6 Best Bunker Shots in PGA Tour History
Bunkers can be harrowing places for golfers, even for those who play for pay.
In the old days, with much less technically advanced equipment and course conditions being much less player friendly than they are today, that part of the game was a chore.
But just like every other aspect of this game, players and equipment have improved greatly, and that has led to some spectacular sand play.
Check out this list of six of the best bunker shots, all of them in crucial situations.
Bob Tway, 1986 PGA Championship
Greg Norman lost some major championships over the years in very interesting ways—some by his own hand, some by spectacular shots of others.
The 1986 PGA Championship was a little of both. The Great White Shark had a four-shot lead with eight holes to play at the Inverness Club in Toledo, but that advantage disappeared as he and Bob Tway came down the stretch.
On the short 18th, Norman’s approach stopped on the front edge of the green, while Tway found the bunker on the left side of the green.
As Norman watched in disbelief, Tway holed the shot and became a PGA champion in a most spectacular way.
Sandy Lyle, 1988 Masters
So, you are Sandy Lyle, playing in the 1988 Masters, knowing you need a par to tie and birdie to win the coveted green jacket.
As you stand on the 18th tee late Sunday afternoon, you know you have to get the ball into the fairway. Instead, you tug it just a little left and put it in the fairway bunker that guards the left side of the dogleg.
No big deal for Lyle. He ripped a 7-iron exactly the 143 yards he had left to the flag, actually catching the flag with the shot.
The ball went past the flag, caught the slope and rolled back to within 10 feet, and Lyle made the putt for birdie and the title.
Ernie Els, 2002 Open Championship
The Big Easy certainly didn’t have it easy when he found a small pot bunker to the left of the 13th green at Muirfield in the final round of the 2002 Open Championship.
He had a two-shot lead at the time, but that looked to be in peril when he got down into the bunker and could barely see over the top.
Even more unnerving was the fact that the bunker was so small that he had to place his left foot on the sodded wall for balance purposes.
Oh yeah, the ball was sitting down a bit in a furrow where the bunker had been raked.
Faced with all of that, Els knew he had to be very precise to get the ball close to the hole.
He hit the shot, and when the ball stopped rolling, he was 18 inches from the cup.
Els made that and went on to win his first Open title.
Paul Azinger, 1993 Memorial Tournament
Jack Nicklaus’ annual elite event came down to Azinger and his good friend Payne Stewart.
Both bunkered their approach shots to the left of the 18th green at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Stewart, who held a one-shot lead at the time, came out of the bunker to eight feet—nothing special, but still with a chance to save par.
Azinger, however, complicated that par considerably by holing his shot, despite his ball being in the face of the bunker with sand and grass stuck to the bottom of it.
But Azinger managed to just clear the lip, landed the ball a foot on the green and watched it roll into the cup. Azinger then broke into a memorable (and awkward) celebration.
Stewart then three-putted and fell to third.
Seve Ballesteros 1983 Ryder Cup
The late Seve Ballesteros had a career full of spectacular saves from some pretty ugly places, and the one he pulled off in the 1983 Ryder Cup at PGA National was among the best.
He hit his drive on the final hole of his singles match against Fuzzy Zoeller into a fairway bunker.
When he got to his ball, he found it close to the lip, but he didn’t skip a beat.
He ripped a 3-wood 245 yards, getting it to the fringe of the green, and was able to make par to halve the match.
Tiger Woods, 2002 PGA Championship
Tiger Woods has a book full of spectacular shots, including many in his short game.
Who can forget that unbelievable shot in the 2000 Canadian Open’s final round when he lasered a 6-iron from a fairway bunker, 200 yards over a lake to a pin tucked in the far right corner of the green?
But even that one pales in comparison to the amazing 3-iron he hit from under the lip of a fairway bunker in the final round of the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
He had 202 yards to the pin, and he managed to clear the lip and get the ball over some trees, and he did all of that against a 30-mile-per-hour wind.
"Quite honestly, it was one of the best shots I've ever hit in my life," he said.