Wild Things: The definitive ranking of 19 golfers who have thrown out first pitches

September 19, 2017

From Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines in the spring to Long Island and Chicago in the fall, there’s generally a Major League Baseball park within reach of a Tour stop. As a byproduct of that, Tour pros have been invited to throw out their share of first pitches. Just last week Jordan Spieth did the honors at Wrigley. 

Of course, not all first pitches are created equal. From Bubba and Brittany to Rory and Rickie, here is the definitive ranking of pro golfers’ first-pitch attempts.

19. Lexi Thompson

Kudos to Lexi for throwing from atop the mound. As you’ll see, not everyone takes first pitches that seriously. Unfortunately, Thompson’s toss made it about halfway to the plate after taking a quick nose dive to the turf.

18. Kenny Perry

Kenny says he’s “not too worried about it.” Maybe he should have been. Standing well in front of the mound, the Kentucky native short-armed his toss so badly that it didn’t even reach the plate. Perry may generate decent clubhead speed but his fastball lacks any signs of pop.

17. Dustin Johnson

It’s not hard to imagine how intimidating 6-foot-4 DJ could be on the mound, what with his long, strong frame and all that torque in his golf swing. And then you watch this video. DJ’s half-hearted attempt doesn’t sniff the plate. If it weren’t for the catcher, we might even be talking about a wild pitch.

16. Paula Creamer

It’s hard to hate on Creamer here, but the ranking requires some legitimacy, so we’re docking her points for making a 50-foot toss instead of the 60-foot-6-inch one just about everyone else made. Did she fire a dart to the Philly Fanatic? Yes. Did she do it from the forward tees? Also yes.

15. Annika Sorenstam

It was an emotional night in Queens when Sorenstam threw out the first pitch. She had announced earlier that day she would be retiring at season’s end. So she had an excuse. Still, her hurl didn’t reach the catcher and flew well right of the target. Probably her worst miss of the year.

14. Rory McIlroy

Chances are Rory has improved on his form in the five years since this attempt, but, gosh, it was not pretty. Sure, he got the ball to the plate, but that start? Yeesh. Rory went from grinning atop the mound to a frozen-upper-body rotation in less time than it takes him to swing his driver. Slow down, mate!

13. Cheyenne Woods

It’s not clear why Woods was throwing the first pitch, but she rose to the occasion. The ball looped downward as it approached the plate, but it probably should have been caught. Blame that one on the catcher.


12. Keegan Bradley

Bradley was hyped—just check out his pre-toss interview. Maybe that adrenaline is what forced his ball north of its target. Bonus points for the fist pump.

11. Ryan Palmer

If this technique looks a lot like Bradley’s that’s because it is. Palmer failed to shift his weight forward, leaned too far on this rear leg and tossed his pitch—though on target—far too high. No chance for the catcher to frame a strike.

10. Bubba Watson

As with many of Bubba ball-flights, this one soars, taking a loopy passage to the plate. Looked like a strike, though.

9. Hunter Mahan

Much like McIlroy, Mahan sprints through this pitch. One second he’s walking to the mound, waving to the crowd, the next he’s jogging out of the spotlight. He looks nervous, but still manages to get the ball to the plate.

8. Luke Donald

Looks like a painfully cold early spring game at Wrigley. Props to Luke for pulling off this pitch in less-than-stellar conditions.


7. Brittany Lincicome

Lincicome was also able to keep her catcher (Michael Cuddyer) in his stance. If you look closely, though, she appears to balk at the beginning of her wind up. Sorry, Brittany, but the runners are moving to the next base.

6. Rickie Fowler

It’s pretty clear Rickie knows what he’s doing. His wind-up was textbook, his follow-through was solid. His speed—if the video is accurate—was also impressive (70 mph). He’s just never going to strike anyone out with that super high pitch.

5. Phil Mickelson

It just wouldn’t be right if Mickelson didn’t fire one in there. We’ve seen Lefty play some serious catch with a football, spinning a tight spiral. His first pitch was no different. Pause the video below at the 4-second mark. Check out how perfect his form is. Great balance. Great move to home plate. Even if it’s weird seeing him do something right-handed. 

4. Tom Watson

No first pitch was more important than this one. Watson toed the rubber in Game 2 of the 2015 World Series, which is worthy of a high-ranking on its own. Then he added to it by hurling a gem. The guy was 66 at the time. That’s simply incredible.

3. Jason Day

It’s always great to see players take these spots seriously. The Aussie reared back and fired likely the fastest pitch of any pro. Maybe it was a bit high, but it was moving.

2. Zach Johnson

ZJ definitely gets bonus points for not only toeing the rubber, but also digging his tennis shoes into the dirt a bit. He propelled off that spot and fired a high strike at Wrigley. It doesn’t get much better than this.

1. Jordan Spieth

Of course, the only pro that could trump ZJ’s strike at Wrigley is Golden Child Jordan Spieth. He makes the pitch below look so easy. Born a lefty, Spieth rifles in a smooth strike, quickly posing with an Andy Petite-like finish. His catcher approves, and so do we.