Top 10 golf meltdowns

Following Spieth's Masters meltdown, we look at some of the worst chokes in golf

Andy Roberts's picture
Mon, 11 Apr 2016
Top 10 golf meltdowns

We all know golf is full of those ‘what if’ moments, and Jordan Spieth's back-nine collapse at The Masters certainly falls into that category.

From inward-nine blowouts, nervy putts and watery graves, we have compiled a top 10 as to what we consider the worst meltdowns in golf.

Let's start with "The Big Easy" at number 10.

10. Ernie Els - 2007 Alfred Dunhill Championship

Ernie Els has thrown numerous events away in the past but the 2007 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club eclipsed them all.

Standing on the par-5 18th fairway with a two-shot lead, with his nearest pursuer John Bickerton back in the hotel, Els plonked his second shot into the pond and then did the same with his fourth from the drop zone.

Playing six from the same spot in the fairway, the South African left himself with a 10-footer to force a playoff but narrowly slid his ball past the hole and made triple-bogey to hand the English journeyman pro his third career title.


9. Kyle Stanley - 2012 Farmers Insurance Open

“I’m just too far back, Kyle has a three-shot lead,” said Brandt Snedeker, glancing at the television screen in the media centre as Kyle Stanley played his third shot from 75 yards into the par-5 18th.

A sure thing quickly got surreal when Stanley zipped his wedge into the water and struck his fifth from the drop zone to 45-feet before three-putting for triple-bogey.

In a playoff nobody deemed possible, the American three-putted once again at the second extra hole to hand the eventual 2012 FedEx Cup champion victory.

To Stanley’s credit, however, he came back the following week and clinched maiden PGA Tour glory when overhauling an eight-shot deficit in the final round of the Phoenix Open.

8. Scott Hoch - 1989 Masters

Two feet for a Green Jacket. Two feet.

Scott Hoch missed one of the most memorable putts in history at the first extra hole of a playoff with Nick Faldo for the 1989 Masters.

Faldo played the first playoff hole, the 10th, poorly and could only stand back and watch as Hoch stood over a two-foot putt for the win.

Inexplicably, the American rolled his ball wide of the hole, throwing his putter into the air in disbelief, before Faldo won at the next extra hole when rattling home a 25-foot birdie putt.

7. Arnold Palmer - 1966 US Open

Arnold Palmer started with a three-shot lead on the Sunday at Olympic Club and extended it to seven by the turn. 

Palmer just needed to shoot 36 on the back nine but his game quickly unravelled with bogeys at 10 and 13.

His pursuer Billy Casper made birdie at the par-3 15th and Palmer made another bogey, dropping the lead to just three.

After another birdie-bogey swing at the par-5 16th, Palmer's lead completely disappeared with a fourth bogey of the back nine at 17.

Palmer needed a difficult up-and-down from the rough for par just to force an 18-hole playoff, which he would go on to lose the following day by four shots.

6. Adam Scott - 2012 Open Championship

Adam Scott spectacularly crumbled to a final-round 75 at the 2012 Open Championship when finishing with four consecutive bogeys.

Despite holding a share of the lead up the par-4 18th, Scott drove into the lip of the fairway bunker and was forced to lay up short of the green.

The Australian played his third onto the front of the green but some 25-feet away, and missed the putt to present Els his fourth major title.

Ever the gentleman and appearing as if things had not sunk in as he trudged off the back of the green, Scott simply reflected: "That’s golf."

5. Martin Kaymer - 2015 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Martin Kaymer makes our top five following his unforeseen collapse around the turn at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Sunday afternoon.

The two-time major champion went into the final round with a six-stroke lead and extended the advantage to 10 shots with 13 holes to play.

Seemingly strolling to a fourth Abu Dhabi title, a double-bogey at nine and triple-bogey at 13 halted the German in his tracks and handed the initiative to rapid-rising rookie Gary Stal, who made four birdies in a row from the eighth followed by a title-clinching birdie at 16.

“Yeah, surprised, a little shocked,” the German told ASAP Sports, after ending the tournament two shots behind Stal back in third.

“I don't really know how to put it into words. It was very, very surprising today. I started off well and hit a couple of bad tee shots and it cost me double-bogey and a triple-bogey.”

4. Rory McIlroy - 2011 Masters

Arguably on par with Jordan Spieth's 2016 meltdown, you no doubt need little reminding of Rory McIlroy's back nine showing at Augusta in 2011.

In control after three rounds, leading a group of four players by four shots heading into Sunday, and still holding a narrow lead after nine holes, McIlroy carved his tee shot into a house at 10 en route to a triple-bogey, and followed that with a bogey at 11 and four-putt double at the iconic par-3 12th. 

McIlroy went on to card a dismal 80 and finished ten shots adrift of champion Charl Schwartzel in a tie for 15th.

The Masters still remains the final piece of his career Grand Slam jigsaw.

3. Jordan Spieth - 2016 Masters

Jordan Spieth would be the first to tell you he didn't bring his A-game to Augusta National as he bid to become just the fourth player to successfully defend a Masters title. 

Only there can be no excuses for the manner in which he threw things away on the back nine in 2016.

Leading by five shots as he approached the 10th hole following a run of four birdies from the sixth, Spieth proceeded to drop six shots in the space of three holes, with most of the damage done on the iconic par-3 12th following a quadruple-bogey seven.


Spieth stuck both his tee shot and third shot in the water, before finding the back bunker and holing a four-foot putt for a seven.

That disastrous hole for the American bumped Danny Willett into the outright lead and it would become a lead the Englishman would fail to relinquish. 

Willett carded a bogey-free 67 to win his maiden major by three shots over compatriot Lee Westwood and a distraught Spieth. 

"It's tough, it's really tough," said Speith. "I have no doubt about that ability (to win tournaments), I hope I'll never feel that again."

To make matters worse for Spieth, he had to present Willett with the Green Jacket.

2. Greg Norman - 1996 Masters

It would be the collapse that haunted Greg Norman for the rest of his career and Australian golf fans for decades.

Let's just hope it doesn't do the same for young Spieth.

Holding a commanding six-shot lead over Faldo heading into the final round, the "Shark" carded a final-round 78 in stark comparison to his playing partner's superb 67.

Norman would later tell Australian broadcaster ABC: "I disappeared down to the beach, and lay on the beach and cried, because I felt like I’d completely screwed up winning a tournament that I wanted to win.

"That would be about the only time I would have brought the emotion of a golf tournament back home."

A year later at Augusta, Norman lost a playoff to Larry Mize, who chipped in to win, resulting in his third agonising Masters near-miss having finished runner-up to Jack Nicklaus in 1986.

1. Jean Van de Velde - 1999 Open Championship

There are moments in sport when you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. The climax of the 1999 Open Championship was no exception.

Playing golf in Normandy at the tender age of 11, I approached the 18th hole to rapturous noise. And it wasn’t because I was tapping home for a bogey six and three points.

A crazy Frenchman came running out onto the veranda, overlooking the final green, screaming ‘catastrophe, catastrophe!’

Jean Van de Velde, a journeyman pro on the European Tour, needed a double bogey on the final hole at Carnoustie to become the first Frenchman to win the Open since 1907.

Compounding bad shots with bad decisions, Van de Velde found the rough, sand, water and even the grandstands en route to a triple-bogey seven.

Who will ever forget the moment he tried to hack the ball out of the rough and into Barry Burn before creating that infamous image that summed up his meltdown? Shoes and socks off to some of the biggest roars of the day, Van de Velde stood in the H20 with hands on hips, posing for the paparazzi.

His final-hole collapse was made even worse when losing a three-man playoff to Paul Lawrie, who had started the day ten shots behind.

Click here to relive footage of that magic moment. Or not, if you backed Jean at 300/1 at the start of the week.

What is the worst golf meltdown you have ever seen? Have you ever had a golf meltdown on the course? Share your thoughts in the forum below, on Twitter or on our Facebook page