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Top 3 Chokers

Three of the most dramatic defeats from victory

Posted Jun 07, 2011 by Chris White

The burn at Carnoustie killed off Van de Velde

Every golfer has been there, a great round and feeling on top of the world. Only for it all to come crashing down around you as the clubhouse gets nearer. Rory McIlroy certainly knows what I’m talking about, leading the Masters by four shots going into the final day, before a final round 8-over par 80 saw him finish 19th.

This got me thinking about some other golfers who left the course having thrown away victories, so here are the three that I think are the biggest chokes in golf. See if you agree.

“The best player never to win a major” is a tag that Phil Mickelson carried for the majority of his career, having so often gotten so close to victory but never quite getting there before finally breaking his duck at Augusta in 2004.  Going into the 2006 US Open, Mickelson was searching for his fourth major, and his third in a row.

Mickelson spent the day using his driver rather than the three wood. Thanks largely to his short game, he found himself with a one shot advantage at the last. Bizarrely, he got the driver out again and hit a wild shot that hit the roof of a hospitality tent, leaving his line to the green blocked by trees. Rather than laying up to make par for the win, he attempted a low, slicing shot under and around the trees. It didn’t work and after attempting the same shot again he found himself with an impossible up and down from a bunker. He would go on to make a double bogey and not even make it into a playoff.

Thomas Bjorn was in incredible form at the 2003 Open at Royal St Georges.  In 44 holes, Bjorn only bogeyed two holes as he walked to the 15th at Sandwich. The Dane found a bunker and had to play sideways before his approach to the green. He made a bogey but still had a two shot lead going into the last three holes. He found the greenside bunker on the 16th. The next shot reached the top of one of the slopes and agonisingly stopped and ended up back at his feet.

Attempt no. 2 saw a copy of the previous shot and Bjorn had managed to find the same bunker, on the same hole, three times. When it was over, Bjorn walked to 17 with a double-bogey.  When he bogeyed the next hole, his first major championship was gone.

This next name I think we all know about. Now anyway, before the event, nobody had. Frenchman Jean van de Velde had a 3-shot lead at the Open in 1999 at Carnoustie as he stood on the final tee. For some reason, van de Velde decided he would be the only player in the competition to take a driver off the tee, and found himself in the rough.

A lay up to the burn with a wedge would have left him a simple shot onto the green. Instead, he decided to go for the green in one go, and hit a block in the grandstand, rebounding just short of the water. His next shot did find the water and we can all see the pictures now of him standing there thinking about playing from the water. Fortunately, he did take a drop and made a triple bogey, meaning a play off. Van de Velde couldn’t come back from the events of the 18th and lost the play off.

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