Unlucky 7: The biggest chokes in major championship history

Adam Scott led the 2012 British Open by four shots with four holes remaining.
Robert Beck / SI

LYTHAM ST ANNES, England — It's not what he had in mind, but on Sunday at the Open Championship, Adam Scott earned his place in golf history.

No doubt Scott is gutted, but he should know that there is a long, distinguished history of great players throwing up on themselves at major championships. Herewith is our graveyard of dreams. Note that this list is totally subjective, and among the factors weighed were the pedigrees of the players in question, the venue, the larger historical meaning of the blown opportunity and the sheer awfulness of the humiliation.

Example: Jason Dufner blew a five-stroke lead with four holes to play at last year's PGA Championship, but at the time he was a winless journeyman on a mediocre golf course playing against a guy only die-hard dimpleheads had ever heard of. Ergo, it doesn't rate a place on this list of the most unlucky seven.

7. Rory McIlroy, 2011 Masters. In a hole and a half, the boy king's four-stroke lead was gone, and after three-putting the 11th hole and four-jacking the 12th, he was a dead man walking. The lingering scar tissue was evident in his third round meltdown this year at Augusta.

6. Adam Scott, 2012 British Open. Existential question: would you rather die quickly in a fiery explosion or slowly, agonizingly bleed to death? Scott's slow motion crack-up lacks a signature dunce move. Instead, it was just a bunch of sloppy little mistakes and a monumental mental error on the 18th tee.

5. Jean van de Velde. For sheer zaniness and a series of unforgettable images, Van de Velde's 72nd hole Inspector Clouseau act is tough to beat.

4. Phil Mickelson, 2006 U.S. Open. What an idiot he was.

3. Sam Snead, 1939 U.S. Open. Needing only a par on a waterless closing three-shotter at Philadelphia Country Club, Snead took a triple bogey, the first in a string of blowups at a tournament he would never win. (Are you paying attention, Phil?!)

2. Greg Norman, 1996 Masters. The Masters was the tournament that mattered most to the dominant golfer of the post-Watson, pre-Tiger generation. Norman had a few near-misses, but blowing a six-stroke lead on Sunday was a brutal denouement. I still remember the sickening feeling in the dogwoods on the back nine.

1. Arnold Palmer, 1966 U.S. Open. Seeking a career-capping victory, the King not only blew a seven-stroke lead on the final nine but also coughed up a two-stroke advantage on the back nine of the ensuing 18-hole playoff. Palmer was never again the same player.