Golf’s Horror Stories

1 of 13 via YouTube
Journeyman Joe (“I’m not John”) Daley hoped to survive the grueling six-round Q-School and advance to play the PGA Tour in 2001. He missed by one stroke, thanks to a four-foot putt on the 18th hole of Round 4 that hit the back of the cup -- but not the bottom. Due to a cup liner that had dislodged, the ball hit the top edge of the liner and bounced straight back to him. He never did qualify for the Tour after that.
2 of 13 via YouTube
Rory McIlroy didn’t do much wrong in 2014, but one errant shot at the WGC-Accenture Match Play did wreak havoc. After yanking a drive into the desert at Dove Mountain’s 15th hole in Marana, Ariz., during his first-round match against Boo Weekley, Rory tried to escape. His shot was so bad that he flinched. It also caused a spectator to recoil -- right into a cholla cactus.
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Always an emotional player, Mark Calcavecchia was smack in the middle of one of history’s most tension-packed Ryder Cups, 1991’s “War by the Shore,” at Kiawah Island Resort’s Ocean course near Charleston, S.C. Four up with four holes to play in his Sunday singles match against Colin Montgomerie, Calc lost all four holes to halve his match, suffering a near-shank, and missed 2-foot putt, at the par-3 17th. He retreated to the nearby beach in tears.
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The colorful Doug Sanders was best known for his sartorial splendor, yet he won 20 PGA Tour events. One that got away was the British Open at St. Andrews. Two-putting from 30 feet at the 18th would win. He left his first putt three feet from the cup. Distracted by a piece of brown grass, he re-addressed the ball without backing away. His subsequent putt slid to the right, as his hand came off the club. He would lose to Jack Nicklaus in a playoff.
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With one hole to play and a one-stroke lead, 59-year-old, five-time Open champion Tom Watson was about to make history in the 2009 British Open. He would win a record-tying sixth Open, and also become the oldest man -- by far -- to win a major. Following an ideal drive, he struck a near-perfect 8-iron to the par-4 18th. Whether it hit three feet too far, or simply caught a horrific break, it bounded over the green. Watson bogeyed, and lost a playoff to Stewart Cink.
6 of 13 John Biever/SI
With a six-shot lead heading into the final round of the 1996 Masters, Greg Norman’s coronation walk up the 72nd hole was expected to be a mere formality. It was anything but. When he spun his wedge off the ninth green, his lead shrunk to two over his playing partner Nick Faldo. When he splashed his tee shot at 12, he was now two down. Faldo shot 67, Norman 78 and the walk up 18 resembled a funeral procession.
7 of 13 Neil Leifert/SI
After Roberto DeVicenzo bogeyed the 72nd hole at the 1968 Masters, he assumed he had tied Bob Goalby and the two would play off the next day. Unfortunately, his playing partner, Tommy Aaron, mistakenly marked that DeVicenzo had made a 4 on the 17th, instead of the 3 he actually made. DeVicenzo signed his card without noticing the error. Moments later it was brought to light. The rules of golf stated he had to keep the higher score, once he signed for it. “Such a stupid I am,” said the 45-year-old, who was celebrating his birthday that day.
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Scott Hoch had the 1989 Masters in his grasp, and let it slip away. After Nick Faldo chopped his way to a bogey-5 on the first playoff hole, Augusta National’s par-4 10th, Hoch faced a two-and-a-half-foot (by most estimates) par putt to win. Unsure of whether to hit it firm or play the break, he did both, and his ball scooted four feet by the cup. He converted, but lost to Faldo at the next hole.
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Golf’s defining sweaty-palms hole is the island-green 17th at Sawgrass. It seems so simple, just a short iron, but there’s nowhere to hide. Bob Tway made 12 here in 2005, with four balls in the drink and a three-putt, while its most recent victim was Sergio Garcia in 2013. Tied for the final-round lead with Tiger Woods at 13-under, Garcia rinsed two balls on his way to a 7.
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Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal was in the fifth fairway at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club during the second round of the Mayback Malaysian Open in 2014 when he was swarmed by hornets, and stung more than 20 times. “They were three times the size of bees,” reported Larrazabal, who jumped into a lake . Astonishingly, following some doctor-administered injections, he collected himself and birdied the hole.
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Leading by one, I.K. Kim faced a birdie putt at the 72nd hole, a certain lock to win her first major, the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship. She stroked the putt nicely and ran it 12 to 18 inches past the cup. Whether it was the shadows from the tall palms or the moment itself, Kim shockingly missed the come backer -- then lost in a playoff. One of golf’s ultimate nightmares: A one-foot putt to win your first major -- and missing it.
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During the second round of the 1975 Western Open at Butler National, outside of Chicago, Lee Trevino, Bobby Nichols and Jerry Heard were zapped by lightning. Trevino and Heard sat against their golf bags, near the pond-guarded 13th green, Heard with an umbrella between his legs, when a bolt hit the lake, then continued onto the metal shafts. All three were hospitalized. Heard burned his groin area and was never the same player. Trevino (pictured_ bore exit marks on his left shoulder. The doctors said they usually saw such marks at the morgue.
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Has there ever been a more pathetic looking figure in golf than Van de Velde ankle deep in the Barry Burn at Carnoustie’s 18th hole? Oft-forgotten, sadly, was the sensational golf he had played over “Car-Nasty,” one of the fiercest championship tests ever. Had his 2-iron not hit a gallery railing, he might have been immortalized as an Open Champion. Instead, eternal nightmare.