Jason Dufner is part of golfing lore. By blowing a 5-shot lead with four holes left at the PGA Championship, he delivered one of the sport’s most egregious choke jobs.
Dufner closed regulation play with three straight bogeys. He fell into a playoff with Keenan Bradley and predictably failed to reverse his fortunes.
So now he is part of history, ranking among Golf’s Ten Greatest Final Round Collapses:
Nick Watney, 2010 PGA Championship: His final round wasn’t a complete fiasco. He actually knocked down birdies on the 16th and 17th holes. But that clean-up came much, much too late.
Watney shot a 9-over 81. He had a 3-shot lead entering the final round, but immediately fired a double-bogey. A triple-bogey on No. 7, when a photographer distracted him on his backswing, accelerated the slide. He bogeyed the next two holes and double-bogeyed No. 11. He staggered from first to a tie for 18th.
“I definitely got way ahead of myself,” Watney told reporters afterward. “I was definitely nervous, but very excited. I was looking forward to the day. I knew it would be a tough day. I knew it would be a challenge. I was really looking forward to getting out there. I didn't handle it as well as I could have.”
Retief Goosen, 2005 US Open: The event’s defending champion led by three shots after three days, then blew up with an 81 Sunday – shooting nine bogeys and a double bogey to plunge back into a tie for 11th place.
He botched a chip shot for the double-bogey on No. 2. He dropped six shots on the front nine and bogeyed five holes after the turn as his putter failed him.
Scott Hoch, 1989 Masters: By missing a short putt on the 17th hole, he fell into a tie with Nick Faldo. The two golfers went into a sudden death playoff and Faldo tried to hand Hoch the championship by shooting a bogey 5.
But Hoch would have none of it. With an effort that spurred the phrase “Hoch as in choke,” Scott three-putted away the sure victory. His par putt was 30 inches, tops, and he blasted it five feet past the hole after excessive deliberation.
Rory McIlroy, 2011 Masters: He started the final round with a 4-stroke lead. He finished 10 strokes off the pace in a tie for 15th-place. His 8-over-par 80 will stand as one of golf’s great final day “fails” of all time.
He opened the final four with a bogey, then held it together until his gruesome triple-bogey on No. 10. He three-putted the next hole and four-putted No. 12. Then his drive on No. 13 went haywire. Oh the humanity!
“You know, I’ll have plenty more chances,” McIlroy said after shooting an 8-over-par 80. “I know that. It’s very disappointing what happened today. Hopefully, it’ll build a little bit of character in me as well.”
Ed Sneed, 1979 Masters: He had a three-shot lead with three holes to go. “I went to the 16th hole thinking it was impossible for anything to happen except for me to win,” Sneed later said. That he lost this lead isn’t remarkable. It was how he lost the lead that was so memorable.
The poor guy left par putts in the lip of the cup on No. 16 and No. 17 and just missed his putt on the 18th hole as well. By bogeying the last three holes, fell into a playoff with Fuzzy Zoeller. Naturally, Sneed lost. The excruciating tiny margin of Sneed’s failure stands as enduring symbol of golf’s relentless cruelty.
Dufner, 2011 PGA Championship: Although he appeared to lose composure on the course, he gathered himself nicely afterward. He managed to put his collapse in perspective while speaking to reporters.
“I'm not a history buff as far as golf goes,” he said. “I know the media tries to define careers on certain players, you did this and you didn't do this; I'm not into that. I just play golf. I love playing golf. I love the competition. And I want to be as good as I can be. If that's 20th in the world with no majors, or first in the world with 10 majors, or never to win a tour event, I'll be fine with it.”
And then, presumably, he mustered enormous self-restrained to resist the urge to throw his golf bag into a lake.
Arnold Palmer, 1966 US Open: He opened the final round with a 3-shot lead over Billy Casper and pushed the margin to seven strokes by the turn. Then Casper caught fire, shooting 32 on the back nine, and Palmer buckled.
He had a 5-stroke lead with four holes left but couldn’t close out the victory. Casper battled back to tie Palmer and force an 18-hole playoff the next day – which Billy won by four strokes.
Sports Illustrated described the collapse “one of the great debacles of modern times, comparable to the Italian retreat at Caporetto, the Edsel car and Liz Taylor's Cleopatra.”
Mark Calcavecchia, 1991 Ryder Cup: The pressure on players in this “War on the Shore” was excruciating. Calcavecchia was 5-up on Colin Montgomerie at the turn and 4-up with four holes left in their singles match . . . and somehow lost all four holes to halve the match.
He suffered a triple-bogey on the 15th hole and a bogey on No. 16. Montgomerie found water with his tee shot on No. 17, but so did Calcavecchia – and Mark missed a two-foot put to cap the disastrous hole.
Calcavecchia was so distraught he fled the course, only to be called back by his wife.
Greg Norman, 1996 Masters: He was 13-under par and six shots ahead of Nick Faldo heading into the final round. When Faldo made his charge – closing brilliantly with a 67 – Norman folded with five bogeys and a double bogey.
The end came on a No. 12, when Norman put his tee shot into the water. The Not-So-Great White Shark closed with 78, converting his 6-shot lead into a 5-shot deficit.
Jean Van de Velde, 1999 British Open: He merely needed to close out with a double-bogey to win the title and earn a hallmark career victory. He carried a three-shot lead onto the 18th tee.
But rather than play it safe, he opted for adventure. After a poor drive left him in the rough, he refused to do the sensible thing and lay up. He went for the green instead and found the grandstand, sending a shot that caromed into thick rough.
He continued hacking away in futility, closing with a triple-bogey. His bizarre decision-making made him enduring symbol of how golf can play with the mind – and win going away.