When Michael Phelps elected to hang up his goggles following the London Olympics in August, the world feared they might have seen the last of his record-breaking exploits. Mistakenly, it turned out, as the American swimming legend amazed once again, not in the pool this time but at Kingsbarns Golf Links.
The man also known as ‘The Baltimore Bullet’, playing for a second day with Paul Casey at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, sunk what is believed to be the longest televised putt in history when he holed his second at the par four eighth from over 150 feet away at the Fife links.
After finding the front edge of the driveable, downhill par four, Phelps’s stunning effort took 17 seconds from leaving the putter to falling into the hole and was estimated by Casey’s caddie at 53 yards or 159 feet.
“A 50 yard putt!” exclaimed an ecstatic Phelps. “That was the longest putt I’ve ever holed so it was pretty incredible and watching it die in was a cool feeling.
“To be able to have a net hole in one was special but even without that this trip has been even more special; just having the opportunity to come over here and play amongst these players on these courses is incredible.”
British television and radio personality Sir Terry Wogan had previously held the record for a 99 foot effort in a BBC Pro-Am at Gleneagles in 1981, meaning the most decorated Olympian of all time bettered that mark by 60 feet.
Casey, Phelps’ playing partner for his maiden Dunhill Links appearance, was also suitably impressed with the 18-time gold medallist’s improbable eagle.
“Brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” said the former Ryder Cup star. “It was perfect, got the line right and pace right. He carried the momentum on, too, and made a three-net-two on the next. He was playing some good golf.
“So tomorrow we are just going to get him to play 14 holes before he tees off on the first at St Andrews tomorrow to get him in the flow of things, get him nice and warmed up.”
When asked whether he would able to impress similarly were they to take to the swimming pool, however, Casey was less certain.
“I don't know if I can even swim 25 yards,” he admitted. “I have a pool at home but hot tub is more my thing. I'm good at doing laps in the hot tub!”
It was an eventful day for the star-studded fourball that also included Ryder Cup Vice Captain Paul McGinley and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, as a dog had earlier prompted a ruling debate on the 12th green after absconding with Casey’s ball.
Ball recovered, minus teeth marks, the Englishman made a two-putt birdie regardless.
Pistorius, also making his debut at the Dunhill Links, said: “We had a really enjoyable time out there today, and there was quite a bit happening in our group. There was the moment with the dog, which was very funny, and then Michael’s huge putt for an eagle on the sixth. Actually, I can claim a bit of the credit for that because I showed him the line!
“I was far more consistent with my own golf today, although my putting was not in Michael’s class. I think the longest putt I holed was about five feet rather than 150-odd feet like the one he had – so that’s not very good!”
The American’s monstrous putt was undoubtedly the highlight of the day as he added this unique golfing best to the 100 metre butterfly, 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley world records he accrued during a stellar career.
On a day when Phelps stormed back into the record books two months after retiring from professional sport, a member of the media in the cosy Kingsbarns media centre was heard mulling over one particular comparison.
A personal best in the 50 metre freestyle of 23.03 seconds, Phelps was a shade quicker over the 53 yard freestyle putting, clocking in at 17.00 seconds…