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Worst Decisions in Golf's Majors of all Time

Updated on July 22, 2014

Bad Decision

Jean Van De Velde of France came to the 18th tee at the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, Scotland with a three shot lead. He could shoot a double-bogey and still win. The Claret Jug already had his name engraved.

Leave the driver in the bag and lay up in the middle of the fairway. Hit a second iron lay-up to the burn in front of the green. Hit a wedge to the fat of the green and three-putt for the win. Sounds ugly, but a win is a win and for the Frenchman this would be his first major title and France's first Open in ninety-two years.

So, Jean hits driver into the ruff. That is okay. Just lay out into the fairway and play for the possible par, or bogey. Not Jean. He tries to go for the green and hits the grandstand and the ball bounces backwards across the burn into heavy rough. Okay, lay out into the fairway and hit your fourth shot onto the green and two putt for the win. Not Jean. He goes for the green and the ball dives into the burn.

Sadly, he at first decides to go into the burn with intentions of playing the ball from the water. The television analysts are going wild as he takes off his shoes and socks. Fortunately, Jean had second thoughts and took a drop for a one-stroke penalty. He now laid four and could still hit a wedge to the green, one-putt and win the trophy.

Jean hit the ball into the green-side bunker. Are you kidding me? He hits the ball out of the sand to eight feet past the hole. Amazingly, he makes the putt to go into a three-way tie, but loses in a playoff to Paul Lawrie.


Doug Sanders came to the 18th green at The Old Course at St. Andrews in 1970 needing only a par to beat Jack Nicklaus for the British Open Championship. He was on the green in regulation and putted to within 2 1/2 feet from the cup. The Claret Jug was ready to be engraved.

Sanders nervously stood over the ball for some time contemplating the slight break. Then, he noticed something on the green in front of him and without leaving his position reached down to brush it away, then stood back up and almost immediately putted the ball without regrouping and resetting his feet. He then stepped forward as if to try and stop the ball. It was a very obvious nervous reaction.

The missed putt forced a playoff on Monday in which he lost to Jack Nicklaus. This was his fourth second place finish in a major championship including another at the British Open four years earlier.

Bad Decision

Phil Mickelson always had a flair for the dramatics. His driver could sometimes be his worst enemy while at other times produced a thing of beauty long and in the middle of the fairway.

In 2006 at the U.S. Open on the Winged Foot Golf Club West Course, Phil stepped up to the 18th tee with a one shot lead over Geoff Ogilvy. Phil's driver had been erratic all day to say the least and the obvious decision was to leave the driver in the bag and play it safe for a par, or a possible birdie.

Instead, he hit a wild driver into the woods, then tried to hit through the trees with his second shot instead of laying out into the fairway and hit the trees, followed with a hit into the greenside bunker, hit out of the bunker and rolled off the green and paid the price....a double bogey and a loss.


To me, Scott Hoch was the finest iron player in the game during his prime. At the 1989 Masters, Scott missed a birdie putt on 18 to force a sudden death playoff with Nick Faldo. When they came to the 10th, Nick's approach shot landed in a bunker and he wound up making bogey.

Scott had a birdie put for the win which went two feet past the hole. Now, all he had to do was sink a two foot putt for his first major championship and a green jacket. He missed. He soon became the brunt of jokes about choking and was remembered for that putt for many years to come. He would never win a major.

Bad Decision

This would have been the greatest sports story since Secretariat's win at the Preakness Stakes by 31 lengths. Fifty-nine year old Tom Watson needed only a par at the 18th at Turnberry for another British Open championship, his seventh and would make him the oldest major champion ever.

His adrenalin was pumping when he held the 8 iron in his hands for his approach shot to the green. He had done this so often and so well for almost forty years. His ball went clear to the back of the green and settled against the fringe. Chip the ball close and tap in for a win.

It did not happen. He chose to putt and the ball rolled eight feet past the cup. Watson missed the putt and was forced into a playoff which he lost to Stewart Cink.


Sam Sneed would become the winningest PGA player of all-time with 82 wins. He won seven majors, but had never won a U.S. Open. Here was his chance. This was the 1947 Championship at the St. Louis Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sam and Lew Worsham tied in regulation and they met in an 18-hole playoff. They were tied coming to the final hole and both missed their birdie putts. Sam's putt was less than two feet and he walked over to tap it in. Lew stopped him and asked for a measurement. The tape showed Sam to be one inch further from the hole and the annoyed Sneed stepped up and missed the putt. Worsham tapped his in for the win. Gamesmanship? Only Worsham knows.


At the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship, one of four majors on the LPGA, South Korea's I. K. Kim needed to sink a one-foot putt for the win. That is 12 inches. She would miss what would be the shortest putt missed for a championship win in major championship history.

Forced into a playoff, she lost on the first hole to South Korean Sun Young Yoo.


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