Below are the top ten most stunning moments in professional golf history...at least according to me.
Payne Stewart dies
This might be the saddest event in the history of golf. If not the saddest, it is certainly one of the saddest. On
June 20th 1999, Payne Stewart won the US Open in dramatic fashion. In September 1999, he was a member of
the US Ryder Cup team that won the "Battle of Brookline" in dramatic fashion. October 25th 1999, he was dead.
A plane crash while Payne was on his way from Orlando to Dallas to play in the Tour Championship took the great
golfer, great person, an historic figures life. I am unsure that any of my words can convey the loss the world feels
from Mr. Stewart's passing…so I will stop and simply say that he is missed
Oh my God!!! That is all I have to say. Most of the time, I think that the term "choke" is over used and selected to
be mean-spirited. However, the more I review what Greg Norman has done over his career I simply can not find a
better word to describe it. Frankly, he had the chance to go down in history as one of the greatest golfers of all-
time, but he didn't. Due to his stunning losses (most of which are overshadowed by a handful of major melt-
downs), his potential has been left unfulfilled and his legacy sullied. In fact, there is a website dedicated to his
meltdowns entitled "The Chokeology of Greg Norman". On this website the following is outlined… 1984 US Open
Winged Foot, all he needs is par on 18 to win, instead he knocks a 4 iron into the bleachers and ends up loosing
to Fuzzy Zoeller in a playoff. 1986…leads all four majors heading into Sunday, he wins only one of them. This
year is most remembered for Bob Tway's shot at Inverness to beat Norman. 1987 Masters…Larry Mize's chip-in.
1989 British...fails to stare down Mark Calcavecchia and Wayne Grady in a playoff…1991 Cog Hill…Leading by 5
strokes with 8 holes to play starts spraying shots and when it was all said and done... Norman hands Cochran...
who nearly lost his tour card in 1989 ... his first career win. 1992 Cog Hill...Norman leads Ben Crenshaw heading
into Sunday a final round 72 hands Ben Crenshaw the victory. 1993 PGA Championship at Inverness…Norman
misses key putts on 18 to allow Paul Azinger to win. 1995 Doral…needs par on 18 to win, puts his approach in the
water and loses. 1996 Masters…WOW!!!! Norman "plays like $hit" in his own words and loses to Faldo. Like I
said at the beginning…Oh my God!!! By my calculations, if he had anywhere near the mental toughness that
other great golfers have…he would have won at least 8 majors and be considered one of the greatest golfers of
all-time. Instead he has two and is considered the biggest choker of all-time.
Nicklaus beats Palmer in 1962
This US Open took place in Oakmont, PA. Palmer's home state. "Arnie's Army" was there in mass and Arnie was
the odds on favorite to win. Palmer entered the Open as golf's undisputed No. 1, having already won the Masters
and five other tournaments that year. Nicklaus was the kid. He won the US Amateur, for the second time, in 1961
and the NCAA Championship in the same year. He competed valiantly in 1960 US Open, but he was the kid and
Arnie was the MAN. And the man was playing in his home state and was on a roll. Nevertheless, Jack Nicklaus
overcame a 3 shot deficit to Arnold Palmer to ultimately force a playoff. In the playoff, Nicklaus darted out to a 4-
shot lead and held on. In the end, Palmer 3- putted 10 greens, Nicklaus just one. Palmer out-played the kid for 90
holes, but lost it on the greens. Golf had a new king. Final tally 283-283 (Nicklaus won playoff, 71-74)
Fleck beats Hogan
Get this…while Jack Fleck, an unheralded golfer from Iowa, was playing the 71st hole of the US Open
Championship at Olympic Lake NBC signed off and told America that Ben Hogan had won the 1955 US Open.
Funny thing is, no one told Mr. Fleck. He ended up tying the tournament and beating Ben Hogan in an 18 hole
play-off. Mr. Fleck beat one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game on one of the grandest stages in the
game only 6 months after he turned professional. This match is dubbed on of the greatest upsets off all time.
I think the executives at NBC would agree.
Doug Sanders misses putt to lose to Jack in British
I must say this…from everything I've seen concerning Mr. Doug Sanders, he deserved to miss this putt and lose
the 1970 British Open to Jack Nicklaus. Now why would I say that? Do I have a personal vendetta against Mr.
Sanders? No, not at all. However, I respect the game. I love how Bobby Jones handled himself…with the utmost
class. I love the sportsmanship that Jack showed, even in his defeat at Turnberry in 1977. Respect of the
game…that is what I am all about. But Doug Sanders, to me, appeared to be about the fluff and puff. He
is probably more well known for his fancy and flashy clothes than his 20 PGA tour victories. I think his nickname,
"Peacock of the Fairways" more than demonstrates his focus. Ben Hogan was "The Hawk", Gary Player "The
Black Knight", Sam Snead was "Slammin' Sammy", Byron Nelson "Lord Byron", I could go on and on. But "Peacock
of the Fairways"…even his peers recognized he wasn't all about winning, he was all about flash and flare. So,
push comes to shove. He's going toe to toe with "The Golden Bear" and they are on the 18th green at
St. Andrews. Doug Sanders has a putt that is less than 2 feet to become a major champion and take down "The
Bear". He nonchalants it and misses it wide right! A TWO FOOTER!!!!! My five year old son can hit those in his
sleep. But "The Peacock" missed it, lost in a playoff and Jack 's legend grows even bigger. "The Peacock" is
quoted as saying "I went to great lengths to blend the colors of my clothes just right." How about going to great
lengths to hit 2 foot putts!!! To further bolster my point that he was a quality golfer who had the potential to be
great, but was concerned about the wrong things…in addition to his 20 wins, he finished 2nd four times in majors.
Work on your game, not your wardrobe!
Miller's 63 at Oakmont
A 26 year old kid who'd won twice in his four years on Tour entered the final day of the US Open at Oakmont
(notorious for being the hardest course in the world) trailing Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee
Trevino. Miller birdied the first four holes and never slowed down. In fact, he hit all 18 greens and added five
more birdies to post a 63 for the day and set the record for lowest round in US Open history. Johnny Miller's
legend was born that day and he proved it was no fluke by winning Player of the Year in 1974 and another major in
1976. Johnny announced himself to the world during his miraculous round in the 1973 US Open.
"The Battle at Brookline" went down in history for many reasons…Payne Stewart's last golf appearance, poor
sportsmanship by the Americans, but most of all Justin Leonard's putt! The American's entered the final day
getting their butt kicked 10-6. The Europeans needed only 4 points to seal their victory. But the Americans, who
needed 8.5 points to win, proved feisty. In fact they won their first 7 matches, which seem to build on Captain Ben
Crenshaw's pre-match quote of "I've got a feeling about this one" Included in this feisty run, is Jim Furyk's win over
Sergio Garcia to give the American's their 8th point. Then it happened…Justin Leonard, who TV announcer
Johnny Miller said "needed to go home", stepped up to attempt a 45 foot putt. If he hit the putt, the Americans
earned their 8.5 points and win. He nailed it!!! America completed the comeback. Good thing Mr. Leonard didn't
go home, right Johnny! After the putt, the American team, their wives and fans stormed the green before
Leonard's European playing partner had a chance to attempt his putt. It is viewed as a classless move by the
Americans. This is probably correct…but a 45 footer come on…you've got to see both sides…right?
From the greatness of Justin Leonard's putt to, perhaps, the worst collapse in major championship history this side
of Greg Norman. Phil Mickelson entered the 2006 US Open having won the last two majors (the '05 PGA and the
'06 Masters). He stepped up to the 18th tee needing a par to win. Plain, simple and easy for the best player in the
world, right? Wrong. Phil hits his tee shot so far left of the fairway that it bounces off a huge hospitality tent way
out of bounds. But the ball nails the tent so hard, it comes shooting back into play and Phil actually has
a shot to still easily get his par if he would just punch it out and get back to the fairway. Oh no, punch out, not
Phil. He grabs his 3 iron and tries to slice it around a tree and on to the green and finish with a bang…birdie…go
out riding high on a white horse. But, oops, he hits the tree he wants to slice around and advances the ball only
25 feet and was still in some bad rough. Okay, okay…no problem…just put it on the green and get your par. How
about flying the green and putting it in a bunker with a plugged lie! BABY!!! From bad to worse.
Phil the greatest short game guru of all-time, gets his bunker shot out of the sand, but it goes off the other side of
the green into heavy rough. He chips this shot 8 feet by the hole and NAILS the putt for double!!!! Geoff Ogilivy
wins the US Open by two shots! Oh my God!!!! Mickelson, frankly, earned a lot of peoples respect by facing the
media and being so forthright with his comments after the round. He said the following, "I had it right there in my
hands, and I let it go. I just can't believe I did that. I still am in shock that I did that. I just can't believe that
I did that, I am such an idiot."
More Phil, I can't get enough of him. In 2004 he was on the 18th green needing to nail an 18 footer to finally win a
major…in fact, The Masters. We all remember the leap after he holed this putt. You could practically see that
monkey getting off his back as Phil lept into the sky. What is remembered is the leap, was is lost is the quality of
the tournament. Mickelson had to hole that putt to win because Ernie Els was right on "Lefty"'s butt. Els put up a
67 on the final day, with two eagles and 3 birdies. Phil had to hole a 20 foot birdie putt on 16 to tie the tournament
and then hole that dramatic putt from 18 feet on the 18th to post his 5th birdie and, more importantly, win his first
Nicklaus versus Watson at Pebble Beach in the 1982 US Open…can you imagine a better golf setting and match?
I don't think it is possible. But it happened. Watson found himself in trouble on the par 3 17th hole which hugs the
coastline. Watson's tee shot landed in the rough with a brutal downslope. A bogey had to be expected. Standing
ankle-deep in the rough, with the Pebble Beach winds blowing intensely Watson hit a very high chip shot that
seemed to be way to hard. Yet the ball broke right and straight into the cup. Watson went on to birdie 18 to secure
the trophy. "That S.O.B. did it to me again," were Jack's comments about the loss...half in jest, but half with all
sincerity I suspect. Nicklaus was in the clubhouse with the lead and was on the verge of a record-setting fifth U.S.
Open. Nicklaus has called this his toughest loss.