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Ranking the Top 10 Collapses in Masters History

Mike DudurichContributor IApril 7, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 Collapses in Masters History

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    Greg Norman has become the Masters most tragic figure.
    Greg Norman has become the Masters most tragic figure.Darron Cummings

    Augusta National Golf Club is perhaps the most hallowed golf course in the game and every year when the Masters is contested there, amazing things happens.

    Jack Nicklaus wins his sixth green jacket at age 46 in 1986.

    Tiger Woods tears it up in 1997.

    But there have been some amazing collapses as well. The combination of the Masters being the first major championship of the year, the diabolical putting surfaces, the unpredictable wins and the unbelievable pressures of the back nine on Sunday make the Masters a supreme test.

    It takes great skill, some good luck and strong intestinal fortitude to get to the green jacket ceremony.

    Here's a list ranking the top 10 collapses in Masters history.

10. Ben Hogan, 1946 Masters

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    Ben Hogan putts under the watchful eye of Byron Nelson.
    Ben Hogan putts under the watchful eye of Byron Nelson.Associated Press

    Ben Hogan wasn't really the Ben Hogan we came to know—i.e., he hadn't won a major, when he competed in the 1946 Masters. He was a good player but was still in the process of becoming the great player.

    Hogan won 30 tournaments as a professional before winning his first major and that is a record for most wins by a player prior to winning a major.

    He trailed Herman Keiser by a shot as the tournament wound down. Keiser three-putted the 18th to fall into a tie with Hogan, but when Hogan got to the 18th green, he, too, three-putted. His two-footer for par didn't even touch the cup and Keiser had pulled off the first major upset in the Masters.

    The win for Keiser was his first and only major title.

9. Arnold Palmer, 1961 Masters

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    One that definitely got away from Arnold Palmer, the 1961 Masters.
    One that definitely got away from Arnold Palmer, the 1961 Masters.Associated Press

    It's never over until it's over is a famous adage, and it applies all events and all players, even to the greatest who ever played the game.

    The 1961 Masters was a battle between a pair of future Hall of Famers, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.

    It came down to the 18th green or, more specifically, the back bunker on the 18th green.

    Player was in the group ahead of Palmer on Sunday and his approach shot found the sand. He was able to get up and down to finish at eight under par.

    Palmer finished his round moments later, hitting the bunker in two. But he didn't hit the shot he needed to out of the bunker, punching it over the green and through the crowd, where it landed near a TV tower.

    He was able to pitch back onto the green but faced a 15-foot bogey putt that he needed to tie Player. He missed that to make double bogey and finish at seven under.

    Palmer's mistake allowed Player to become the first non-American to win the Masters.

8. Ed Sneed, 1979 Masters

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    Ed Sneed lost in the second hole of a playoff in the 1979 Masters.
    Ed Sneed lost in the second hole of a playoff in the 1979 Masters.Associated Press

    The 1979 Masters was a very unusual one.

    Ed Sneed, a journeyman pro, somehow amassed a five-shot lead going into the final round. And perhaps even more amazingly, he led by three shots with three holes to play.

    But he fell victim to the back nine pressure of the Masters and bogeyed those last three holes. That put him into a playoff with Fuzzy Zoeller, a playoff he lost. The two split the first extra hole and Sneed parred the second. Zoeller, however, knocked in his birdie putt to win the title.

    Sneed never contended in another major, and his game went south to the point that Sneed quit the tour completely five years later.

    Zoeller's victory, on the other hand, was the last time a rookie won the Masters.

7. Ken Venturi, 1956 Masters

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    Ken Venturi became one of the tragic figures in Masters history.
    Ken Venturi became one of the tragic figures in Masters history.Associated Press

    There's probably a really good reason why no amateur has ever won the Masters:

    It's just too hard.

    Ken Venturi had a great shot in 1956. He came into Sunday with a four-shot lead, but four three-putts and trouble with Augusta National Golf Club's tricky wind gusts doomed him.

    How difficult was it that day? The winner, Jack Burke Jr., edged Venturi by a shot.

    The bottom line was this: The pressure got to Venturi as his lead shrunk. Quite naturally, he began to pressure and things got worse and worse.

     

6. Greg Norman, 1987 Masters

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    There were plenty of excruciating moments for Greg Norman at Augusta National.
    There were plenty of excruciating moments for Greg Norman at Augusta National.Anonymous

    The 1987 Masters wasn't one of the classic Greg Norman collapses, but it certainly added to the heartbreak Norman has experienced at Augusta National Golf Club.

    The Great White Shark actually played well, shooting a 66 on Saturday and hung in there throughout the final round. But he ended up in a playoff with Larry Mize and the late Seve Ballesteros. The Spaniard was eliminated on the first extra hole, with Mize and Norman moving on to the 11th hole.

    Norman reached the green in two, while Mize was 20 yards short of the putting surface. As it turned out, Norman didn't stand a chance as Mize pulled out his 56-degree wedge and chipped in to earn his first and only major title.

    Norman dropped to his knees as Mize's amazing chip disappeared into the cup.

5. Curtis Strange, 1985 Masters

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    Curtis Strange could have had three major titles.
    Curtis Strange could have had three major titles.Jeff Roberson

    The two par-fives on the back nine at Augusta National Golf Club are often make-or-break holes in the Masters and in 1985, they broke Curtis Strange.

    In his best and only shot at a green jacket, Strange decided to go for both the 13th and 15th greens in two and didn't find dry land with either shot.

    He was two shots ahead of Bernhard Langer when he got to the 13th fairway, but when the round was over, Strange lost by a pair of shots. Of course, he took penalty shots on each of those attempts that went into the water.

    Langer overcame a four-shot deficit at the start of the day and birdied four of the final seven holes.

4. Jeff Maggert, 2003 Masters

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    Jeff Maggert had some back luck in the 2003 Masters.
    Jeff Maggert had some back luck in the 2003 Masters.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Jeff Maggert's collapse in the 2003 Masters was not the most heralded, but it certainly was painful for him.

    He was playing a typical Jeff Maggert-type conservative tournament and was in the lead by two shots going into Sunday. But it didn't take long for trouble to visit him.

    On the third hole, his tee shot finished in a fairway bunker and his next shot clipped the lip of the bunker, ricocheted back and hit him. That's a two-shot penalty that led to an eight.

    And while he made a couple birdies to try to get back into contention, it all ended on the famous 12th hole. Maggert hit his tee shot into the back bunker, had a bad lie there and hit a screamer across the green into Rae's creek.

    He had to back across the bridge to hit his next shot. That one also found Rae's Creek and resulted in an eight.

    Obviously deflated, Maggert made three birdies coming in to finish fifth.

3. Rory McIlroy, 2011 Masters

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    The beginning of the end for Rory McIlroy in the 2011 Masters.
    The beginning of the end for Rory McIlroy in the 2011 Masters.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Golf fans across the world eagerly looked forward to the final round of the 2011 Masters as young Rory McIlroy was poised to become a champion of a major for the first time.

    When McIlroy got to the 10th tee Sunday afternoon, his four-shot lead had vanished, but he was still tied for the lead. But he hit one of the great pull-hooks of our time and sent his ball to a place few have ever gone before: within the shadow of the Eisenhower Cabin.

    That started a downward spiral for the youngster that included a triple-bogey on the 10th, a four-putt for a double bogey on the 12th and then dunking his tee shot in Rae's Creek on the left side of the 13th fairway.

    In the end, he shot 80 and finished in a tie for 15th.

    That Masters was won by Charl Schwartzel, who closed his final round with four straight birdies.

2. Scott Hoch, 1989 Masters

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    Because Scott Hoch couldn't make a couple short putts in 1989, putting an exclamation point on an otherwise average career. Nick Faldo puts on the green jacket.
    Because Scott Hoch couldn't make a couple short putts in 1989, putting an exclamation point on an otherwise average career. Nick Faldo puts on the green jacket.Associated Press

    Winning a major championship is a difficult proposition, just any number of really good players who have tried and failed.

    Scott Hoch was never a great pro, but he did win 11 times on the PGA Tour.

    And he was probably as close to winning a Masters as a player could get without actually winning.

    In 1989, Hoch led Nick Faldo by a shot at 17, but missed a short par putt and dropped back into a tie. The two parred 18 and went to a playoff. Faldo chopped his way to par, Hoch faced a birdie putt.

    Two putts to win, but he rolled his first attempt less than three feet past. And sure enough, Hoch missed the return putt, keeping the playoff alive.

    Faldo made a 25-footer on the next hole to win.

1. Greg Norman, 1996 Masters

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    Down and out. That was Greg Norman in 1996.
    Down and out. That was Greg Norman in 1996.Associated Press

    There really can be no arguing that the 1996 Masters was absolutely the biggest collapse in the history of that grand tournament.

    Norman and the Masters had a torturous relationship. It was the tournament he coveted the most and the one that treated him the worst.

    This was the one in which Norman was finally going to get his revenge. He established a course record 63 in the opening round and took a six-shot lead into the final round over Nick Faldo. He was poised to go wire to wire to win his first Masters.

    Norman had a solid start to the round fine but bogeyed holes nine, 10 and 11. When his tee ball found Rae's Creek in front of the 12th green, it was all over. He would finish with a 78 while Faldo posted a 67.

    That was the end of Norman's career as a contender in major championships.

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