Tour and News

My No. 1 Shot of All Time: Pros recount the greatest shots of their careers

Photo: John G. Zimmerman/SI

ELECTRIC CHARGE: Palmer was 'hot under the collar' as he hit the drive that launched his great comeback.


A miracle Masters eagle. A driver off the deck. A wedge shanked... on purpose! We asked Hall of Famers, Tour winners and rising stars to recount their No. 1 greatest swing ever. Here are the stories, in their own words.
 

Arnold Palmer
MY SHOT

Driver to ignite charge, 1960 U.S. Open, Cherry Hills C.C.
MY MOMENT
"I was hot under the collar when I went to the first tee at Cherry Hills for the final round of the 1960 U.S. Open. Instead of the encouragement I expected from him, my writer friend Bob Drum had just told me I had no chance of winning the championship from seven shots back. I had angrily stormed from the locker room to the practice tee and pounded a few drives to the back of the range before my starting time. For three days I had tried without success to drive the green on the 346-yard starting hole. This time I pegged it up and the ball tore through the rough edging the green and bounced onto the front of the putting surface. That touched off a surge of adrenaline in me and a run of six birdies on the first seven holes, a 65, and my first and only U.S. Open Championship."
 

Rocco Mediate
Fred Vuich/SI
UNDERDOG DAY: Mediate nearly toppled Tiger in their 19-hole U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines.

 

Rocco Mediate
MY SHOT

5-iron to set up birdie in playoff, 2008 U.S. Open, Torrey Pines
MY MOMENT
"I wasn't as nervous in the playoff against Tiger as I thought I'd be. Hell, I woke up feeling I was gonna win. I thought I had him after No. 15. I hit a hard 5-iron and made bird. It was a cool shot. A pretty 5-iron, and I needed it, because [Tiger] hit an unbelievable shot from where he was. I made the 35-foot putt, and I had the lead [with three holes left in regulation]. He's got me by 14 years and a thousand yards off the tee, but I kept hanging in, hanging in. I threw everything at him. He's who he is. There's nothing else to say."

Lee Janzen
MY SHOT

3-iron to set up pivotal par, 1998 U.S. Open, Olympic Club
MY MOMENT
"The best shot I ever hit was on Sunday, my second shot on the 17th hole, the 3-iron I hit onto the green. I'd doubled that hole Friday and Saturday from the fairway -- yeah, the fairway. I'm in the fairway again on Sunday, and it's uphill, the wind left-to-right. And it was off a sidehill, uphill lie. A miss could have been a hook. All that considered, it was absolutely the best 3-iron I could hit. It landed near the front, kicked, and ran to the back of the green. I two-putted for par. And that was the difference." [Janzen finished one stroke ahead of Payne Stewart.]

Gary Player
MY SHOT

Blind 9-iron from the trees, 1972 PGA Championship, Oakland Hills C.C.
MY MOMENT
"During the final round of the 1972 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, there were several of us -- Snead, Casper, Floyd -- within a shot or two of each other. I had just missed an 18-inch putt on 15, and I followed with a sliced drive over the trees and into the rough on the 16th. I was fortunate. The rough had been trampled down by the spectators. I knew to use a 9-iron, as I knew the ball was going to fly out of the wet rough. I couldn't see the flag because of the willow trees, and the ball had laid down in the wet grass. I noticed that someone had left their seat stick under a tree and right in line with the flag, so I went back to my ball and aimed at the seat stick. The ball landed within three feet! I birdied the hole, which enabled me to win the championship. That shot decided the event. There's now a plaque where I hit the shot that propelled me to my second PGA Championship."

Rory Sabbatini
MY SHOT

"Surreal" eagle putt, 2007 Masters, Augusta National
MY MOMENT
"The eagle putt on No. 8 in the final round was a really tough putt [60 feet] and was one that I had jokingly practiced. Then I have it in the tournament? To execute it as well as I did, the way I envisioned the shot -- and for it to pan out -- was highly unlikely. I felt complete amazement. It seemed surreal. I couldn't believe I'd actually made it."

Hunter Mahan
MY SHOT

Driver to set up eagle, Deutsche Bank Championship, TPC Boston
MY MOMENT
"It was a drive on a par 4. It was a new hole, and there was a front pin where you could reach the green. It was driver, but I couldn't smoke it. I had to take a little bit off. I had a picture of what I was trying to do and tried to hit a good shot. It felt perfect as soon as I hit it. I was thinking, ‘Okay, that should be perfect, that should be there!' And it was. I ended up five feet from the pin and made eagle."

Tom Pernice Jr.
MY SHOT

Clutch up-and-down from the sand, 1999 Buick Open, Warwick Hills G.C.
MY MOMENT
"It was my first win, at the Buick. Coming down the stretch I'd hit an 8-iron at the pin, which was behind the bunker on the left, and my ball hit the lip and went into the bunker. I hit a bunker shot to five feet, then made the putt. For some reason, I was calm. I don't know why. They weren't my greatest shots -- I once had a double-eagle at 15 in Phoenix -- but they meant the most."

Colin Montgomerie
MY SHOT

Wind-piercing driver off the deck, 1996 Dubai Classic, Emirates G.C.
MY MOMENT
"Playing the 18th hole in the final round, I took a Big Bertha driver off the fairway and hit it perfectly, 228 yards into the wind, the full distance over the lake and to the middle of the green. The shot will stay with me forever. The pressure was on, and I hit it cleanly. It felt good. It carried the full distance over the water. I won the tournament by a shot. It was my greatest ever shot, one I will never forget."

 

Annika Sorenstam
Travis Lindquist/Getty Images
CAREER CAPPER: Sorenstam calls her hole-out in her final U.S. Women's Open the No. 1 shot of her career.


Annika Sorenstam
MY SHOT

6-iron to cap Hall of Fame career, 2008 U.S. Women's Open, Interlachen G.C.
MY MOMENT
"My last shot at my last U.S. Women's Open is the most memorable of my career. I holed a 6-iron from 199 yards on the par-5 18th for eagle. The U.S. Open had meant so much to my career -- I had won it three times [1995, '96, '06] -- and with that being my last, it was an emotional week. I had a chance to win going into the final round and played poorly. I needed to birdie the 18th hole to break 80, and my drive went right, so I pitched it back into the fairway. Then I hit a solid shot right on line, and it bounced up and went in. The place went crazy. It was surreal. I went in the TV booth afterward, and as they replayed it, there was not a dry eye in there. It was a special memory."

Heath Slocum
MY SHOT

20-footer to win the 2009 Barclays, Liberty National G.C.
MY MOMENT
"I was tied for the lead, last hole, in a FedEx Cup event. To hole that [par] putt, there's nothing bigger. A lot of guys were in the mix. Tiger, Harrington, Steve Stricker. I putted beautifully all week, and I had a good line. I told myself, ‘Get it there.' I didn't know if I had won. Guys were still playing. I asked my caddie, and he wasn't sure. After it dropped it was elation. That putt was magical. I'll remember it the rest of my life."

Vaughn Taylor
MY SHOT

5-wood for albatross, 2012 Mayakoba Golf Classic, El Camaleón G.C.
MY MOMENT
"This year at Mayakoba, I hit a 5-wood from 263 yards and made it for double-eagle. It was a perfect shot. Came off absolutely flush, was dead tracking the whole way, and rolled in. When I hit it, I thought, ‘Wow, this will be good.' I'd never made a double-eagle before. My caddie said it was the happiest he'd ever seen me on the golf course."

Marc Leishman
MY SHOT

Intentional wedge shank, 2001 Australian Junior Masters, Waverley G.C.
MY MOMENT
"It was a sudden-death playoff. I had a downhill lie in a bunker and had short-sided myself, but my ball was on hardpan. The pin was short, really short. I had no chance [to hit a standard bunker shot]. The guy I was playing was on the green. I didn't know what to do, so I put my hands really low on a lob wedge and shanked it on purpose -- hit it right on the hosel. It popped way up, came down, and rolled to about a foot. He three-putted. I won the playoff! It was do-or-die. I couldn't believe I pulled it off. It was jubilation. A one-in- 10,000 shot. I could literally hit another 10,000 balls and not do it again. It was ridiculous."

Bryce Molder
MY SHOT

Birdie putt to force playoff, en route to first win, 2011 Frys.com Open, CordeValle
MY MOMENT
"It's hard not to go with my victory. A lot of cool stuff happened in the six-hole playoff, but I'm going with the putt I made to get into the playoff. I was one behind Briny Baird on the last hole of regulation and saw that he was in the fairway with a wedge in. I had 15 feet for birdie. Something made it easier to be really aggressive just knowing I had to make it. I had to not try too hard and hit it too hard. I knew it was my only chance, and I made it."

Special Section: No. 1 Issue

This article first appeared in the October 2012 issue of Golf Magazine, which is on newsstands now. Subscribers can download the issue on their tablets at golf.com/allaccess.

 

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