masters

This year was the 25th anniversary of Lyle's iconic fairway bunker shot at Augusta. The Scot took a seven-iron and made the sweetest contact imaginable to send his ball above the flag and watch it track back down.

"Every time I play the hole, I look over there and shake my head," said Mark Calcavecchia, the man Lyle beat to the green jacket in 1988 by a single shot.

2. Tiger Woods at the 2002 US PGA Championship

Woods remembers this one as the best shot of his career, which is saying something. He didn't go on to win the US PGA in 2002, but his three-iron will go down in history as one of Woods' most implausible feats.

"It just felt like nothing, like when guys hit a home run, [or] describe a home run, how easy it felt, even though it went 460 feet," Woods said in an interview with CBS Sports. "It just felt effortless; that's how that shot felt. And I made the putt, too."

3. Severiano Ballesteros at the 1983 Ryder Cup

I've searched high and wide, but there is no clip to be found of Seve's famous Ryder Cup shot in 1983, which saw him pull three-wood from a bunker 245 yards out at the last. Here's the Guardian's late, great golf writer Dai Davies describing what happened.

"It was an impossible shot and it was greeted first with a stunned silence, and then by incredulous laughter that greets something that is outwith the experience of the watcher. It was, in the literal sense of the word, fantastic."

Seve somehow got down in three from the sand and managed to halve his match with Fuzzy Zoeller.

4. Zach Johnson at the 2012 John Deere Classic

Former Masters champion Johnson was into the second hole of a sudden-death play-off at the John Deere Classic. His drive found a fairway bunker, but the American summoned a moment of sand sorcery from 194 yards to make birdie at the 18th and claim the trophy.

5. Bob Tway at the 1986 US PGA Championship

Bob Tway looked like he might capitulate to Greg Norman in the final round of the 1986 US PGA, but he stole victory at the 72nd hole by holing out from the sand. It was just one of many heartbreaks for the Great White Shark.

Sports Illustrated's Barry McDermott wrote of Norman's year at the majors:

"He had let the Masters slip from his grasp, then the US Open, and now, in a year in which, with luck, he might have had a Grand Slam—as it was, he led all four majors after three rounds for a Saturday Slam—the Great White Shark was harpooned again."

Credit to lists compiled by Forbes, HK golfer, the Guardian and the US PGA Tour.


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