Major Championship Blowups
Tiger Woods' last trip to Muirfield for the Open Championship produced the worst round of his pro career. But he's not the only big name to suffer a surprisingly-high score in a major
July 02, 2013
Tiger Woods' 81, 2002 British Open
Woods entered having won the Masters, the U.S. Open and seven of the previous 11 major championships. Rounds of 70 and 68 put him in position to continue his run at the Grand Slam, but that chance was blown away in a third round marked by miserable conditions. The 81 remains the only time he's failed to break 80 as a pro and even a final-round 65 only brought him to T-28 for the week.
Bobby Jones' ???, 1921 British Open
Jones has a reputation as being a gentleman of the game, but even he was a bit of a hothead as a youth. In his first trip to the British Open, a 19-year-old Jones found the "Hill Bunker" left of the 11th green in the third round at the Old Course at St. Andrews. There are different accounts of what exactly happened, but after unsuccessfully attempting to escape the bunker with several swings, Jones wound up picking up his ball and walking off the course. He later called it "the most inglorious failure of my golfing life."
Tom Watson's 79, 1974 U.S. Open
Watson was the 54-hole leader at Winged Foot, but his Sunday 79 was the worst score of the day for any of the top 44 finishers. His collapse opened the door for Hale Irwin to win the first of his three U.S. Open titles. Watson would win his own U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1982, but not before he suffered another surprising Open setback at Medinah in 1975 when he followed rounds of 67-68 with rounds of 78-77 to finish T-9.
Jack Nicklaus' 83, 1981 British Open
The Golden Bear arrived at Royal St. George's having racked up 11 consecutive top-5 finishes at the Open Championship, including wins in 1970 and 1978. But his stunning 83, including a back-nine 44, put an end to that streak. It probably wasn't a coincidence that his 18-year-old son, Steven, had been arrested for DUI on the Jack Nicklaus Freeway outside Columbus, Ohio, the day before. Those charges were eventually dropped and Nicklaus shot a second-round 66 to make the cut. He'd go on to finish T-23.
Hale Irwin's 79, 1984 U.S. Open
After winning at Winged Foot in 1974, Irwin looked poised to win on the Mamaroneck course again as the 54-hole leader. But his final-round 79 was the worst score of any of the top 51 finishers, paving the way for a Fuzzy Zoeller-Greg Norman duel, which was eventually won by Zoeller.
Curtis Strange's 80, 1985 Masters
Strange entered the tournament having won two events already in 1985, but he appeared like a non-factor after opening with an 80. But a 65, a 68 and a front-nine 32 on Sunday gave him the lead until a back-nine collapse that included shots into the water on both No. 13 and No. 15. He tied for second, two shots behind Bernhard Langer, in what might just be the, um, strangest performance in major championship history.
T.C. Chen's 77, 1985 U.S. Open
The little-known Taiwanese golfer took Oakland Hills by storm for three days, firing rounds of 65, 69 and 69. But a final-round 77, including his infamous double-hit on the fifth hole that resulted in a quadruple-bogey eight allowed another surprising player, Andy North, to win by one shot.
Tom Kite's 78, 1989 U.S. Open
Kite arrived at Oak Hill already with two wins under his belt in 1989, including the Players Championship. A third seemed forthcoming after rounds of 67-69-69, but a 78 dropped him to T-9. The good news for Kite is he didn't have to wait too long for another chance at a U.S. Open. Three years later, he won his lone major at Pebble Beach.
Greg Norman's 76, 1990 British Open
After back-to-back 66s at St. Andrews, Norman shared the lead with Nick Faldo. But his third-round 76 to Faldo's 67 ended his chances. Of course, these two famously would meet again at another major six years later. . .
Gil Morgan's 77, 1992 U.S. Open
Morgan became the first player to get to double digits under par and eventually got to 12 under at Pebble Beach on Saturday, but then everything went wrong. He wound up shooting 77 that day, though, he still could have recovered to win his first major. An even worse final round of 81, however, left him in 13th place.
Greg Norman's 78, 1996 Masters
Norman opened the week with a course-record 63 and held a six-shot lead entering the final round. It wasn't enough. Not nearly enough, in fact. The Shark shot a final-round 78 -- 11 shots worse than playing partner Nick Faldo's 67 -- to finish five shots off the pace and add to a career defined by disappointing finishes in major championships.
Sergio Garcia's 89, 1999 British Open
Sure, Jean Van de Velde's final-round 77, including a triple bogey at the 72nd hole, wound up being this tournament's most memorable meltdown, but nothing had been expected of the Frenchman heading into the week. Garcia, on the other hand, came in as a 19-year-old phenom who had recently shot a 62 on his way to a T-3 at the Byron Nelson. But in the opening round at Carnoustie, Garcia shot an 89 that left him needing his mother to console him.
Ernie Els' 80, 2004 U.S. Open
After three days of playing par-or-better golf, the Big Easy put up one of the biggest numbers of his career on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills. Entering the final round just two shots behind eventual winner Retief Goosen, Els shot an 80, which included four double bogeys, to barely finish in the top 10. On a day where many players struggled with the course's extremely hard and fast conditions, Els seemed to come undone more than most and he let the USGA hear about it afterward. "To take one of the best golf courses in this entire world and to make it a farce like that," Els said. "They've got egg on their face."
Retief Goosen's 81, 2005 U.S. Open
The Goose appeared to be a lock for his third U.S. Open title in five years with a three-shot lead through three days, but he double-bogeyed the second hole and never recovered. His uncharacteristic 81 left him T-11, eight shots behind surprise winner Michael Campbell.
Dustin Johnson's 82, 2010 U.S. Open
DJ looked like he would cruise to his first major title after a third-round 66 at Pebble Beach (a course where he'd already won two PGA Tour events) put him three shots ahead of the field. But after an opening par, disaster struck with a triple bogey on No. 2. A lost ball on No. 3 led to a double and when it was over, his 82 put him in a four-way tie for eighth place. Playing partner Graeme McDowell didn't exactly light it up with a 74, but he walked away the winner.
Nick Watney's 81, 2010 PGA Championship
After rounds of 69, 68 and 66, Watney didn't wait long to show the final round at Whistling Straits wouldn't be his day. He made a mental mistake on the first hole that led to a double bogey and he never got on track. He shot a 43 on the front nine and was 11-over par on his round by the 15th hole. Even with two late birdies, Watney posted an 81 to wind up T-18 for the tournament.
Rory McIlroy's 80, 2011 Masters
After an opening-round 65, most people covering this event spent the next few days anointing the 21-year-old golfer from Northern Ireland as the next face of golf. By Sunday night, the stories had changed to how McIlroy still wasn't ready to handle the pressure of golf's biggest stage. Following a tough start, he pieced together a front nine that kept him within reach, but his trip to the cabins that line Augusta's 10th hole with a wayward tee shot led to a triple bogey and knocked him out for good. His 80 dropped him to T-15, making his the highest ever final-round score by a 54-hole leader at the Masters.