Choking Hazard: The 10 Biggest Golf Chokes of All Time
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According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, to choke means to fail to perform effectively because of nervous agitation or tension.
That's exactly what happens to many of golf's professionals on an annual basis. Listed in the following slideshow are the 10 biggest chokes to happen on the golf course throughout numerous tournaments and championships.
No. 10: Jean Van De Velde, 1999 British Open
Jean Van de Velde during his "choke" at the 1999 British Open
Jean Van de Velde may have been more journeyman then top-tier player, but any golfer who needed only a double-bogey on the last hole to win should be able to do a better job than Van de Velde.
Along his way to a triple-bogey—yes, I meant triple-bogey—Van de Velde found the rough, the sand, the water, and even the grandstands as he choked his way onto this list at No. 10.
No. 9: Lorena Ochoa, 2005 U.S. Women's Open
Lorena Ochoa and Honorable Mention Michelle Wie
On the 18th hole, with a chance to either win with a birdie or at least get into a playoff, Ochoa hit the ground with her driver and skidded the ball into the water just to the left of the tee.
Her approach ended in the grandstands, along with her hopes of winning, as she finished with a quadruple bogey.
For her effort, Lorena Ochoa makes the list at No. 9.
No. 8: Tom Watson, 2009 British Open
Tom Watson at the 2009 British Open
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
After playing lights-out golf during the entire 2009 British Open, all Tom Watson had to do was make par on No. 18 and he had it won.
After leaving himself with a short putt, it looked like Tom had the tournament won. But this isn't a list of great golfers who won tournaments, so of course, Watson missed the putt he's most certainly made a million or more times in his storied career and lost the British Open.
As much as nobody wants Tom Watson on a list like this, his choke earns him spot No. 8.
No. 7: Sergio Garcia, 2005 Wachovia Championship
Sergio Garcia at the 2005 Wachovia Championship
Not much to say here. Sergio had a six-shot lead going into the final round, only to give it all away in one of the worst performances since Greg Norman's 1996 effort at the Masters.
Watching this collapse was like watching a car crash—you don't want to look, but you also can't look away.
For his meltdown, Sergio Garcia earns the No. 7 spot.
No. 6: Thomas Bjorn, 2003 British Open
Thomas Bjorn was full of hot air as he faded during the 2003 British Open
Thomas Bjorn had a two-shot lead with three holes to play before he double-bogeyed 16 and bogeyed 17 to hand the British Open to Ben Curtis.
For his inability to handle the pressure, Bjorn sits at No. 6 on the list.
No. 5: Sam Snead, 1947 U.S. Open
Sam Snead circa 1947
Had to jump in the "way-back" machine for this one.
Sam Snead made this list due to his continued frustrations at the U.S. Open throughout his amazing career.
In 1939, Snead needed to par the final hole to win, but instead he triple-bogeyed.
In 1947, Snead missed a two-and-a-half foot putt on the final hole to lose the Open to Lew Worsham.
Snead continued to play well, only to struggle at the end of each U.S. Open, never being able to claim the Open as one of his many triumphs.
No. 4: Matt Gogel, 2000 Pebble Beach
Matt Gogel was seven strokes up on Tiger Woods with seven to play. He ended up losing in one of the most dramatic meltdowns in golf history as Tiger made a run and finally overcame Gogel's large lead.
Granted, this was the "old Tiger Woods," but you can't give up a seven-stroke lead with seven holes to go to anybody.
No. 3: Greg Norman, 1996 Masters
Greg Norman, 1996
Greg Norman is one of those incredible golfers who managed to have an up-and-down career.
Some critics thought Norman had bad nerves in critical situations; fans thought he had bad luck. Whatever Norman had or didn't have doesn't change the fact that Norman entered the final round of the 1996 Masters with a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo.
Faldo ended the day at 67 while Norman shot a 78, turning a six-shot lead into a five-stroke deficit.
Norman would never be a serious contender in another major.
No. 2: Phil Mickelson, 2006 U.S. Open
At the time of the 2006 U.S. Open, it appeared that Phil Mickelson was ready to challenge Tiger Woods for the title of best golfer.
On hole No. 18 of the 2006 U.S. Open, Mickelson had a one-shot lead but ended up smacking his drive off the hospitality tent. His second shot hit a tree after Mickelson decided to play a little too aggressively.
Finally, after Mickelson's painful collapse, Geoff Ogilvy won the 2006 Open.
No. 1: Arnold Palmer, 1966 U.S. Open
Arnold Palmer, circa 1966
Arnold Palmer had a five-stroke lead with four holes to play in the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. Then Billy Casper went on a tear and completely erased Palmer's lead over the next three holes.
Palmer was able to tie Casper and force an 18-hole playoff scheduled for the following day. In the playoff, Palmer once again let a lead slip away. Palmer was up by two with eight holes to go but ended up losing the playoff to Casper 69 to 73.
This wouldn't be considered a collapse or choke had it not been for Palmer's seven-shot lead heading into the fourth day of the Open and having that lead disappear, forcing a playoff.
Palmer's failure is magnified by the fact that after regaining some momentum and forcing a playoff, he lost the playoff the following day.
Tiger Woods, Entire 2009 PGA Year
Colin Montgomerie, 2006 U.S. Open
Sergio Garcia, 2008 British Open
Michelle Wie, Failing to sign her card at the 2008 State Farm Classic
Stewart Cink, 2001 U.S. Open
Kenny Perry, 2009 Masters