The Biggest Collapses in British Open Golf History

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystJuly 18, 2013

The Biggest Collapses in British Open Golf History

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    The grand stage of golf's greatest tournaments can serve as a double-edged sword for competitors in search of a title. Glory is within reach for each member of the field Thursdays at the Open Championship, but Sunday afternoons present the opportunity for dramatic pitfalls and colossal collapses.

    British Open action has broken the hearts of plenty of players during its nearly century-and-a-half of existence. Many men spent the remainders of their careers lamenting about failures on the final stretch toward Open Championship triumph.

    Here's a look back at some of the most memorable collapses in the tournament's lengthy history. These gut-wrenching moments are enough to make any golf fan grimace.

Thomas Bjorn Loses Battle with Bunker

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    Thomas Bjorn battled strongly throughout the 2003 Open Championship. He looked like the man to beat on the final stretch Sunday until his Claret Jug dreams met sandy doom.

    Bjorn led by two strokes as he strolled onto the 16th hole. The par-three proved to be his ultimate undoing.

    Bjorn buried the ball in a bunker on the edge of the green. Two ensuing attempts each rolled back into the bunker off the green.

    A frustrated Bjorn was forced to settle for an ill-timed double-bogey and fell into a first-place tie. A botched 6-foot putt for par ruined his 17th hole, and Ben Curtis leapfrogged him to take the title.

Tony Jacklin Implodes on 17th Green

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    The 1972 Open at Muirfield featured a showdown between Tony Jacklin and Lee Trevino on the final stretch of Sunday. The two were tied through 16 holes of the final round, and it appeared Jacklin was on the cusp of gaining the upper hand.

    He landed on the par-five green in three shots, set up nicely to pull ahead with a birdie. Instead, Jacklin pushed the ball three feet past the hole.

    Moments later, the mistake proved critical.

    Jacklin was off the mark on the ensuing short par putt, pushing Trevino into first after his par on 17. Trevino put the tournament away on the 18th hole to defend his title.

Jean Van De Velde's Nightmare on 18

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    Jean Van de Velde suffered an epic collapse at the 1999 Open Championship. He carried a three-shot lead into the final hole of the tournament at Carnoustie, seemingly taking the final strides toward a coronation.

    Van de Velde's drive landed in the rough, and his ensuing shot plunked a grandstand near the green, sending the ball back into treacherous rough. His third shot landed along water, and he opted to accept a penalty shot.

    The circus finally ended when he made a putt for triple bogey. The result was a three-man playoff, which was ultimately won by Paul Lawrie.

    Van de Velde's train wreck on the verge of victory became the benchmark for 18th hole chokes.

Hale Irwin Whiffs

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    Tom Watson won his fifth Open Championship in 1983 at Royal Birkdale, but his journey to victory was fueled by a strange error on the part of Hale Irwin, who botched his chance to truly contend late in the third round.

    Irwin lined up to putt for par on the 14th hole, looking to stay at six-under and locked in with Watson atop the leaderboard. Instead, his short attempt went up in flames.

    His putter landed short of the ball and bounced above the target, resulting in a complete whiff. It cost Irwin a valuable stroke and ruined his momentum.

    Irwin followed with a bogey and ultimately wound up in fifth place.

Adam Scott Stumbles Down Stretch

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    Adam Scott seemed ready to announce himself as the star of the 2012 British Open before disaster struck on his final push toward a title. The Australian bogeyed each of the final four holes Sunday, including a stunning three-putt debacle on 16.

    Ernie Els went from a sure-fire second-place finish to winning the event as Scott's fall from grace hit its final note with a bogey on 18. Els birdied 18, while Scott failed to force a two-man playoff with a par putt attempt on 18.

    According to ESPN Stats and Information, Scott became the second player in Open Championship history to lose at least a four-shot lead through 54 holes of action. It left many players in the clubhouse lending their support to the downtrodden Scott, who responded with a playoff win at the 2013 Masters.

The Shark Is Beached at Royal Troon

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    Greg Norman's furious rally at the 1989 British Open at Royal Troon isn't the reason he is remembered for that tournament. The Shark stormed back from seven shots down to shoot a 64 Sunday, matching the lowest score in British Open history and forcing a four-hole playoff against Mark Calcavecchia and Wayne Grady.

    Norman clearly had momentum on his side entering the playoff and cashed in with birdies on each of the first two extra holes. After a bogey on the third playoff hole, he headed to the 18th hole locked in a tie with Calcavecchia.

    His tee shot on the final showdown landed along a bunker. He followed that up by burying the next shot in yet another bunker.

    The disaster reached another level on his third shot of the hole when it rolled out-of-bounds. Norman never had a chance to finish the hole from hell, as Calcavecchia claimed the Claret Jug.

John Cook Can't Close It

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    John Cook carried a two-stoke lead into the final two holes at Muirfield, looking to cap off the 1992 Open Championship by raising the Claret Jug. He would walk off the course empty-handed.

    Cook could have cushioned his lead with a birdie attempt on par-five 17 but botched a 2-foot putt and settled for par. Meanwhile, Nick Faldo charged up the leaderboard and put the pressure on Cook to convert on a pivotal 18th hole endeavor.

    Cook couldn't handle the situation. A rough hole ended in a bogey, and Faldo took top honors.

Tiger Woods at His Worst in Wet and Weary Third Round

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    At the start of the century, Tiger Woods was playing some of the greatest golf ever seen. He entered the 2002 British Open at Muirfield in pursuit of a hallowed Grand Slam.

    That lofty ambition seemed possible the way Woods was dominating tournaments but came crashing down in during a damp third round. Tiger and his opponents dealt with severe winds and rain.

    Mother Nature got the better of him that day. Woods registered a score of 81, the highest score of his major career. It sent him tumbling down the standings and gave us a glimpse of a legend looking mortal.