Top 10 biggest chokes in Masters history
Yippy-dippy-doo. We rank the 10 greatest golf collapses in Masters history.
Amid all the drama that has been and will be in store at the 2023 Masters, which will be completed today if the weather permits, there can be no denying the fact that a bunch of the members who own those green jackets are making Greg Norman jokes on this particular Sunday.
Not all trolling happens online. Sometimes it happens in the Eisenhower cabin or inside the members’ clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Course, a place with peculiarities that we informed you of yesterday. And the folks they troll are the ones who put together some particularly epic failures on the final day of the Masters.
Norman is among them.
Masters meltdowns, the biggest choke in golf, epic golf collapses, and golf meltdowns are the stuff of legend, and when they happen on the sport’s biggest stage they become legendary. All anybody remembers about Jean van de Velde is watching him roll up his pants legs in the Barry Burn as he played No. 18 at Carnoustie in the 1999 British Open particularly poorly, blowing a three-shot lead on the final hole when he needed a 6 to win and carded a 7. He is among the most famous golf chokers.
It was one of the biggest chokes in golf history, and it happened at a major. Of course, there have been others, whether because of putter yips, club selection gaffes, jittery nerves, or other variations of cranial flatulence.
Will we see the biggest Masters choke ever today? Hey, that is why we watch, correct? So with that in mind, let’s have a look at the biggest Masters chokes and how they contributed to some of the biggest Masters comebacks.
What is the biggest choke in Masters history?
That is a matter of debate, and different generations have seen different things at a tournament that began in 1934 as the Augusta National Invitational. That allows for 89 years of history (86 actually, because no Masters Tournament was played during World War II), and no living human being has witnessed them all. So this list is subjective, and we are not trying to make anyone cringe. Storytelling, however, sometimes involves telling sad stories, and these are among them.
Ranking the Top 10 Biggest Chokes in Masters history
- 1990 Masters Tournament: Raymond Floyd
At 48 and looking to become the oldest Masters champion, Floyd entered the final round with a four-shot lead and had a birdie opportunity on No. 17. He three-putted, then lost to Nick Faldo on the second playoff hole. “The pressure basically got to me,” Floyd said. “Isn’t that choking?”
- 1978 Masters Tournament: Hubert Green
All he need to do on No. 18 was sink a 3-foot birdie putt, and he would be in a playoff with Gary Player, who had shot 64. He stepped up, then backed off, perhaps distracted by a radio announcer nearby. And then, he missed. The only redeeming thing was that it was not a 2-footer. Green’s jacket on the ride to the airport was not a Green Jacket.
- 2003 Masters Tournament: Jeff Maggert
He began the day with a two-shot lead, but on No. 3 his second shot landed in a bunker. His next shot ricocheted back and hit him in the chest, a two-shot penalty. On No. 12, he hit a 7-iron into the back bunker, overshot the green and went into Rae’s Creek. His next shot found water, too, and he carded a “Snowman” -- a quintuple-birdie 8.
- 1946 Masters Tournament: Ben Hogan
Hogan went to the 18th tee tied for the lead with Herman Keiser. He got onto the green in two and had a birdie putt for the win. He missed by 2 feet, and everyone soon learned that a 2-footer is not a tap-in. Hogan missed it, and Keiser won. Among Masters meltdowns, this was not the most epic of golf collapses, but it was Hogan, whose name is not synonymous with golf meltdowns.
- 2016 Masters Tournament: Jordan Spieth
He birdied four straight holes at the end of the front nine for a five-shot lead, then bogeyed No. 10 and No. 11 before putting two shots into Rae’s Creek and another into a bunker en route to a quadruple-bogey that helped make Danny Willett the champion.
- 1979 Masters Tournament: Ed Sneed
Sneed had a three-shot lead with three holes to play. He missed a par putt on No. 16, missed another makeable par putt on No. 17, and did the same thing on No. 18 to fall into a playoff with Fuzzy Zoeller. Bogey-bogey-bogey is no way to finish, and Zoeller won the playoff. Not the biggest Masters choke, but perhaps the steadiest.
- 2009 Masters Tournament: Kenny Perry
After nearly dropping a hole-in-one on No. 16 Sunday, Perry had a two-shot lead on the 17th tee and had carded only four bogeys on the first 70 holes. But he then bogeyed three of the last four, including two playoff holes, and lost to Miguel Angel Cabrera.
- 1989 Masters Tournament: Scott Hoch
Hoch had a one-shot lead going into No. 17 but missed a 4-foot putt to drop into a tie. It went to a playoff, and Hoch had a birdie attempt that he left close as Nick Faldo was making a bogey. Hoch had a par putt from less than 2 feet and spasmed the winning putt 5 feet past the hole, eventually losing on the next playoff hole. Afterward, Hoch said: “I’m glad I don’t carry a gun with me.”
- 2011 Masters Tournament: Rory McIlroy
The 21-year-old held a four-shot lead on Sunday morning, but things went south at No. 10 when his tee shot hit a tree and ended up in a garden. He made a triple-bogey and had a four-putt on No. 12 to end up with an 80, finishing 10 strokes back in 15th place.
- 1996 Masters Tournament: Greg Norman
Norman could write a book on Masters meltdowns and horror shows. He bogeyed No. 18 in 1986 when a par would have put him in a playoff, then lost the next year in a playoff to Larry Mize. In 1996, he began with a six-shot lead and still led by three after eight holes. He then bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 11 and found water on No. 12 for a double-bogey. Another shot into the water on No. 16 contributed to a final-round 78 as Nick Faldo won by five shots.
Parameters of Rankings
Everyone’s top 10 is different, but what we went for here were memorable moments and drama as we did in our Masters predictions column. Hopefully, there will be plenty more today.
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