Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Brendan Steele took a three-shot lead into the final round of the Sony Open and ended up losing on the first playoff hole to Australia’s Cameron Smith. We rarely hear the “choke” word any more in professional golf, but Steele certainly looked like he qualified as he succumbed to the pressure on the 71st and 72nd holes and in the playoff. What’s the worst collapse you ever saw in a PGA Tour event?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Had to be our old ami, Jean Van de Velde, at Carnoustie in 1999. Worst and dumbest collapse ever. Payne Stewart had one at Hilton Head early in his career… I remember the live shot of him walking in the marsh, with his wife, in tears but away from the cameras after he blew the sure victory. Arnold lost a seven-shot lead on the final nine holes in the 1966 US Open in San Francisco. There have been many. (I was once dormie in a match, four holes up and four to go, which I proceeded to lose on the first extra hole. But it was not a PGA Tour event.)
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): The Sony was a train wreck, it was hard to watch, but alas a champion was crowned. Worst choke ever was Norman in the Masters against Faldo in 1996. That has to be the most epic collapse in Professional Golf history, and PGA Tour sanctioned. Norman could not right the ship at all, no way of stopping that hemorrhaging. Nobody felt good about watching that, nobody.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life member, PGA of Canada: Boy, that’s tough one there are so many candidates. Arnie lost the 1966 US Open with a 7-shot lead starting the Back 9 and then lost the play-off after having a nice lead… Phil Mickelson could have played save on the 72nd hole of the 2006 US Open but instead ‘went for broke’ and lost. Dustin Johnson’s 3 putts on the 72nd hole in the 2015 US Open and Adam Scott making 4 consecutive bogies to lose the Open. But I think the worst is Jordan Spieth endured a 9-shot swing in about 45 minutes in the 2016 Masters tied with Greg Norman at the Masters.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): My gut says that it’s Phil Mickelson’s debacle at Winged Foot in 2006 but Jordan Spieth’s blow-up on the back nine at the Masters in 2016 was just so unexpected and bonkers that it will always stick out to me as the worst collapse I have ever seen in a pro tournament. My stomach still turns thinking about how he squandered that 3-shot lead with a quadruple bogey on the hole that featured two straight shots into Rae’s Creek, including one of the chunkiest wedge shots in tour history. 🥴
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’m not sure I’d consider Steele’s loss as a huge choke. He did stumble down the stretch, but Smith had to birdie 18 to get into the playoff. Anyway, there have certainly been way bigger collapses, and where do you start? Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters? That was a colossal collapse, but at the same time Faldo played great and went and won it. Norman would have had to shoot even par to win. So, I think the biggest personal collapse, where someone lost the tournament themselves, has to be Jean Van de Velde. How he didn’t play the 72nd hole as a 3 shot par 5 I will never understand.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: I know he’s sorta past it, but I can’t forget Greg Norman’s final round at the 1996 Masters. I was a big fan, even switched to Tour Edition balls when he did. Have had the pleasure of having a few pints with him over the years, and still a fan. But every April the memories flood back. Sunday, bloody Sunday.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Dubious distinction awards should be named for some the most egregious collapses: The Van de Velde for a complete mental breakdown on the final hole; The Norman for failure to show up in the final round; and The Mickelson for giving away the tournament with a supremely pressure packed single bad shot. Steele may have invented a new category, as he stumbled in the playoff too. Maybe not the worst collapse ever but it was still painful to watch.
It would appear that there are enough golfers, golf fans and members of the media around to keep the Patrick Reed cheating incident fresh, despite attempts by the PGA Tour to make it go away. What’s the best way for this to end?
Deeks: Pistols at dawn. But only one with a bullet.
Loughry: As they say, timing is everything. And in all honesty, its probably too late for Reed to make this right and end the stink of it from ever following him. Even if he came out now and tried to say the right things his actions have already spoken much louder then any words he might try and conjure up. It doesn’t matter where he plays going forward this will always be lingering around him.
Schurman: A full-blown made for the media event apology by Reed with real tears. Reed also has to hire a publicity company to teach him a new style. His current one must cost millions in lost endorsements. We sure have come a long way since Bobby Jones imposed a penalty on himself for touching the ball, which nobody else saw, causing him to lose the US Open.
Kaplan: This story, like most trending stories, will die off as other more damning or interesting golf stories come to light this season. When that will be is anyone’s guess, but it will happen eventually. That doesn’t mean it will die off completely. Fans who intend to remember it for the rest of their lives will, as evidenced by the handful of fans who still wear Tiger mugshot T-shirts to events or yell Jakarta at Vijay Singh for a cheating allegation he may or may not have been involved in back at the Indonesian Open in 1985! But the majority of fans will forget in time, provided Reed doesn’t try to cheat again. Unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed with any assurance at this point.
Rule: It’s like a train wreck, people just can’t look away! The more stories you hear about him, the more you get enraged and frustrated, but that’s what villains do! At this point I don’t know if there is a good way for it to end. I would like to say that he would enter therapy and apologize for past mistakes and cheating incidents and try to gain the trust and respect of the players and fans, but let’s be honest, that ain’t happening! So maybe the best outcome is if he slumps so terribly that he no longer qualifies for the tour and once his exemptions from his Masters win end, he can drift off into the sunset. But again, I’m not holding my breath. I just wish the PGA Tour would step up and discipline him for his on and off course antics.
Quinn: The proper ending is no longer possible. Reed had to admit that he moved the sand and improved his lie before he left the Albany Club that afternoon. As old pal Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch points out, Reed usually plays the Waste Management with the loudest show on turf at the 16th hole. If he shows up, so will the leather lungs be screaming it like it is. That’s not going away.
Mumford: I think the Tour has to take the lead here. Their excuse seems to be that the Hero World Challenge is not a PGA Tour event. However, it’s on the PGA Tour schedule, so time to take a stand. Admit they made a mistake; retroactively suspend Reed for at least a year (maybe for life) and show the golf world that they won’t tolerate cheating …. by anybody.
Golf course architect Pete Dye passed away last week at the age of 94. His bio includes some of the best-known golf courses in the world and he mentored quite a number of the top designers working today. Ironically, he built courses all over the world but never in Canada. Do you have a favourite Dye course or Dye story?
Deeks: I haven’t played it since 1983, but Dye’s Tournament Players course in Ponte Vedra remains in my personal Top Five of all-time. I was actually there the year before, at the tournament, when the course was first “inaugurated”, and met Pete at a cocktail reception. A very nice, humble guy who enjoyed all the attention but also seemed quite uncomfortable in it, like he’d really rather be out on a tractor moving a mound. I remember there was much criticism by the Tour players at the time, including Jack Nicklaus, who called it way too hard. Then Raymond Floyd went out and shot 62 in the Wednesday Pro Am. Uh…
Loughry: Pete Dye has some great work, but he’s also a bit sadistic. I never met the Pete, but I have played many of his courses. I think as an architect one of his best works is TPC Sawgrass because so much of it was MAN MADE. I don’t think there was one inch of that place that didn’t have dirt moved, so its all to Dye for. Quite a track too that has withstood the test of time, and if anyone has played there or knows about it, its because you need to hit to certain spots to score, you can’t over power the course, you HAVE to play it as it was intended, and that to me means it’s a good design.
Schurman: In March 1999, a good friend and I were going to Florida. We had heard about all the damage caused by Hurricane Hugo in S.C. and decided to take a look. You wouldn’t believe what we saw; it was incredible. We got near Charleston and decided to drive out to Kiawah. It was a messy rainy, miserable day but we went anyway. Once there we waited in the Pro shop for the rain to stop. I hadn’t been feeling too well for a few days so when this guy started pestering me about our travels and which courses we played, I wasn’t too receptive. I just wanted to sit down and stay out of the way. When we got back to Toronto I read where Pete Dye was going to return to Kiawah to repair the damage done by the hurricane. The article was accompanied by his photograph. Sure enough, the same guy!
Kaplan: I’m an admirer of Pete Dye, but I’ve only played one of his courses: Black Bear Golf Club in Florida. This course was an alternate after our attempts at booking a tee time at TPC Sawgrass fell through, and I’m almost glad they did because it was a complete gem. I think we payed $25 US for the round, which was ludicrous given the designer and the shape and design of the course: tricky and narrow perched greens; forgiving undulated fairways with multiple routes of attack; and bunkers galore! Odds are good you’ve never heard of this one before, likely because it is so unlike Dye’s other designs, but it’s one you should seek out the next time you’re in Florida.
Rule: It was a sad day for golf as we lost a legend. But he led a great life and was working in the game right into his 90s, which is incredible. He certainly had an impact on so many other architects and will be well remembered and celebrated for decades to come. I have had the pleasure of playing many Pete Dye courses over the years and generally get my teeth kicked in when I do play them! He definitely designed challenging courses. My favourite Dye is the Ocean Course at Kiawah, with Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo as a close second. Both amazing locations, with some iconic holes! RIP Mr. Dye, you will be missed.
Quinn: The list of the courses that Pete and Alice Dye, and son Perry, designed is astounding — 22 in Japan alone! I’ve been lucky enough to play eight of them, outside Japan, and really enjoyed each one. The most memorable are Cabos San Lucas, Mission Hills China, San Roque in Spain and of course, the TPC Sawgrass. Kinda proud of my finish at Sawgrass: birdied 16, parred the infamous island 17 (not counting the one I rinsed), and parred the notorious 18th with a brilliant drive and smooth two-putt (well, after rinsing a sleeve). Still, of the eight, my favourite is Barefoot in South Carolina.
Mumford: I’m a long-time fan of Dye’s designs and have played more than a dozen. The two stadium courses on opposite coasts, TPC Sawgrass and PGA West, are my favourites. Both are demanding, unforgiving and a mental grind. Every hole is unique too, and you can remember details about them all years later. What a wonderful legacy!