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Winning is Hard - 10 of the Worst Final Round Collapses in Tournament Golf

By: | Wed 01 Nov 2017 | Comments


DUSTIN JOHNSON went into the final round of the 2017 WGC Champions in Shanghai with a six-shot lead. It was a stroll in the park for the world number one, who has started to collect WGC titles for fun. Except that it wasn't.

Once upon a time, the Dustinator had a reputation for throwing away big tournaments, but no longer. Well, that is not quite how it worked out. The alarm bells started to ring with a couple of early dropped shots, but surely nobody could catch him. Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose kept plugging away and Johnson soon found that he couldn't stop the bleeding.

Rose finished with a round of 67. Amazingly, it was enough to secure the Englishman a two-shot victory. Johnson, shaking his head in disbelief, signed for a 77, fully 10 shots worse than Rose. How could a man who had so totally mastered the course for 54 holes come so horribly undone? In the end, he had to settle for a share of second place.

It got us thinking about final-round collapses. There have been lots of them, and Johnson features in our list of 10 of the best (or worst) of them.

Martin Kaymer, 2015 Abu Dhabi Championship

The German had just about made the Abu Dhabi title his own, having won it twice. And he was surely on his way to a hat-trick of wins in 2015 after building a seven shot lead after three rounds. He set off for his victory parade and as he stepped onto the fifth tee he had extended his lead to 10 and was writing his winning speech. But then, incredibly, he lost his swing, his timing and his head. Gary Stal, of France, overturned an eight-shot deficit thanks to a final round of 65, one shot ahead of Rory McIlroy. Poor old Kaymer eventually finished third and has never really fully recovered.

Adam Scott, 2012 Open Championship, Royal Lytham

The Australian had been widely tipped to win a major for a number of years - the perfect swing, the ideal temperament and an ability to cope under pressure. Lytham suited him down to the ground and in 2012 he led the tournament by four strokes after three rounds. He was still four in front with four holes to play and the Claret Jug was within touching distance. But then his accurate driving and laser-like iron play started to go wrong. He dropped a shot at the 15th. Another went at the 16th. And the 17th. Ernie Els had birdied the final hole, which meant that Scott required a par to force a playoff. Instead, he dropped another shot. Even Els admitted afterwards that he was heartbroken for his younger friend. Scott did, however, win The Masters the following year.

Rory McIlroy, 2011 Masters

Augusta National should be made to measure for the Northern Irishman and it certainly appeared that way in 2011. He did not put a foot wrong on his way to building a four-stroke lead. Attempting to become the second youngest player to win The Masters, McIlroy's quickly vanished, but he still went into the back nine tied for the lead. Then he came to the 10th hole and hit a duck hook that cost him a triple-bogey. He then four-putted the par-three 12th and hit his drive into Rae's Creek at the 13th. McIlroy still needs to win The Masters to complete a career grand slam. If he ends his career without ever donning the Green Jacket he will have nightmares about his experiences in 2011.

Dustin Johnson, 2010 US Open, Pebble Beach

The Dustinator was playing on his favourite golf course, having already twice won the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. His love affair with this iconic venue continued for the first three rounds and he set off on the Sunday with a three-shot lead. After three holes, his dream was over he. He took a triple-bogey at only the second hole and followed it with a double bogey at the third. It went from bad to worse as he shot a horrific round of 82. Graeme McDowell took advantage of Johnson's misfortune to claim his first major title.

Greg Norman, 1996 Masters

Oh Greg! Norman has suffered more than his fair share of disappointments in majors but the one he really wanted was The Masters, and in 1996 it looked like he had finally cracked it as he opened with a stunning round of 63 and went on to build up a six-stroke lead after 54 holes. In the final round he was partnered with his nemesis, Nick Faldo, already a two-time winner at Augusta. But not even Norman could mess this up, could he? Yes, he could. His drives started going awry, his approach shots found the wrong parts of the greens and he lost his putting stroke. Faldo, meanwhile, put together a flawless final round of 67. Norman took 78 strokes. A genuinely embarrassed Faldo embraced Norman on the 18th green and told him: "Greg, I genuinely don't know what to say to you."

Ed Sneed, 1979 Masters

Sneed was a decent player for many years in 1979 he established a five-shot lead after three rounds at Augusta. He still appeared to be in control approaching the closing holes. As he stood on the 16th tee, Sneed was still three shots ahead, but then the enormity of his situation struck him. He dropped shots at each of the 16th, 17th and 18th holes, with his par putts on the 16th and 17th hanging on the lip of the hole. He also came within a whisker of saving his par on the last, which would have given him the Green Jacket. His round of 76 meant he was in a playoff, which he lost to Fuzzy Zoeller. he would never come close to winning any other major.

Arnold Palmer, 1966 US Open, Olympic Club

The King won the 1960 US Open after trailing by seven shots with a round to go. Six years later, at Olympic Club, he got a taste of his own medicine. Palmer started the final round three ahead of Billy Casper and by the time they had reached the turn, Palmer was seven in front. But Casper, a magician with the putter in is prime, started draining them from all over the place. Casper played the back nine in 32, but he was still five behind with four holes to  play. Arnie gave two shots back at the 15th and another two at the 16th and when he dropped another shot at the 17th, he was tied with Casper. That is how they finished. Palmer led the 18-hole playoff the next day, but eventually lost that too.

Jordan Spieth, 2016 Masters

The young American finished second at Augusta in 2014 and then won the tournament in record-breaking fashion the following year. He could do no wrong and was in complete control of The Masters in 2016, leading by five shots on the ninth tee. A shot went there, but it was at the 12th where it all went wrong. He put his tee shot into the water, dropped another ball and, unbelievably, put that in the water too. Danny Willett, who had not even been a certain starter as his wife gave birth to their first child the previous week, took advantage with a final round of 67.

Jean Van de Velde, 1999 Open, Carnoustie

The Frenchman had The Open in the palm of his hands as he stepped onto the final tee at Carnoustie in 1999. He only required a double-bogey six to take the title. He hit a poor drive which was lucky to remain dry and he followed it with a wild hack into the hay on the right. His third shot landed in the burn and he took off his shoes and socks and contemplated playing it from the Barry Burn. Eventually he took a penalty drop and put his next shot into a green side bunker. The Frenchman finally found the green and had to hole a tricky putt for a triple-bogey seven to force his way into a playoff but he was shot to pieces and Paul Laurie duly claimed the Claret Jug, having started the day 10 shots behind Van de Velde.

Shane Lowry, 2016 US Open, Oakmont

Amid the drama of Dustin Johnson's victory at Oakmont, it has largely been forgotten that Ireland's Shane Lowry went into the final round with a four-shot lead after 54 holes of weather-affected play. Johnson, you will remember, was told during the round that he was probably going to be penalised for supposedly causing his ball to move while addressing a putt on the fifth green. Lowry dropped four shots in the first 10 holes to fall two behind Johnson, but was effectively level when he birdied the 12th as Johnson would eventually be penalised. However, the Irishman who is renowned as one of the best putters in the game, then three-putted the 14th, 15th and 16th to end his chances of becoming the first player from the Republic of Ireland to win the US Open. “It’s not easy to get yourself in the position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn’t take it,” Lowry said. “I’m bitterly disappointed."


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