Phil Mickelson's collapse at Winged Foot is merely the latest in a litany of famous golf meltdowns in majors. Consider the 1939 U.S. Open. Snead needed to par the final hole at the Philadelphia Country Club but, before the days of leader boards and pairing the final-round leaders, he didn't know that. He thought he needed birdie. So after driving into a bad lie in the rough, he pulled out a four-wood, and that shot found the bunker. He left one shot in it, then flied the next one over the green. When he finally got on the green, he three-putted for an infamous 8, missing a playoff by two shots. Footnote: Snead never won an Open.
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Venturi was a classy amateur player who seemed destined to wear a green jacket. Playing some of his finest golf, Venturi took a four-shot lead over Cary Middlecoff into the final round. Venturi blew up to an 80 on Sunday, allowing Jack Burke Jr. to win. Venturi worked the Masters for years as a CBS broadcaster, but he never won his Masters.
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Palmer had a seven-shot lead going to the back nine at Olympic Club. But in his chase of the Open scoring record he started snap-hooking tee shots. Unbelievably, the King of Golf wound up losing the Open to Billy Casper. Arnie never won another major.
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Barber held a three-shot lead after three rounds at Champions Golf Club in Houston and boasted, "They have to catch me, I don't have to catch them." Sunday, Barber bogeyed five of the first eight holes, allowing Orville Moody to take the lead en route to his win. Barber slid into the quicksand with a double bogey at the 12th hole and another bogey at the 13th. He finished sixth, thanks to his closing 78.
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All Sanders needed to do was make a 30-inch putt and the Claret Jug was his. Instead, he missed it, resulting in a playoff with Jack Nicklaus. When Nicklaus sealed the victory, he tossed his putter in the air, nearly spearing Sanders (see photo). About the missed putt and the stain on his career, Sanders lamented to Golf Digest magazine, "It's all anybody wants to talk about."
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Littler owned a five-shot lead at the turn on Sunday at Pebble Beach. The man known as Gene the Machine for his sweet, repeating swing and consistent ballstriking then bogeyed five of the next six holes. Jack Nicklaus tied Littler before making a bogey at the 17th, then Lanny Wadkins birdied the 18th hole to tie Littler and go on to win in a playoff.
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Three-shot lead. Three holes to play. All Sneed had to do was hang on. Instead he finished bogey-bogey-bogey, forcing a playoff with Tom Watson and Fuzzy Zoeller (with Fuzzy winning). Said Sneed about blowing the big lead: "I don't feel like I ever lost my composure." Maybe not, but he did lose the tournament.
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Hoch all but had the Masters won on the first playoff hole after Nick Faldo botched it. A two-and-a-half footer for par would give Hoch the green jacket. But as he addressed his putt, he stepped away ... to the groans of a world. Later he said he was so excited in the moment that as he was over the putt, he forgot to read it. So stepping away was the right thing to do. But then he missed it -- and it's his misfortune to have a last name that rhymes with "choke."
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Norman had a six-shot lead going into the final round during a week in which he fired a record-tying 63 at Augusta National and looked invincible for three days. But he melted down on Sunday with an ugly 78, with Nick Faldo winning by five. Even the notoriously cold-hearted Faldo couldn't help but give the Shark a hug on the final green.
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Jean Van de Velde
Van de Velde needed only a double bogey on Carnoustie's finishing hole to win the Open and become a French national hero. Instead he made a scrambling 7 to get into a playoff, which he lost, and became an international icon ... for messing up.
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Call this one a tie between Jason Gore, the heavyweight version of Cinderella, and Goosen, who has already won two Opens and built a reputation as a focused (read: dull) golfer who is unflappable. Goosen and Gore made Sunday's final pairing at Pinehurst, and it went very bad very early. Goosen slipped to an 81 and Gore ballooned to 84. Michael Campbell came out of nowhere to scoop up the Open.
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Just when we thought Lefty had curbed his enthusiasm for gambling, his risky nature reared its ugly head late on Sunday at Winged Foot. A double bogey on the 72nd hole sealed his fate, preventing him from winning his third consecutive major -- and a chance at the Mickel-slam in next month's British Open.
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