The 10 Worst 18th Hole Collapses in Golf History
This is a list professional golfers hope they never make.
Letting championships get away on the last day, the last hole is just unacceptable to those who play for pay.
There can be all kinds of reasons, all kinds of excuses. But in the end, all that matters is a meltdown has occurred and a tournament has been lost and a player's name will be remembered for choking, imploding, whatever unflattering term that might be used.
Check out my list of 10 of the worst.
10. Sam Snead, 1939 U.S. Open
Sam Snead’s collapse is a bit different than some of the others. His came about as a result of a lack of knowledge instead of melting down because of pressure specifically.
At the Spring Mill course at Philadelphia Country Club in 1939, he thought he needed birdie on the final hole, a par five. He went for the green in two and his second shot found a bunker. That led to a triple-bogey, eight, and a loss to Byron Nelson by two shots.
The irony of it was that a par would have won, but because there were no scoreboards on the course, he didn’t know for sure what he needed to do.
It’s amazing that Snead, the guy who won 82 times on the PGA Tour, never won a U.S. Open title.
9. Doug Sanders, 1970 British Open
There have been many tournaments lost in some strange ways, but the 1970 Open Championship that Doug Sanders kicked away is one of the most bizarre.
Sanders’ approach to the final hole at the Old Course at St. Andrews finished about 30 feet above the hole.
A two-putt would have given him his first major title, a nice topper to the career of a man who would finish with 20 PGA tour wins. Sanders’ first putt stopped about three from the hole.
After he had taken his address, he bent over to pick up a piece of brown grass with moving his feet. Instead of starting his pre-shot routine over he went behind the ball and struck the putt. It went over the right edge of the cup and his bogey gave Jack Nicklaus the title.
8. I.K. Kim, 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship
Talk about a possible storybook finish.
I.K. Kim, a rookie who had qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt, walked on the 18th green of the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship with a one-stroke advantage over the leader in the clubhouse and a two-shot lead over the only player still on the course with a chance to catch her.
To make it better, she had a putt for birdie.
She made a good attempt at the birdie putt, running it about a foot past the hole.
It looked simple enough, tap that in for four and the title was almost a lock to be hers. Except that Kim, a native of South Korea, missed the one-footer, not even touching the hole, made bogey and fell into a tie with Sun Young Yoo.
The two went into a playoff and Kim lost that as well.
7. Colin Montgomerie, 2006 U.S. Open
It didn’t take Colin Montgomerie too many appearances in PGA Tour events for fans to realize he was a guy they could really rattle.
And they did just that. The big Scotsman was never able to wrap his hands around a major championship trophy.
His best chance came at the 2006 U.S. Open that Phil Mickelson blew. Monty had rolled in a 50-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, tying him for the lead with Mickelson. He put his drive in the middle of the 18th fairway and, while waiting for the group ahead of him to finish, Montgomerie changed clubs, choosing a 7-iron over 6-iron because he felt adrenaline from the long putt would make the 7-iron enough.
Alas, his approach came up short and right into gnarly rough. He chopped it onto the green and then three-putted for double bogey.
6. Lorena Ochoa, 2005 U.S. Women's Open
Lorena Ochoa was on the verge of becoming one of the great players on the LPGA Tour in 2005 when she won twice. She had a great chance to win another in the Women’s U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Golf Club in Denver.
She was down the leaderboard all day and battled back to be in a position to win or at least get into a playoff when she arrived at the final hole.
Players had to clear a lake to get to the fairway and the most traveled route was toward the right park of the lake.
Ochoa, however, drop-kicked her drive, taking a divot and shooting the ball left into the water.
It didn’t get much better on her second drive. It found the rough and her shot from there found the grandstands. She quadruple-bogeyed the hole and finished four shots out.
5. Arnold Palmer, 1961 Masters
Arnold Palmer and Gary Player have been friends for decades and when they look back at the 1961 Masters both no doubt have great memories. Player’s will be a little better since he was the one to ultimately win one of the great battles in the tournament’s history.
Player’s approach shot to the final green found the back bunker on the 18th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, but he was able to get up and down to finish at 8-under par.
Palmer led by a shot coming into 18 and his second shot also found that same sand. Unlike Player’s shot, however, Palmer bunker flew over the green and ended up near a TV tower. Palmer’s pitch rolled 15 feet past the pin, he missed coming back and finished with a double-bogey.
Not only did Palmer miss a great chance at another green jacket, but Player’s victory made him the first non-American to win the Masters.
4. Phil Mickelson, 2006 U.S. Open
As Phil Mickelson proved at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, old habits are, indeed, hard to break.
The big lefthander started his career in major championships with a winless streak that stretched to 46. He changed his approach by dialing back his aggressive mindset and by making better course management decisions.
As a result, he came to Winged Foot looking for his fourth career major and his third straight major title.
With a one-shot lead on the 18th tee, the minds of both Mickelson and his caddie obviously went blank.
Mickelson, for some reason, pulled his balky driver out of the bag (he had just hit it into a trash can off the 17th tee) and hit it dead left, off the roof of a hospitality tent.
His next shot was blocked and when he tried to pull off a miracle shot, it hit a tree limb and fell 25 yards ahead of him. From there he hit another big slice that plugged in a back bunker and he couldn’t manage to get up and down from there, making double bogey, falling a shot short.
"I am such an idiot," he succinctly said afterward.
3. Tom Watson, 2009 British Open
Imagine a 60-year-old winning the Open Championship?
Well, had Tom Watson (at 59-plus years old) made a short putt on the 72nd hole at Turnberry in 2009, that’s exactly what would have happened.
Watson hadn’t won a major in over 20 years, but one of golf’s great champions was at his best that week. He had plenty of chances to wobble and fall off the leaderboard, but he didn’t.
His drive on the final hole found the fairway and his approach was on line, but took a big hop on the front of the green. It ran through the putting surface and Watson chipped back to eight feet.
Short putts have plagued Watson for years and this one got him, forcing a playoff with Stewart Cink.
In the playoff, Watson ran out of gas, giving Cink the title.
Stories would still be written about Watson’s miraculous title had he made that putt.
2. Adam Scott, 2012 British Open
Adam Scott has had a tough time shedding that “best player to never win a major” tag and seemed like all of that was history on that Sunday afternoon at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
He started the day with a four-shot lead and had that same lead as he stepped onto the 15th tee.
He bogeyed the next three holes and came to the 18th shaken, but still in control of his own destiny.
But he made a decision to hit driver off the tee when an iron could have easily put him into the fairway. His drive found a pot bunker and he had to play out sideways.
Scott rallied to hit a great approach, but his 18th hole collapse was completed when he missed a seven-foot putt for par that would have forced a playoff with Ernie Els.
The miss gave Els the title, even though he was five shots behind when Scott got to the 15th tee.
1. Jean Van De Velde, 1999 British Open
Jean Van de Velde was a European Tour player of little note and would have stayed that way except for a magical and tragic week in July 1999. He'll long be remembered as having the biggest 18th hole collapse in golf history.
A Frenchman had not won the Open Championship since 1907 and Van de Velde came to the 18th hole Sunday afternoon at Carnoustie with a three-shot lead.
The best part of this storybook finish was that all Van de Velde needed to do was make double bogey and the Claret Jug was his.
Van de Velde, however, made a bad decision by hitting driver off the tee and then combined bad decisions with bad shots, a trip into a creek in front of the green and a triple-bogey that ultimately presented Paul Lawrie with a gift Open Championship.