Painful Moments in Sports
JR Hildebrand was one turn away from winning the Indianapolis 500 and within sight of the checkered flag when the 23-year-old rookie made the ultimate mistake. On the 800th and final turn of the race, Hildebrand crashed into the wall, allowing Dan Wheldon to cruise to the finish line for his second career victory at Indy and leaving Hildebrand in a gut-wrenching second place.
The 21-year-old from Northern Ireland entered the final round of the Masters with a four-stroke lead, but finished 10 strokes back of champion Charl Schwartzel after shooting a final-round score of 80. The trouble started for McIlroy on the 10th hole, where he hit his drive left, got back onto the fairway, only to later hit a tree on his pitch shot as he scored a triple bogey. He then three-putted the 11th and four-putted the 12th before hitting his tee shot into a creek on the 13th. McIlroy's final round score was the worst by a third-round leader since Ken Venturi in 1956.
New York Giants
The Giants led the Dec. 19 regular-season game 24-3 at the half and 31-10 after a field goal with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. From there, Philadelphia scored 28 consecutive points, in this order: Michael Vick threw a 65-yard TD pass to Brent Celek with 7:43 to go; Vick, after a successful onside kick, scored on a 4-yard run at the 5:32 mark; Vick hit Jeremy Maclin for a 13-yarder to tie it with 1:24 to play; and, on the last play from scrimmage, DeSean Jackson first fumbled a Matt Dodge punt and then returned it 65 yards for the game-winner. "I've never been around anything like this in my life," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said afterward. "It's about as empty as you can feel in this business."
Down 3-0 in games, Philadelphia rallied. Down 3-0 in Game 7, Philadelphia rallied again. Simon Gagne's power-play goal in the third lifted the Flyers to an improbable 4-3 win over the Bruins. It was humiliating for the Bruins, who became the third team in NHL history to lose a series after winning the first three games. The only other teams to win a series after trailing 3-0 were the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat Detroit, and the 1975 New York Islanders, who eliminated Pittsburgh. The other 159 teams that won the first three games in a series all won them.
Trying to win their first division title since 1987, the Tigers owned a seven-game division lead over Minnesota on Sept. 6. But the pennant eluded Detroit, thanks to an 11-16 finish to the season, culminating in a heartbreaking, 12-inning loss to Minnesota in a one-game tiebreaker. The Tigers became the first team since 1901 to miss the playoffs after holding a three-game lead with just four to play. The Twins went 17-4 down the stretch to claim the division title and an ALDS date with the Yankees.
Leading 60-51 lead with 2:12 remaining, Memphis missed crucial free throws and watched Kansas hit a pair of three-pointers, including a game-tying dagger by Mario Chalmers with 2.1 seconds left. The Tigers eventually lost 75-68 in overtime.
New York Mets
Having staked a seven-game lead over the Phillies with 17 games remaining, New York seemed like a lock for a second straight division title. But Philadelphia's mid-September sweep at Shea Stadium would catalyze one of the most monumental September meltdowns in major league history. The Mets dropped six of seven results in a final home stand against teams with losing records to miss the playoffs completely.
Phil Mickelson's double bogey at Winged Foot that cost him the U.S. Open will go down as one of golf's biggest meltdowns, as Lefty frittered away a chance to win his third consecutive major.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks won the first two games of the 2006 NBA Finals and were ahead 89-76 in Game 3. They ended up losing 98-96 and dropped the next three games too, becoming the 10th NBA team to squander a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.
And you thought the U.S. soccer team losing to Ghana was tough. In the 2005 UEFA Champions League final, heavily favored AC Milan led Liverpool F.C. 3-0 at halftime thanks to Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo. But Liverpool engineered what some call the greatest comeback in soccer history, returning the favor and then winning on penalty shots, 3-2.
New York Yankees
Three outs away from sweeping the Boston Red Sox and advancing to the World Series, the Yankees lost 6-4 in 12 innings and proceeded to become the first team in baseball history to blow a best-of-seven series after leading 3-0.
Leading 3-0 and just five outs away from going to their first World Series in 58 years, the Cubs suffered a stroke of bad luck when Steve Bartman grabbed a foul ball off the bat of Luis Castillo before Moises Alou could catch it. Castillo drew a walk, and the Florida Marlins scored eight runs in the inning and went on to win Game 6 and later the series.
Steve Christie hit a 51-yard field goal to give Buffalo a 16-15 lead with 16 seconds remaining in an January 2000 AFC wild-card game. The Bills squibbed the ensuing kickoff and Tennessee's Lorenzo Neal picked it up and handed it to Frank Wycheck. The Tennessee tight end then lateraled the ball to Kevin Dyson on the other side of the field. Dyson dashed down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown.
Jean Van de Velde
He stood on the 18th tee Sunday at Carnoustie with a three-shot lead, hoping -- expecting -- to become the first Frenchman since 1907 to win the Open. But Van de Velde decided not to make the safe play with his approach shot. Instead, in one of the biggest decision-making gaffes in golf history, Van de Velde attacked the green ... and found trouble. He had to make a six-foot putt for triple bogey just to get into a three-man playoff, but there was no redemption, as Paul Lawrie emerged as the winner.
The world's top-ranked golfer owned a six-shot lead going into the final day at Augusta. But in a round that would unfortunately define his career, the Shark carded five bogeys and two double bogeys for a six-over 78, with Nick Faldo shooting 67 to win by five shots. "I made a lot of mistakes today," Norman said in his mea culpa afterward. "I put all the blame on myself. You pay the price. That's all there is to it."
In the 1993 Wimbledon women's singles final, Jana Novotna dropped a tight first set against Steffi Graf, but charged back for a 6--7, 6--1, 4--1, 40-15 lead in the deciding set. As victory neared, she became unnerved and missed easy shots, which included hitting the ball out by wide margins. Graf took the next five games and the title.
On Jan. 3, in an AFC wild-card playoff, the Houston Oilers blew a 35-3 third-quarter lead to the Buffalo Bills and lost 41-38 on Steve Christie's 32-yard field goal in overtime. The greatest comeback in NFL history helped propel the Bills to their third straight Super Bowl.
The first of four consecutive Super Bowl losses for the Bills came on an errant field goal attempt by kicker Scott Norwood. Trailing the New York Giants by a single point in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXV, the Bills turned to Norwood to win the game. It had the distance, but Norwood had unfortunately hooked it wide right.
Earnest Byner's fumble at the two with 1:12 remaining prevented Cleveland from scoring the tying touchdown against Denver in the AFC Championship game. The Broncos took an intentional safety and won 38-31.
Boston Red Sox
If the Red Sox had won Game 7 against the New York Mets, no one would have recalled Bill Buckner's gaffe in Game 6. But they didn't, so the image of the first baseman allowing Mookie Wilson's squibber to dribble through his legs as Ray Knight ran home with the winning run will forever be remembered. Boston had been up a pair of runs and were a strike away from winning the World Series before the collapse.
John McEnroe was in his prime in 1984 (he would go 82-3), but even he couldn't prevent a momentous collapse against Ivan Lendl in the French Open. After jumping out to a swift lead, two sets to none, McEnroe's temper took over as the Czech star dramatically fought back to win in five sets. Ultimately, McEnroe's 39-match winning streak was snapped, and a French Open victory would never be so close.
The ''Phold'' of '64 still has Philadelphia waking up in a cold sweat. Up 6 1/2 games in the standings with 12 to go, the Phillies then proceeded to lose 10 straight to relinquish a seemingly insurmountable lead in the National League. If the Cardinals lost on the final day of the season, an unprecedented three-team playoff between St. Louis, the Reds, and the Phillies would have resulted. Of course, the Cards won, and Phillies fans received nightmares as their parting gift.