Top Five Biggest Chokes In Golf History

Even the best of the very best in professional sports feel the pressure of a major championship. Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth have cracked under the strain of the spotlight. However, the biggest collapse in golf history belongs to Jean Van De Velde (obviously).

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No one wants to be on a list like this. However, sometimes pressure gets to the best of players, even those that you’ll see at the top of this year’s Masters odds. Here is a look at the top five chokes in golf history. It makes sense that all five are from major championships, where the lights are brightest and the pressure is the highest.

A fun fact before we get into it—in four of these five collapses, the player that would go on to win the tournament, it would be their only major championship.

5. Jean Van De Velde at Carnoustie in 1999

Van De Velde won two events on the European Tour in his career. However, he is solely remembered for his stunning collapse at the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999. Standing on the 18th tee, Van De Velde needed a double-bogey to secure the win. A terrible drive off the tee managed to stay safe, but well off target. Instead of the safe shot, Van De Velde decided to go for the green. He hit a grandstand, and bounced off the Barry Burn wall into some nasty rough. His third shot went into the Barry Burn, which is a water hazard. There, we got the everlasting image of Van De Velde, shoeless with rolled-up pants, deciding whether or not to hit out of the Burn. He took a drop and his fifth shot went into a bunker. He managed to get up and down for a triple bogey, which knocked him out of a playoff that was ultimately won by Paul Lawrie.

Don’t believe us? See for yourself and hear from the man himself.

4. Greg Norman at Augusta National in 1996

Norman managed to win two majors, the 1986 and 1993 Open Championships. However, on a Sunday in 1996 in Augusta, Georgia, he managed to set a record that has yet to be broken. Norman started the round with a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo. He even led by four shots with 11 holes to go. However, Norman started the second nine with three straight bogeys, then put a ball in Rae’s Creek at the 12th hole. He got two strokes back on the par-5s at the 13th and 15th holes, but another ball in the water at the 16th hole dashed his hopes. Faldo won by five strokes. It’s still the largest lead to ever be lost in a PGA tournament, much less a major. It was one of nine top-six finishes for Norman at the Masters.

3. Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot in 2006

Mickelson has done it all in professional golf. He has three Green Jackets from the Masters, he won the PGA Championship in 2005 and then won an unlikely Open Championship in 2013. However, Mickelson has six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, and the one that most remember came at 2006 at Winged Foot. Like Van De Velde, Mickelson didn’t need a driver off the tee, but it’s Phil, so he took a driver off the tee. That tee shot went way left by a hospitality tent. He went for the green, but Mickelson hit a tree and the ball only went 25 yards. His third went in a bunker, his fourth went to the other side of the green and he missed the bogey ship. Mickelson would putt out for double bogey; a par would have won him the title and a bogey would have gotten him into a playoff. Instead, Geoff Ogilvy won with a +5 score. However, Mickelson’s “I’m such an idiot” quote was the star of the show.

 

2. Dustin Johnson at Pebble Beach in 2010

Johnson is the world’s #1 player, defending Masters champion and of course, atop the Masters odds for this tournament. He also won the U.S. Open in 2016 and also lost the 2010 PGA Championship because of a controversial bunker rule. However, Pebble Beach was a nightmare for Johnson, which shows the power of nerves as Johnson had won the last two PGA events held there. He went into the round with a three-shot lead over Graeme McDowell. However, Johnson triple-bogeyed the second hole and then hit a double-bogey on the third hole. A final-round 82 relegated Johnson to T-8, while McDowell hung on to win the tournament.

1. Jordan Spieth at Augusta National in 2016

Spieth has surged up the Masters odds with a recent surge in form. However, at the 2016 Masters, Spieth was the best player in the world and the defending Masters champion with a five-shot lead going into the second nine. However, the bottom fell out quickly for Spieth, who bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes, then put two balls in Rae’s Creek at the 12th hole. Spieth got a couple strokes back, but would finish T-2 to Danny Willett. It was up there with Norman’s collapse, said Faldo, who was in the booth watching Spieth.

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