U.S. Open: 10 most clutch shots of all time

Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports /
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5. Payne Stewart-1999 U.S. Open, Pinehurst No. 2, 18th hole

The 1999 U.S. Open was one of the most dramatic events in the tournament’s storied history and became even more emotional in the tragedy that followed.

Payne Stewart had plenty of major championship pedigree coming into a very tough Pinehurst No. 2 course. He had won the PGA Championship in 1989 and the U.S. Open in 1991 at Hazeltine, defeating Scott Simpson in an 18-hole playoff. He had a chance to pick up his third major championship at the 1998 U.S. Open and actually took a four-stroke lead into the final round but a missed 25-footer at the 18th hole at the Olympic Club cost him a chance to get into a playoff and he lost to Lee Janzen by a stroke. He would remedy that loss on the final hole the following year.

Stewart was in contention all week at the 1999 U.S. Open with rounds of 68, 69 and 72 to take a one-shot lead into the final round as the only player under par. However, some of the biggest names in the sport were right on his heels. Phil Mickelson was just one back but nobody knew if he would actually finish the tournament. His wife was due to give birth to the couple’s first child at any time and Mickelson had said he would immediately leave the course if he was told she was going into labor.

Also lurking behind Stewart was Tiger Woods, who was just two shots back and David Duval, Vijay Singh and Steve Stricker were just three back. However, Stewart played solid golf all day and sank a birdie putt on the 17th hole to take a one-shot lead into the final hole. Mickelson, Stewart’s playing partner for the day, made a par at the last and Stewart had to match it to avoid a Monday playoff and he did just that, sinking a 15-footer to claim his second U.S. Open title.

In a great scene following the putt, Stewart told Mickelson that he would be a great father and Mickelson would later miss the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills to attend the high school graduation of the daughter that was born the day after that emotional scene in 1999. Tragically, Payne Stewart would die in a plane crash just four months after his win at Pinehurst but his legacy will live on forever. A statue of his clutch putt at the 1999 U.S. Open stands behind the 18th green.