Imagine You Are Leading The Open Championship: Top Open Meltdowns
Secretly we all like a golfing meltdown. Following on from last month’s Masters Meltdown, we turn our attention to The Open Championship. Ahead of its 146th edition we wonder who it will shred this year and produce another epic fail.
Here’s a look at some of our favourite moments when golfers lost their cool and choked on The Open:
Imagine for a moment you are French.
Imagine standing on the 18th tee on Sunday with a three-shot lead…
Go on, imagine it.
Jean Van de Velde doesn’t have to imagine it.
The 128th Open Championship in 1999 is now legendary, not because it was won by a Scotsman, but because of the manic actions of the roll-up-your-trousers-lets-go-fishing Van de Velde who provided one of the biggest self-inflicted tragedies in golf, rivaling Per Ulrik’s Johanssen’s backwards flat cap, Pringle’s geometric designer hire and Tiger’s decision to come clean.
Going into the 72nd hole Van de Velde was in control; he had a three-stroke lead.
Some might call it ‘bad luck’, some might call it ‘fear of winning’, but a ricocheted shot off the grandstand, onto a stone wall and then an unfortunate bounce landed him in knee-deep rough.
From there he used the only club in his bag capable of landing him in the Barry Burn, and was mildly surprised – shrugging his shoulders as only the French do – when it duly did.
Despite flashing some pale French calves, he eventually took a drop, before he had another mare by taking dead aim at a greenside bunker.
In the end a triple-bogey seven got him into a three-way play-off, where he lost to the slightly less-well know Paul Lawrie and while Lawrie admires his silver claret jug on the mantelpiece, Van de Velde uses claret as an emotional blanket, despite what he says:
“I am at peace with what happened – I have been for a very long time,” Van de Velde said last year.
“You know, it did take me a few days to find my sleep again after that Sunday, due to the stress, the adrenaline, the rush, trying to analyse it or whatever. But after that, I have never once woken up in a cold sweat and it has never given me difficulty finding sleep. Ever.”
“However, I know it is part of history; it is not all of me, but it is part of me…”
Imagine another three-shot lead at the Open, this time with just four holes to play (I know, I know “3 up, 4 to play never wins…”)…
Thomas Bjorn, our next European Ryder Cup Team Captain, showed us another reason why he has the steely nerves required to win it back, when leading the 2003 Open at Royal St Georges.
‘The Great Dane’, as he is fondly known, was on the 15th when a bogey seemed to unnerve him.
The Danish aren’t a nation to dwell on misfortune, but the ever-smiling and upbeat Bjorn temporarily forgot his hygge and took three hacks from the bunker on the next hole.
His misfortune paved the way for a period of American dominance in world golf spearheaded by Ben Curtis. He became the first debut winner at The Open since Tom Watson in 1975.
Meanwhile Bjorn would go on to win fifteen times on the European Tour and in December last year followed the major-less Monty in being named the European Ryder Cup captain for 2018.
In more recent years Tom Watson looked good to take his sixth Open in 2009 and become the oldest major champion in history but he was unable to par the final hole and lost out to Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff.
Although the failure of the eight-time major winner and 60 year old to make a par on the demanding 470 yard par 4, might well be less to down to choking and more down to his fellow competitors not allowing him to play off the senior tees.
Imagine a four shot lead with four to play…
Adam Scott also had to settle for second in The Open in 2012, despite having just that. Four successive bogies were enough to let Ernie Els in, whose birdie at the last hole helped him to win by a single stroke, having trailed by six after 54 holes.
Scott, could though console himself a year later as he took his biggest win to date in 2013 when he won The Masters Tournament.
Of course, it is not just in more modern times that players have cracked under the pressure, take Doug Sanders in 1970 at St Andrews.
Imagine having a two-foot putt to win The Open…
Sanders – known as the ‘Peacock of the Fairways’ due to his snappy dressing – knows this feeling.
After a good drive on one of the easiest finishing holes in major championship golf, he took four more shots. His missed ‘winning’ putt has become legendary even after bravely missing out by a single shot in the 18-hole play-off against Jack Nicklaus.
The American never actually won a Major – despite taking 20 wins on the PGA Tour.
Type in “doug sanders putt” to google.
Imagine that search term being your legacy…
What are the chances of us having a few more meltdowns this coming July at Royal Birkdale in The Open?
Never-say-never, although the odds of the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson or Jason Day winning are probably much better…