Professional tournaments a half a world away from one another over the weekend treated golf fans to two of the rarest shots in the game - a walk-off eagle and a shot dangerous enough that it could lead to death.
While Harold Varner III's dramatic 92-foot putt on No. 18 to win the 2022 Saudi International was incredible, all anybody wants to talk about is Jordan Spieth's death-defying, clifftop approach shot during Saturday's third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Everybody watching, including the CBS broadcast team and Spieth's caddie, Michael Greller, feared for Spieth's safety when he stepped to the ledge of the eighth fairway at Pebble Beach Golf Links. The drop is 68 feet straight down to the rocky beach below. Any slip during his swing ... Thankfully, he pulled it off, hitting a 7 iron over the green while recoiling after the shot and coolly getting up and down for par.
"I mean, footing was solid, but I didn't have much room past where my left foot was and the problem was it's down sloped," Spieth recalled in his post-round press conference. "Like if it was flat it's no issue at all. It's the down slope that worries you because you're going to try and, you're getting more forward to your left side on a down slope in order to get the strike, right? You want your weight with the slope. I didn't want my weight with the slope that time.
" ... Michael continued to try and talk me out of it, I was just trying to, I was just trying to think clearly, like, what are the options here. And clearly -- if I felt like I was in real true danger of losing my life I would have pulled the ball back and dropped it. It wasn't quite that severe. But it was enough to where I certainly couldn't put a normal swing or shot on it."
Just after this happened, a lawyer friend messaged me one of his fears - that golfers playing Pebble Beach will attempt to play "The Spieth" in the future. I sure hope not. There are several signs that read "Danger steep cliff" at that location. It's not worth it. Anybody less skilled than a PGA Tour pro would be wise to drop behind the line and take the penalty stroke.
Spieth's shot wasn't even the riskiest shot in the history of the event. That would be Jack Lemmon's infamous human chain involving Peter Jacobsen and Clint Eastwood in 1987 on the Cypress Point Club's legendary 16th hole.
My most dangerous shot
Anybody who's played a dramatic clifftop course like Pebble Beach has probably encountered a predicament similar to Spieth's. I've played Old Head Golf Links in Ireland twice. Anybody who's scared of heights would be wise to avoid its walking paths closest to the cliffs. They're frightening. Old Head's cliffs drop 200 feet to the ocean in spots. New Zealand's two stunners - Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers - also fall sharply off oceanfront cliffs at various points. I posed for a picture in a bunker at land's end on the famous 15th hole named "Pirate's Plank" at Cape Kidnappers. One slip and I would have been fish food.
I get why Spieth recoiled and ran backwards after his dangerous shot. I did the same thing on two separate continents while hitting golf balls off the top of a mountain. And I was on flat tee! Both adventures - one in New Zealand and the other in South Africa - involved taking a helicopter to a teeing ground high on a cliff. Knowing there was a precipitous drop just feet in front of me, I just couldn't bring myself to put a proper swing on the ball. I was leaning backwards on every attempt. Self preservation was more important than busting a big drive, especially on the Extreme 19th hole at Legends Golf & Safari in South Africa. If you like a little danger with your golf, read all about the experience here.
Truth be told, the most dangerous golf shot I've probably ever played was on flat ground. Years ago, I found my ball sitting next to 4-5 baby alligators at the edge of swampy water on the now-closed Sanctuary Golf Club on Cat Island in Beaufort, S.C. I knew mama had to be nearby, so I rushed in and hit the shot without even setting up. The pseudo chip went about 30-40 yards to safety and I played on. Looking back, maybe I shouldn't have tried it. Spieth probably feels the same.
No shot is worth the risk when your life is involved.
What's the most dangerous golf shot you've played? Share in the comments below.