Golf's Craziest Curses

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Golf's Craziest Curses

November 09, 2016

Photo By: Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open

Mickelson has accomplished so much during his career, but the tournament he covets most still eludes him. Making matters worse is how many times he's come painfully close to winning the U.S. Open -- a record SIX runner-ups, to be exact. Of course, none was more heartbreaking than the 2006 event at Winged Foot in which Mickelson seemed poised to win the national championship for the first time -- and a third consecutive major overall -- until a disastrous double bogey on the final hole. "I'm such an idiot," Mickelson said after. Or maybe you're just up against forces too powerful to overcome. . .

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Sam Snead at the U.S. Open

Before there was Mickelson, there was Snead, another legendary player only missing the U.S. Open in his pursuit of the career Grand Slam. Snead's four runner-ups in the event was the record before Mickelson came along and he did one better than Phil when it came to calamitous final holes. Needing a par to win the 1939 U.S. Open (Snead said a fan told him he needed to make birdie), Snead made a triple bogey on the par-5 18th at Philadelphia Country Club. Eight years later, Snead three-putted from 15 feet on the final hole of a playoff to lose again.

Nancy Lopez at the U.S. Women's Open

Lopez's brilliant career included 48 LPGA Tour titles and three majors, but she also finished with seven runner-ups in majors, including four at the U.S. Women's Open. Her last chance came in 1997 when she became the first golfer to shoot in the 60s in all four rounds at the event -- and she still lost to Alison Nicholas. "You know, all the tournaments I finished second in, I never really had an emotional feeling for second other than that U.S. Open," Lopez told ESPN in 2015. "I really struggled to get over that. It took me quite a while."

The Calendar Grand Slam

Bobby Jones is in the record books for winning what constituted the calendar Grand Slam in 1930, but to this day, no one has ever won all four of golf's professional majors in one year. Tiger Woods is the only golfer to win four straight, but his accomplishment, dubbed the "Tiger Slam" overlapped the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Ben Hogan is the only player other than Woods to win three majors in one year, winning all three that he entered in 1953. Jordan Spieth is the most recent player to have a chance. After winning the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth lost by one shot at the British Open at St. Andrews. He came back to finish runner-up at the PGA Championship. Anyone pulling off this accomplishment is going to need fate on their side.

Greg Norman at the Masters

You can make a case that Greg Norman was cursed at every major except for the Open Championship, the only of the four he ever won. However, if there was a particular house of horrors for the Shark during his career, it was Augusta National. Norman lost in unthinkable fashion in 1987 when Larry Mize holed out a 50-yard pitch shot on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. Nine years later, Norman gave away the green jacket in a much slower fashion, shooting a final-round 78 to blow a six-shot lead to Nick Faldo. We feel for you, Greg.

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Tom Watson at the PGA Championship

Of all the golfers who have played in all four current majors, Watson has the most victories without winning all four. Watson's eight major titles don't include a Wanamaker Trophy, despite 10 top 10s in the event, and a runner-up in 1978. That year, Watson led after the first three rounds and had a five-shot lead after 54 holes. But he shot a Sunday 73 and lost in a playoff to John Mahaffey. Years later, Watson would say, "I had one hand on the trophy, but not two."

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Arnold Palmer at the PGA Championship

Right behind Tom Watson on the career major count is Palmer with seven. And Arnie also was never able to win the PGA Championship, an event that was special to him since his father was a PGA pro, and join the exclusive list of golfers to pull off the career Grand Slam. Palmer's best chance came at Pecan Valley Golf Club in 1968, but after hitting a 3-wood to eight feet on the 72nd hole, he missed the putt to tie for the lead. Palmer finished one shot behind Julius Boros, and the PGA forever remained the one crown jewel the King never took home.

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Briny Baird on the PGA Tour

Baird holds the distinction of being the PGA Tour player to have earned the most money (more than $13 million) and had the most runner-ups (six) without winning. The closest call in nearly 400 career starts? Losing on the sixth hole of a sudden-death playoff at the 2011 Frys.com Open to Bryce Molder. The most recent near-miss? Losing to Chris Kirk by a shot at the 2013 McGladrey Classic. "It's not all about winning," Baird said after that loss. "I've said that, but this hurts. This really does. This is very disappointing."

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Sergio Garcia in Majors

After nearly taking down Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship at 19, it seemed like it was just a matter of time before Sergio Garcia would win a major. But nearly two decades later, it still hasn't happened and the Spaniard is in danger of becoming arguably the best player never to win one of golf's four events. His closest call came at the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie where he just missed an eight-footer for the win (pictured), and then lost to Padraig Harrington in a playoff that included Garcia getting a bad bounce off a flagstick. "I’m playing against a lot of guys out there," Garcia said after. "More than the field." Careful, Sergio. The golf gods don't like getting called out like that.

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The Masters Par 3 Contest

This nine-hole event the day before the real tournament begins is a lot of fun for the players and the families. Just beware of playing too well. Since its inception in 1960, the winner has never gone on to win a green jacket in the same year, including Chicago Cubs fan Luke Donald in 2011. As a result, superstitious players in contention usually have someone hit a shot for them so they can't turn in an official score. And you thought they were just being nice.

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The No. 63 in Majors

One of the oddest stats in golf is that no one has ever broken 63 in any round of any major championship. This, despite the fact there have been 29 rounds of 63 in golf's four biggest events. Some of the most notable close calls include Greg Norman three-putting in the second round of the 1986 Open Championship, Jack Nicklaus missing a three-footer in the first round of the 1980 U.S. Open, and Tiger Woods' birdie putt horeshoeing out of the cup in the second round of the 2007 PGA Championship. Phil Mickelson became the latest to almost break this barrier at the 2016 Open Championship when his 15-footer for birdie on the final hole of the first round broke right at the last second and lipped out. "There's a curse," Mickelson said. "Because that ball should have been in." No arguments here.

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