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.
BASEBALL April 2, 2010 Former MLB pitcher Mike Cuellar dies at the age of 72. A 2x World Series champion and 4x All-Star, Cuellar started off with the Cincinnati Reds in 1959 and played for 5 teams, spending the most years with the Baltimore Orioles. He won the AL Cy Young award in his first season with the dynastic Orioles and was their starting pitcher at the 1969 World Series against the NY Mets. Cuellar closed his career with an ERA of 3.14 and 1,632 strikeouts.
BASKETBALL April 2, 2000 At the 19th Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship, the Connecticut Huskies defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 71-52. Led by their famed coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies claimed their second national title. They would win another 9 championships and become the nation’s most successful women’s basketball program to date. The Connecticut ladies dispatched Penn State at the Semi-finals before taking on Tennessee for the crown.
GOLF April 8, 1990 Nick Faldo wins the 54th annual Masters Tournament held in Augusta, Georgia. Shooting a 278 (-10) and tying Raymond Floyd in the final round after the latter bogeyed on the 16th hole, Faldo emerged victorious in the playoff showdown. It was his second consecutive win at the Masters and third of what would be six career majors. Born in Herdforshire, England, Faldo turned pro in 1976 and has won more majors than any other modern European golfer.
OLYMPICS April 12, 1980 The U.S. Olympic committee announces their boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. A total of 66 countries chose not to attend the games due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, 80 other nations did agree to send their athletes to the first Olympics that were held in a communist country. Four years later, the Russians and their East European allies would follow-up with a boycott of the Los Angeles games.