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The Open's greatest implosions

Published 1416 GMT (2216 HKT) July 14, 2022
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Jean van de Velde blow the 1999 British OpenJean van de Velde blow the 1999 British Open
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Jean van de Velde finds himself up a creek without a paddle, 1999 -- The mother of all golfing implosions, Frenchman Jean van de Velde led by three shots on the final tee of the 1999 Open at Carnoustie. But after an errant tee shot, an overhit iron and a hack out of long grass, his ball had found the Barry Burn stream. Van de Velde waded into the Burn, trousers rolled up, contemplating playing his shot out of the water rather than take the penalty drop. He retrieved his ball in the end and took the penalty, only to chip into a bunker. His putt could only force a three-way playoff, which the Frenchman subsequently lost. The image of van de Velde's mirthless smile in the stream is so iconic, it's easy to forget the Frenchman never actually played the shot. David Cannon/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Greg "The Shark" Norman flounders in the beach, 1989 -- The Aussie known as "The Shark" was on blistering form on the final day at Royal Troon in 1989. Starting Sunday seven shots behind American Mark Calcavecchia, Norman stormed to parity with a course-record score of 64 to force a three-way, four-hole playoff. Two birdies and a bogey in the first three holes put Norman in contention. Then everything unraveled: the Australian found a bunker off the tee, then another bunker with his second shot. His ball went out of bounds with his third and that was that. Simon Bruty/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Tom Watson learns "perfect" isn't always good enough, 2009 -- To this day, the American thinks he hit the "perfect" approach shot on the 18th at Turnberry in 2009. Watson needed par to win the Open and would have become the oldest golfer to do so. But the American caught a flier out of a tailwind and the ball raced through the green and into the long grass. A bogey meant Watson was suddenly in a four-hole playoff with compatriot Stewart Cink, where the older player ran out of steam. The incident is one of golf's great "what might have beens." Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Thomas Bjorn digs his way out of a hole, 2003 -- Leading by two strokes with three holes to play at Royal St George's in 2003, Thomas Bjorn had one hand on the Claret Jug. Then he took a trip to the beach -- more specifically, a bunker on the par-three 16th. It took the Dane three shots to escape the sand trap and he carded a double bogey. Another dropped shot on the 17th and the dream was over.
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Adam Scott fluffs a four-shot lead, 2012 -- Australian Adam Scott was in cruise control with a four-shot lead at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012. But the course well and truly ground the then 32-year-old down. Bogeys at the 15th, 16th, 17th and Scott was suddenly tied with South African Ernie Els for the lead. But a missed seven-foot putt and yet another bogey led the Australian to watch on as Els lifted the Claret Jug -- Scott made slight amends by winning The Masters the following year. Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Doug Sanders misses a three-footer, 1970 -- On the 18th green at St Andrews, Doug Sanders had two putts to win The Open. His first put him within three feet -- the kind of putt Sanders would sink blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back any other day. But the American cut short his pre-shot routine and missed not just by a little, but by a lot, the ball veering right of the hole. The error resulted in an 18-hole playoff the next day with Jack Nicklaus, who won by a single shot. A. Jones/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Tiger Woods swinging (and swinging and swinging) in the rain, 2002 -- On a fair day at the Open, life is good. But when it gets wet and wild, the major is a different beast. Woods, who at the time was the reigning Masters and US Open winner, was aiming for a Grand Slam when he arrived at Muirfield in 2002. Then came the rain. In the third round, the world's greatest golfer endured one of the most torrid days of his career, carding an 81 to leave him six over par for the tournament. It was the worst score of his professional career, but he was still able to find the funny side of a bad day, holing his first birdie of the round on the 17th and bowing to the crowd. Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
John Cook gets pipped at the post, 1992 -- What happen at Muirfield in 1992 is proof that an Open can pivot on the smallest of moments. The American had a two-shot lead with two holes to play, but after missing an eagle chance -- then missing a two-foot putt for birdie on the 17th -- he carded a bogey on the 18th. Nick Faldo, playing in the last pair of the day, was resurgent, capitalizing on Cook's miss and romping home to a one-shot victory. David Cannon/David Cannon Collection/Getty Images
Hale Irwin's swing and a miss, 1983 -- Hale Irwin and Tom Watson were going toe-to-toe in the final round at Royal Birkdale in 1983, and Irwin needed a par on the 14th hole to keep up with the pace. He'd nearly holed out from 20 feet for a birdie and was inches away. Then, in a moment of casual carelessness, he went to tap in his next putt and ... missed. His putter hit the ground and bounced over the ball, costing him a stroke. The worst part? Irwin finished just one shot behind Watson. (Pictured: Irwin not making the same mistake at the Ryder Cup in 1981.) Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Ian Woosnam's double trouble, 2001 -- Tied for the lead going into the final round, Welshman Woosnam was chasing a late career major at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2001. He got off to a flier, nearly scoring a hole-in-one on the first hole. What would've become a birdie turned into a bogey, however, when it was discovered that he had 15 clubs in his bag -- one more than the legal limit. A two-stroke penalty was the result, and the offending wood was promptly hurled out of the bag by Woosnam. He never recovered his momentum and finished tied third. Andrew Redington/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images