We all have struggles, sometimes those struggles can come at the worst possible time, and that is no different in golf. It can be heartbreaking to have a lead with the finish line in sight, only to have it slip away at the last moment. What makes a good golfer though is the ability to learn from those losses and shake it off the next time out.
In honor of National Get Over It Day, here are 10 golfers who had to get over losing when they were so close to winning.
Jordan Spieth – 2016 Masters
Defending a championship in any sport is a tough task, but going back to back at the Masters is nearly impossible. Jordan Spieth tried to do just that in 2016, coming off his impressive win in 2015 and looked poised to do it again. Spieth held the lead after every round in 2015 and continued his momentum at Augusta by leading after every round in 2016 going into Sunday. He made the turn in that final round up 5 strokes, but everything soon fell apart when after bogeys on 10 and 11 and a quadruple bogey on 12. Speith finished in 2nd, 3 shots off the lead, and has yet to shake off this loss to win another Masters.
Arnold Palmer – 1966 U.S. Open
We have all heard the saying what goes around comes around, and Arnold Palmer experienced a bit of this in 1966. Just six years earlier Palmer overcame a 7 shot deficit after 3 rounds to win the U.S. Open, and after 9 holes on Sunday he had that same 7 stroke lead.
The key, it would seem, to keep your final round lead is to not bogey 10 because your whole approach can change. After the final hole, Palmer had lost his lead and instead needed a playoff round on Monday to decide a winner. Palmer again was in the lead after 9, but would again post a terrible back 9 score to ultimately lose the Open.
Adam Scott – 2012 Open Championship
When your lead on the final day of any tournament is the same as the number of holes you have remaining, you have to feel pretty good about your chances. Adam Scott was in this position in 2012 as he had a 4 stroke lead walking onto 15, but as we know shooting par over any stretch can be difficult, especially when a Major is on the line. Scott would go on to lose his 4 shot lead, and The Open, but he would get over this loss shortly after by winning the 2013 Masters.
Mark Calcavecchia – 1991 Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup is a different sort of tournament for many reasons, but what remains the same is that you can have a clear path to victory and still give it up in the clutch. Calcavecchia was in the enviable position of securing the Ryder Cup for the U.S. as he needed to just halve any of his final four holes to bring the cup back to his home country. Instead, he lost all four holes, finished his round and believed he had cost his team the win, only to then see Bernhard Langer miss a short putt, giving the U.S. team the win.
Rory McIlroy – 2011 Masters
While Rory’s lead heading into Sunday was not as big as some others on this list, having a 4 stroke advantage at the Masters is a good thing, especially on the final day. Starting that day with bogey however, is not. Rory would go on to bogey 5, 11, and 15, but the triple bogey to start the back 9 was a real dagger. Rory rebounded just fine though, winning the U.S. Open a few months later, and two other majors since then.
Greg Norman – 1996 Masters
Like many on this list, Greg Norman entered the final round of the ’96 Masters with the lead after every previous round. Poised to win his first Green Jacket, Norman started Sunday up 6, but it was mostly downhill from there. Norman would start with a bogey and shoot bogey or worse on 7 of his final 18 holes, allowing Nick Faldo to win for the 3rd time at Augusta National.
Phil Mickelson – 2006 U.S. Open
The one thing missing from a Hall of Fame career for Phil Mickelson is still a U.S. Open victory, and 2006 was one of his best shots to rectify that omission on his resume. While most of these collapses were terrible final rounds and big leads blown, Mickelson was locked in a dead heat after entering the final round tied for the lead.
The collapse came as he stepped to 18 needing only par to win or a bogey to force a playoff. Mickelson proceeded to have one of his worst holes, missing everything but the hospitality tent on the drive, hitting a tree on his second, landed in bunker on his third, chipped out of the sand and over the green for what would have been a winning shot, and his bogey attempt missed the hole by 6 feet and cost him the win in the process.
Dustin Johnson – 2015 U.S. Open
Another final-hole collapse happened at the U.S Open, this time in 2015. As Dustin Johnson came to 18, he was only one stroke behind the lead, and after his second shot landed on the green, he was in prime position to eagle the hole and steal the win from Jordan Spieth. His first putt went wide, but he was still in great position to birdie and force a playoff. The collapse was completed as he missed the 3-footer, and settled into second place with a double bogey.
Retief Goosen & Jason Gore – 2005 U.S. Open
Collapses don’t have to be by just one golfer in a given tournament, and in 2005 two front-runners heading into Sunday ended the day nowhere near the top. Goosen was the leader to start the day, and the only golfer under par, while Gore was even for the tournament. Both posted final round scores that would no doubt give them pause, as Goosen shot +11 while Gore shot a wopping +14, with 6 bogeys, 3 doubles, and one triple.