One-Shot Disasters: A Major Championship Hall of Shame
1 of 7Tony Triolo/SI
One-Shot Major Hall of Shame
Remember the Slovenian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj crashing in the opening scene for ABC's Wide World of Sports, the classic weekly sports show on ABC? Bogataj became a global symbol for the agony of defeat, and it's in memory of Bogataj that we created the One-Shot Major Hall of Shame. The pros on our list were superb players, at least for a while, but they aren't remembered for their feats. Instead, they're best known for a single defeat in a major championship caused by one horrific shot that's seared into our memories.
A six-foot putt to win the Masters every golfer imagines something like that happening to him, but only a chosen few get the opportunity. In 1979, Ed Sneed got the chance twice once at 18 in regulation, and again at 10 on the first playoff hole but he missed both putts. Oh, he'd also lipped out putts at 16 and 17 in regulation, leading to his bogey-bogey-bogey finish and his vanquishing a final-round five-shot lead. If just one putt on any of the last three holes, or the first playoff hole, had dropped, who knows what glory would've been in store for the then 35 year-old Sneed? Instead, Sneed took just one more PGA Tour title.
2 of 7Jacqueline Duvoisin/SI
Perhaps T.C. Chen's parents should have given him a first name starting with the letter O. Then T.C. (Tze-Chung) Chen might've taken just one chip on his fourth shot by the fifth green in the final round of the 1985 U.S. Open and won the tournament. Instead, Chen made a double-hit from the thick rough at five, and after the ensuing penalty stroke, another chip and two putts he walked off the green with a snowman (8) and an infamous nickname: Two-Chip Chen. Amazingly, Chen, then 26, still finished second, one stroke behind Andy North.
3 of 7Ben Curtis/AP Photo
We make an exception to our one-shot rule for Jean Van de Velde, because he threw away the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie with so many mind-bogglingly atrocious shots, and made a similar number of cataclysmically idiotic decisions, that it's impossible to select just one. The situation: In the final round, Van de Velde came to 18 needed a double-bogey six to win. What happened: After a horribly sliced drive, he tried to hit a miracle 185-yard 2-iron to the green instead of laying up for an easy bogey. The ball sailed right, bounced off the bleachers and landed in thick rough in front of a burn. He flubbed his next shot into the burn and hit the ensuing shot (his fifth) into a greenside bunker. After a good sand shot to six feet, he holed the putt for a seven. In the years since, Van de Velde lost his playing privileges on the PGA Tour and the European tours, got divorced and has been forced to not play golf for long stretches because of physical ailments.
4 of 7James Privett/Getty Images
Unforgettable, that face: sullen, limp, lifeless, defeated. This was the visage of Mike Donald on the 18th green at Medinah in the playoff against Hale Irwin at the 1990 U.S. Open. It was the last hole of the playoff, and Donald had barely missed a 15-footer for par that would've clinched the Open. So close, yet so far. After he and Irwin bogied 18, Irwin birdied the first hole of sudden death to win. Donald, 52. never recovered. He was off the Tour a few years later, and to this day he is still trying, without much success, to recapture the golden touch that brought him so close to golfing glory.
5 of 7David Cannon/Getty Images
In 2007, Zach Johnson laid up 16 of 16 times on par 5s during the Masters, won the green jacket and he was universally applauded for his conservative strategy. In the final round at Augusta in 1993, Chip Beck, three shots back at 15, laid up with a five iron when he was on a hanging downhill lie, into the wind and 236 yards from the hole. Beck, who made par and finished four shots behind Bernhard Langer in second place, was universally criticized for allegedly wimping out. "I didn't want to throw the tournament away with one shot," Beck said. "It was marginal." Beck's assessment was probably correct and his decision sound, but that won't change how it was viewed.
6 of 7Andrew Reddington/Getty Images
Ian Baker Finch was already in a freefall toward oblivion. Since winning the 1991 British Open, he'd been winless and in his most recent 27 starts he had missed 23 cuts and withdrawn twice after 80-plus opening rounds. Now it was the 1995 British Open and he stood on the first tee at St. Andrews waiting to start the opening round. While his playing partner, Arnold Palmer, stood watching, Baker Finch snap hooked his driver so badly that the ball crossed the parallel 18th fairway and went out of bounds. It is perhaps the worst shot in golf history, and 18 months later Baker Finch's career was over.
7 of 7Bill Haber/AP Photo
Scott Hoch has been a professional golfer for 30 years. He's won nearly $20 million, 11 PGA Tour events, one Champions tour title, five events in Asia and one in Europe. He's made 30 hole-in-ones. But Hoch's career is summed up in one word that has nothing to do with what he's achieved: choke. That's a reference to something he didn't achieve: a 30-inch putt to win the 1989 Masters on the first hole of a playoff against Nick Faldo. After Hoch missed the tap-in at 10, Faldo won the title at the 11th hole. Like Bill Buckner and the ground ball through his legs, Hoch, who never won a major, has been forever linked with his yip to lose the green jacket and is asked about the putt almost everywhere he goes.
More U.S. Open Content:
• U.S. Open Special Section
• Gallery: More Major Meltdowns
• The Vault: Mickelson Colapses at Winged Foot
• GOLF.com Tiger Tracker
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