Choking is one of those loaded words when it comes to sports, but we use it because it is fitting … even if it is offensive. And, yes, we are all living in the age of the easily offended becoming easily offended. Somebody should set an over/under on when Archie Bunker and “All in the Family” reruns are banned from American television and excised from broadcasting museums. And don’t get us stared on “The Little Rascals” or “Heckle and Jeckle” or even “Friends,” which some find offensive for its lack of a diverse and inclusive cast.

So, it is somewhat ironic that the U.S. Open is being played this year in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood, where they make comedy movies that have offensive language and offensive subject matter as their themes because people will pay good money to be entertained, even if they have to squirm a little in their cinema seats.

Sometime in the future we will all realize how crazy many of us became in 2020, 2021 and 2023, and the over/under on that date is Jan. 21, 2028 when we elect a pragmatist as U.S. president. Until then, watch your words, y’all. And use the word “choke” carefully. You might just offend someone with a leaf blower or a lawnmower who must wiggle the choke just to get that thing to start.

But on to golf…

Who was the golfer that choked at the U.S. Open Tournament?

That honor belongs to Phil Mickelson. At the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., Mickelson didn’t need a driver off the tee, so he … took a driver off the tee. That tee shot went way left by a hospitality tent. He went for the green, but Mickelson hit a tree, and the ball only went 25 yards. His third shot went in a bunker, his fourth went to the other side of the green, and he would putt out for double bogey. A par would have won the title, and a bogey would have gotten him into a playoff. Instead, Geoff Ogilvy won with a +5 score. Mickelson’s “I’m such an idiot” quote was fitting.

Ranking the 10 Biggest Chokes in U.S. Open Golf history

  1. Sam Snead, 1939 U.S. Open, Philadelphia Country Club

Sam Snead required only a par to claim the championship. However, believing he needed a birdie to win, Snead played the hole aggressively, found two bunkers on the way to the green, and carded a triple-bogey eight. He finished two strokes out of a three-way playoff that was won by Byron Nelson.

  1. Dustin Johnson, 2010 U.S. Open, Pebble Beach, Calif.

Dustin Johnson shot a 66 in the third round to take a three-stroke lead over Graeme McDowell entering the final round. Unfortunately, he had a triple bogey on the second hole, a double bogey on the third, and shot a final-round 82 to tie for eighth place. A 5-over 76 would have been enough to win.

  1. Arnold Palmer, 1966 U.S. Open, Olympic Club, San Francisco.

Nobody would have thought so on Saturday, but this was the tournament where Arnold Palmer started to lose his dominance, and he never won another major. The front nine went great for Palmer, who was up by seven strokes over Billy Casper at the turn. However, bogeys at 10, 13 and 15 cut the deficit to three shots, and then Palmer bogeyed the next two holes. A difficult up-and-down for par was necessary just for Palmer to get into a playoff with Casper. In the 18-hole playoff the next day, Casper finished -1 to +3 for Palmer.

  1. Sam Snead, 1947 U.S. Open, St. Louis Country Club

Sam Snead and Lew Worsham both launched solid drives off the tee on the 419-yard, par-4 18th hole, but Snead had the advantage when his approach shot landed 15 feet from the hole, while Worsham's stopped on the fringe. Worsham's third shot went in and out of the hole, stopping less than three feet from the pin. Snead left his birdie putt short. Worsham called an official for a measurement to see who was further from the hole. Worsham was 29 inches from the cup, while Snead was 30.5 inches away. Snead’s putt then hit the side of the hole and stopped an inch away. Worsham holed his par putt for the championship.

  1. T.C. Chen, 1985, U.S. Open, Oakland Hills CC, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

T.C. Chen set a course record with a 65, carded the first double eagle in Open history, and set 36- and 54-hole scoring records. He led by four when he stepped to the fifth tee. His second shot on the par-4 landed in the greenside rough. He double-hit the ball when he chipped out, requiring a one-stroke penalty. He then three-putted for a quadruple-bogey eight, and ended up losing to Andy North by one stroke.

  1. Retief Goosen, 2005 U.S. Open, Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, N.C.

Retief Goosen led by three strokes entering the final round but gave away six on Sunday’s front nine. He still was in the mix, but five bogeys on the back took him out of contention. After shooting 68, 70, 69 over the first three rounds, Goosen shot an 11-over-par 81 and finished tied for 11th.

  1. Colin Montgomerie, 2006 U.S. Open, Winged Foot CC, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Colin Montgomerie hit a 75-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole and had a share of the lead at the par-4 18th. A par would win it, while a bogey would be good enough to get into an 18-hole playoff, but Montgomerie’s approach shot went right -- down a greenside slope. He got on the green, some 40 feet from the hole, but a par putt went 10 feet past the hole, and he missed the bogey putt coming back. The double bogey dropped him a shot behind eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy. 

  1. Dustin Johnson, 2015 U.S. Open, Chambers Bay, University Place, Wash.

On the par-5 finishing hole, Dustin Johnson made it onto the green in two strokes and had a 12-foot eagle putt for the win. He missed it by four feet, then missed the 4-footer that would have forced a tie and a playoff with Jordan Spieth. His tap-in for par was small consolation, although Johnson gained redemption the following year at Oakmont.

  1. Tom Kite, 1989 U.S. Open, Oak Hills CC, Rochester, N.Y.

After three holes on Sunday, Tom Kite had a three-stroke lead. However, he needed an 18-inch putt for a double bogey on No. 5 and missed it. He then carded a double bogey when he missed a 3-footer on the 13th en route to a 78 that gave the title to Curtis Strange. “My play stunk,” Kite said afterward.

  1. Phil Mickelson, 2006 U.S. Open, Winged Foot G.C., Mamaroneck, N.Y.

This is the one we alluded to in at the outset of this piece and also in Colin Montgomerie’s entry. People who visit this exclusive club just off the Hutchinson River Parkway still ask caddies to show them the spot on No. 18 where Phil Mickelson’s wayward drive into the hospitality area landed. Geoff Ogilvy, who had putted out at the 18th minutes earlier thinking he had finished second, was suddenly celebrating his first major victory in the clubhouse. Mickelson knew he had made a mistake virtually as soon as he stepped off the course, famously saying “I’m such an idiot.” It was one of five U.S. Open runner-up finishes for “Lefty.”

Parameters of Rankings

What we went here for here was the unlikely combined with the dramatic combined with the meltdown. The common thread is that incredible things have happened on the final day of the U.S. Open, so remember that when you are gambling this one and possibly adjusting your wagers along the way.

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