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More Infamous Golf Choke Jobs


Denny Shute, 1933 Ryder Cup
The American and British teams were tied, with only one match still on the course: American Denny Shute vs. Briton Syd Easterbrook. The two were all-square coming to the final hole, but Shute had the upper hand - he was looking at a 20-foot birdie putt to win the Ryder Cup. But several minutes later, Shute had 3-putted, missing a comebacker of 3-5 feet and giving Great Britain the victory.

Sam Snead, 1939 U.S. Open
Snead reached the final hole, a par-5, needing a par to win the tournament. But Snead believed he needed a birdie to win, and played aggressively. When his drive found the rough, Snead couldn't recover and wound up with a triple-bogey 8. He finished in a tie for fifth.

Ben Hogan, 1946 Masters
When Herman Keiser reached the final green, he held a 1-stroke lead over Ben Hogan, playing a couple groups behind Keiser's. Keiser proceeded to 3-putt, falling into a tie. But not to worry, because when Hogan reached the green - still tied for the lead - he also 3-putted. After rolling his birdie putt for the win past the hole, Hogan's 2-footer for par didn't even touch the cup.

Arnold Palmer, 1961 Masters
Gary Player and Arnold Palmer battled back-and-forth every round of the tournament, until the 1961 Masters was decided by the back bunker on the 18th green. Player's approach to the final green found that bunker, but he got up and down to finish at 8-under. When Palmer, leading by one, approached the green moments later, he, too, found the back bunker. But Arnie's blast out sent the ball flying over the green, through the crowd and down the slope near a TV tower. Palmer pitched back up to the green, but the ball rolled 15 feet past the pin. He missed the putt, scored a double-bogey, and Player became the first non-American to win the Masters.

Doug Sanders, 1970 British Open
Sanders is another player who was very good throughout his long career - 20 PGA Tour wins - but never won a major. He would have won the 1970 British Open had he parred the final hole. Instead, he bogied to fall into a tie with Jack Nicklaus, then Nicklaus beat him in the playoff. Sanders' approach to the 72nd green left him 30 feet above the hole. All he needed was a 2-putt. His first putt stopped three feet from the cup. After taking his address, Sanders was distracted at the last moment by something in the line. "Without changing the position of my feet I bent down to pick it up," Sanders said later, "but it was a piece of brown grass. I didn't take the time to move away and get re-organized." Without backing off the putt, he went back into the address position and struck the ball. It slid just over the right lip. As soon as he struck the ball, Sanders' body began moving forward, and he reached out to the ball as if to try to bring it back for a do-over. But there was no do-over.

Hubert Green, 1978 Masters
Green came to the final hole at Augusta more than a half-hour after Gary Player had finished a round of 64. Player had a 1-shot lead over Green, who hit a good drive and then a great approach to within three feet of the cup. It looked like there would be a playoff. But Green had to back away from the putt when he heard a radio announcer calling the action. When Green took the stroke, he pushed it a little to the right and the 3-footer slid by. Green missed the playoff and Player won the Green Jacket.

Hale Irwin, 1983 British Open
This one rarely shows up on lists of chokes, because Irwin's gaffe didn't come in the closing holes. Still, it's a brain-freeze of epic proportions, one that wound up costing Irwin a spot in a playoff. Irwin was on the leaderboard when he missed a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 14 in the third round. He was a little upset at the effort, and when he went to tap in the putt - which was just a couple inches from the cup - he whiffed. That's right, he completely missed the ball, trying to jab it into the cup. He wound up finishing one shot behind eventual winner Tom Watson.

Greg Norman, 1986 Masters
Norman played great down the stretch and was tied for the lead with Jack Nicklaus as the Shark played No. 18. However, his approach to the green sailed way right and into the grandstands. He dropped and pitched toward the hole, then barely missed a 10-foot part putt to fall out of a playoff.

Patty Sheehan, 1990 U.S. Women's Open
The Hall-of-Famer was in the midst of a great year, a year in which she won a career-best five tournaments. And for most of the week, it looked like the U.S. Women's Open would be another victory. Sheehan had a 12-shot lead early in the third round. But she wound up giving it all back, shooting a 76 on the final day to lose to Betsy King by a stroke. Sheehan played the last 33 holes at 9-over.

Jay Haas, 1995 Ryder Cup
Another of the worst drives under pressure was one by Haas here. The outcome of the 1995 Ryder Cup hinged on Haas' singles match against Philip Walton. Haas trailed by three with three holes to play, but he holed out from a bunker to win No. 16, then won No. 17 with a par. On the 18th tee, needing another win to give the Americans the Cup, Haas hit what Johnny Miller called "one of the strangest shots I've ever seen." It was a pop-up, yanked well left and into the woods, that traveled perhaps only 150 yards. Walton was able to 2-putt for bogey to win the match for Team Europe. "You know you're choking when your pop-ups start going crooked," Miller said on the television broadcast.

Thomas Bjorn, 2003 British Open
Bjorn led Ben Curtis by three strokes with four holes to play. But he dropped a stroke at the 15th, then disaster struck on the par-3 16th at Royal St. George's. Bjorn put his tee shot into a deep greenside bunker. When he attempted to blast out, the ball caught an upslope on the green and couldn't quite get over the hump. It rolled right back down into the bunker. Bjorn tried again - and the same thing happened. Finally, on his third attempt, he got the ball out. But he made double-bogey to fall into a tie, then bogeyed the 17th to complete the collapse.

Tom Watson, 2009 British Open
Had the 60-year-old Watson won this tournament, it would be remembered as perhaps the greatest feat in golf history. Watson hadn't won a major in more than 20 years; he would have been, by far, the oldest major champion ever. Instead, he hit one of the worst putts ever seen at the worst possible moment - when he needed a par on the last hole to win. Watson missed that short par putt on the 72nd hole with a truly terrible stroke; it was more like a full-body heave than a golf motion. Watson then played poorly in the playoff and lost the Claret Jug to Stewart Cink.

Rory McIlroy, 2011 Masters
The young Irish phenom began the final round with a 4-stroke lead. But he fell apart beginning on the 10th tee, eventually finishing with an 80 to drop to 15th place. His drive on No. 10 wound up between two of Augusta National's cabins, deep in the woods - a part of the course that might never have been shown on television before. He triple-bogied that hole, and followed it with a bogey on the 11th and a double-bogey on the 12th.

I.K. Kim, 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship
Kim reached the final green of this LPGA major with a 1-stroke lead over the leader in the clubhouse, and a 2-stroke edge over the only player still on the course within striking distance of her. And she had a birdie putt. She missed the birdie putt, running it about a foot past the hole. No big deal, just tap it in for par and Kim is almost certainly the champion. Instead, Kim missed that 1-foot comebacker, making bogey and dropping into a tie with Sun Young Yoo. Kim seemed astounded at the miss (it was certainly an astounding miss to onlookers), which didn't even touch the hole. Still clearly shaken, Kim went on to lose in a playoff to Yoo.

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