Meltdowns, collapses and the dreaded “c” word

Those of us that live in the Greater Greater are certainly familiar with “the collapse”. It’s an annual thing with the local hockey team. Seventeen years without a playoff series win; fifty-four years without a Stanley Cup. That silver-haired guy with the white gloves and the megawatt smile that rolls Lord Stanley’s Cup onto the ice every spring couldn’t find Toronto with Google maps. And doesn’t need to.

No lead is too large, no margin of victory is safe. Up 4-1 on the Bruins with 11 minutes left in Game 7 ? Sure, we got this. Until we didn’t.

Up three games to one on the dreaded Montreal Canadiens this year. No problem! We owned them all season. Until we didn’t.

Maybe there are other cities in North America that could lay claim to some monumental collapses by their sports teams but not on such a consistent, persistent and unrelenting basis. We live in the LGZ (Leaf Groaning Zone) and we know collapses.

All of which brings us to last weekend’s golf. Collapses and meltdowns were everywhere.

Canadian Stephen Ames won the Principal Charity Classic on the Champions Tour when Tim (Lumpy) Herron shot himself in the foot and gave up the six-shot lead he had heading into the final round. Six shots would seem to be a pretty safe lead. Just ask Greg Norman. The Shark probably thought so as he teed off in the final round of the 1996 Masters with one arm already into a Green Jacket.

I haven’t heard Tim Herron’s name in years. I’m not even sure if he’s lumpy anymore. Was it a collapse? Looks like it but maybe he was just due for a bad round. If it happened in the first round, nobody would give it a second thought but when it happens in the final round, and you have the lead, sports psychologists and mental performance coaches are scrambling to find answers.

Playing with the lead is not easy and very few do it well. Tiger Woods was the best. He only ever lost the lead in a major once, to YE Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship. The rest of the time, when one of the talking bobble heads proclaimed another Tiger victory with nine or 18 holes to go, you could pretty much take that to the bank.

With anybody else, as Leaf fans know, chicken counting is hazardous to your mental well-being.

Oddly, Jon Rahm also had a six-shot lead after the third round of the Memorial. Playing really well. The defending champion. Probably starting to count his chickens as he walked off the 18th green. “Just have to mail it in for the final round and Jack will give me another grey jacket,” he thought. Whoa, not so fast there, Dr. Feelgood.

Hate to be the bearer of bad news Jon and hate to do it so publicly in front of all these fans and millions watching at home but you tested positive for COVID-19 and must withdraw. Not a collapse in the normal sense but definitely a mental error. If Jon had just been vaccinated, he could have played on Sunday, and we would have seen whether he could hold a lead.

This one goes into the shoulda column. But he didn’t.

And now we turn to poor Lexi Thompson. Up four with eight holes to go at Olympic Club and the U.S. Open trophy there for the taking, poor Lexi began to melt before our very eyes. A wayward drive here, a chunked approach there, another missed up-and-down – it all happened so painfully fast.

She probably shoulda. She has the experience – 11 LPGA wins – and her length should have given her an advantage at Olympic Club. But under pressure, her weaknesses came out. She’s just an average putter (76th) and below average in driving accuracy (85th). Not a great combination when trying to close out a major.

Lexi also carries some extra baggage with her. Anointed at a young age as the next American superstar, the weight of expectation is greater with her than most others. Whether that adds mental pressure, only she can say but it certainly amps up the media attention. Her wins are bigger and her losses more disastrous.

In the final analysis, Lexi just didn’t get it done on Sunday. We hate to use the choke word so let’s call it a monumental stumble. We’ve seen them before.

Jon and Lumpy and Lexi shoulda won. But they didn’t. Just like the Leafs shoulda won Game 5 or Game 6 or Game 7.

But we’ll get ‘em next year.

Peter Mumford
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. He's played over 500 different courses in 21 countries and met some fascinating people along the way. He's also a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leaf fan.

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