Top 10 golf meltdowns

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts on the 10th green after missing a putt during final round...

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts on the 10th green after missing a putt during final round play in the 2011 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 10, 2011. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:59 PM ET

I'll preface this by saying I don't wish ill will on anyone in today's final round of the U.S. Open.

OK, maybe just a little. Let's face it, major golf tournaments are so much more exciting when a nuclear meltdown occurs, when Jean Van de Velde starts bumbling around like Inspector Clouseau or Phil Mickelson takes out his gamblin' club instead of playing it safe.

Makes for compelling TV, doesn't it? Nobody turns away when "the big one" hits a NASCAR race, do they?

Meltdowns don't come around all that often but they are more common than you'd think. Right Dustin Johnson? The odds of it happening twice in a month -- to the same person, no less -- are probably up there with winning the lottery and getting hit by lightning but, as Johnson can attest, it can happen.

Then again, maybe DJ has purged the memory of last summer's train wreck. So we'll remind him. Rest assured, Johnson's back-to-back meltdowns will be featured prominently in this week's Top 10.

10. Ken Venturi, 1956 Masters

This probably would have been ranked higher were it not for Venturi's status as an amateur and, quite frankly, I had seen it happen. 'Twas before my time, though. That said, history books tell us that third-round leader Venturi, who might be better known as the long-time voice of golf on CBS (think Tin Cup, the movie), squandered a four-shot lead in losing to the immortal Jackie Burke Jr. (Yeah, I have no idea who he is, either.) Venturi's flat stick let him down, with six three-putts en route to a final-round 80.

9. Thomas Bjorn, 2003 British Open

Leading unheralded American Ben Crane by two with three holes to play at Royal St. George's, Bjorn looked like he had the Open title in the bag. Then, on the par-3 16th, his tee shot found a greenside bunker, the bane of my existence on a golf course. His first two attempts to get out landed on the green before spinning back into the bunker. Finally, Bjorn blasted it out and sank the putt for a double bogey. But the adventure cost him the lead and Crane went on to take the title. Bjorn had to be happy with a third-place finish and $550,000 payday.

8. Dustin Johnson, 2010 PGA Championship

Hate to pick on the guy but this was Johnson's second major meltdown of the summer, coming less than two months after falling apart at the U.S. Open. Bad enough that Johnson frittered away a one-stroke lead on the 18th at Whistling Straits. But he compounded that mistake with a violation of the rules -- he grounded his club in a bunker, a no-no even in friendly, Sunday-morning games -- and was assessed a two-stroke penalty, which took him out of the three-hole playoff. Instead of winning his first major, Johnson wound up tied for fifth.

7. Ed Sneed, 1979 Masters

Sneed picked a really bad time to miss a six-footer, generally considered an easy putt by the top pros. After reducing a three-shot lead to two with bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes during the final round of the Masters, Sneed had a relative gimme putt for a win that would have changed his life. It wasn't to be, though, as the putt came up short, giving Sneed the bogey and sending him to a playoff with Tom Watson and Fuzzy Zoeller, the eventual winner. Had the putt dropped, Ed Sneed would have instantly become a household name.

6. Arnold Palmer, 1966 U.S. Open

Even the King had his off days in the majors, folks. Up seven with nine holes to play, Palmer appeared all set for a coronation at the Olympic Club. Nope, not this time. The train wreck started on the 10th and seven holes later, Palmer went completely off the rails. A bogey on the 17th hole left Palmer tied with Billy Casper for the lead and that's how the final round ended. In the 18-hole playoff the next day, Palmer again frittered away a two-stroke lead and Casper won the title. Arnie didn't win another major in his storied career.

5. Doug Sanders, 1970 British Open

How many of us would love the chance to sink a three-foot putt to win any one of golf's four majors? Where do I sign up? Well, poor ol' Doug Sanders doesn't want to hear it. That's all Sanders needed to win the Open in 1970, a lousy three-footer on the 72nd hole at St. Andrews. But, after backing off the ball to clear away a piece of sand, Sanders promptly stepped up and ... missed, wide right. The next day, in an 18-hole playoff, Jack Nicklaus snatched away the title. Sanders won 20 times on tour but never a major.

4. Dustin Johnson, 2010 U.S. Open

After three rounds at Pebble Beach, the U.S. Open title was Johnson's to lose. And lose it he did. In style. Instead of going down with a fight, the young American blew up, big-time. Johnson's three-shot lead over Graeme McDowell quickly evaporated -- he carded a triple-bogey on the second hole and added a double on the third -- and he struggled the entire day, finishing with a pedestrian score of 11-over 82. McDowell, who carded a 74 and won his first major, will be forever grateful for the amateurish finish.

3. Rory McIlroy, 2011 Masters

Really, it's not entirely surprising that McIlroy couldn't seal the deal at Augusta this spring. I mean, the kid was barely legal to drink in Georgia and here he was leading the frickin' Masters. If that's not enough to make your knees knock, I don't know what is. Sure, he led by four going into the final round but, honestly, who didn't expect some kind of collapse? OK, maybe not the epic fail it turned out to be -- his 80 was the worst round ever by the third-round leader. Rest assured, McIlroy will have oodles of opportunities to add a green jacket to his wardrobe.

2. Greg Norman, 1996 Masters

With a six-shot lead heading into the final round, it looked like Norman would finally get over the disappointment of close calls at the Masters in 1986 and '87. Instead, the Great White Shark was eaten alive, a first-round 63 the only happy memory. Norman fell apart as he made the turn and his playing partner, Nick Faldo, was outstanding. When Norman's tee shot on 16 found the water, it was the coup de grace. Faldo closed with a 67 to win the green jacket while Norman carded an ugly 78 to finish second for the third time.

1. Jean Van de Velde, 1999 British Open

There is nothing that comes close to the Frenchman's choke job at Carnoustie. Heck, even a double bogey on the 18th hole in the final round would have given him the title. It was so much of a lock, the engravers probably were finishing up the final E on the Claret Jug as Van de Velde walked on to the tee. Then he proceeded to make some decisions the Jackass boys would have questioned. Seven strokes later, he found himself in a three-way playoff with Paul Lawrie, the eventual winner, and Justin Leonard. Collapse complete.


Photos