Meltdowns At The Masters
When nerves take over at the Masters’ final round, even the best and most experienced on the course can be thwarted. Over the decades, at least a dozen leaders had their dreams shattered in dramatic fashion at the back nine of the tournament’s home stretch.
In 2011, five years prior to Jordan Spieth’s monumental collapse on the 12th hole, Rory McIlroy led the front 9 before triple bogeying on the 10th, double faulting on the 12th, and missing par on the 11th and 15th. Though he finished T15, McIlroy roared back two months later to win his first Major at the U.S. Open.
Greg Norman was an earshot away from the green jacket in 1996 when he entered Sunday’s round 6 strokes ahead of Nick Faldo. But the top ranked Australian double bogeyed twice- the first on the 12th to lose his lead and the second on the 16th to fade out.
In a fateful finish, Norman and Faldo traded scores at the end of the day when the Englishman walked off 5 strokes in lead. Ironically, the next English golfer to take the Masters was Danny Willet at Spieth’s own meltdown twenty years later.
Norman was no stranger to a heart-brake finish in Augusta. In 1986, “The Shark” twice bogeyed on the 10th but after burying four straight birdies found himself tied for first place with Jack Nicklaus on the 17th. Norman’s failure to sink a 15-foot par putt on the last hole sealed his fate. Nicklaus became the oldest player at 46 to win the Masters, while Norman went on to grab the Open a few months later.
The 18th hole proved elusive for Arnold Palmer in 1961. The now-deceased legend was leading South Africa’s Gary Player at the 17th hold (-9) to (-8) before landing a bunker shot on the 18th and launching a series of putting misses that cost him the tournament.
Three contenders found themselves ahead of their packs before collapsing into losing playoffs. 1979 saw Ed Sneed enjoy a 3-stroke advantage on the 15th before a succession of bogeys sent him into an unsuccessful tie race with Tom Watson and final victor, Fuzzy Zoeller, the last debut winner at the Masters.
Ten years later, Scott Hoch bogeyed the 17th and parred the 18th to force a playoff where he succumbed to Nick Faldo. In 2009, Kenny Perry led most of the day until he bogeyed the last holes and lost the follow up contention to Angel Cabrera, the first South American Masters champion.
In two bitter lessons that prove concentration is key all around, Roberto DeVincenzo was forced to concede the 1968 Masters to Bob Goalby after the Argentine birdied the 17th but mistakenly signed par on his scorecard.
Hubert Green was set for a playoff at the 1978 tournament but missed a 3 foot birdie on the 18th when a radio announcer distracted his concentration.
In an historic episode that would have created the first and only amateur champion at the Masters, Ken Venturi led the first three rounds in 1956 and was 4 swings ahead going into the back nine. But then the demons took over. He fired eight bogeys through to the end and lost the tournament by a single stroke. Had he won, Augusta would have had a 24-year old car salesman wearing the green jacket.
MOTOR RACING May 30, 2010 Britain’s Dario Franchitti wins the Indianapolis 500, completing the 200-lap chase in 3:05:37 with an average speed of 162 mph. It was his 2nd victory at the famed race, which he would repeat a 3rd time in 2012. No stranger to the winner’s circle, Franchitti won the IndyCar series four times and the 24 Hours of Daytona once. He retired in 2013 after suffering serious injuries in a crash.
HOCKEY May 26, 2000 The New Jersey Devils top the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 at the NHL Eastern Conference Final. The Devils overcame a 3-game deficit to take the series in the 7th match, with Patrick Elias netting the winning goal of the tournament. New Jersey would go on to face the Dallas Stars at the Finals and win the Stanley Cup 4-2, with games 5 & 6 going into 3 and 2 overtime periods, respectively.
SOCCER May 23, 1990 Italy’s Milan beat Portugal’s Benfica 1-0 at the Euro Cup Final, the continent's most prestigious club competition. The winning goal came from Frank Rijkaard in the 68th minute. Rijkaard was one of three Dutch players who fielded a front for the Italian team, with the others being Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten. It was Milan’s 2nd consecutive victory at the Euro Cup and 4th overall since the tournament began in 1955.
BASKETBALL May 16, 1980 The Los Angeles Lakers become NBA champions after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2. It was the 7th national title for the West Coast team who were last crowned in 1972. Rookie Magic Johnson took home the MVP Finals award, scoring 42 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in Game 6. It was the first NBA Finals that used the 3-point line, which was introduced that season.