As the year ends, we’ll take a look at the highlights and lowlights of 2010. First, we reviewed the best shots. Next, let’s check out the greatest choke jobs of 2010, another category that needs no introduction. The options certainly weren’t lacking this year. But before you dig in, consider the meltdowns that leap to your mind from 2010. If I missed one of your faves, email me. Or just drop it in the comments below. A special thanks to Intern Kevin for his assistance.
1. Robert Garrigus, St. Jude Classic. It had everything you wanted for an epic choke. Hopefully, the uber-prepared dug into their emergency stash of microwave popcorn. Garrigus had a three-shot lead going into the final hole. A damp circle around his bottoms, ironically ambiguous as to whether he had soiled himself. A drive yanked so badly that you couldn’t guise it as anything other than losing your swing under pressure. Poor decision making. More sweating. Images of Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie flashing through his head. And then a shaky two-putt for a triple-bogey to get into a playoff. But after that meltdown? Garrigus couldn’t recover, instead there was even more sweating. At least he had Zach Johnson praying for him. Which is probably directly related to Garrigus winning the Disney at the end of the season.
PGATour even dubbed Garrigus’ drive the shot of the day. Ouch. Here’s the full painful meltdown for the cringe factor.
2a. Dustin Johnson, The Majors (US Open and PGA Championship). Dustin’s meltdown at Pebble Beach was a special kind of choke. He had a three-stroke lead going into Sunday at a course where he had dominated. My thinking was that DJ was too laidback to to throw away the tournament. Then something happened. There actually was pressure and lots of it. Contrary to popular belief, DJ wasn’t immune to nerves and emotions. It didn’t take long for the wheels to start falling off.
On the second hole, he forgot that he was right-handed and flubbed a chip on his way to some more interesting shots before finally posting a 7. The problem worsened on the next hole when he foolishly hit drive and yanked it so far left that the search party couldn’t find it within the five-minute time limit (it was found like a minute after). DJ had to re-tee and carded a double-bogey. He never recovered and shot 82. It was so bad that even Jason Gore felt bad for him.
2b. We got giddy when Dustin Johnson was making his run in those final holes at the PGA Championship. After a birdie on 17, he hit a drive so far right that it was in the no-fly zone. There also happened to be some bunkers that had been invaded by spectators all week. With all the commotion and people, DJ, his caddie, rules officials, David Feherty, and the thousands hovering over DJ, no one noticed the possibility that DJ’s ball was in one of Pete Dye’s pointless bunkers. But the crazy shot DJ attempted from the bunker-not-a-bunker wasn’t a good decision, according to Johnny Miller. And when your decision becomes clouded in pressure situations, it’s arguably a sign of the choke factor. The worst part was watching DJ change his 5 to a 7. Don’t tell me that didn’t make your heart break a little.
Yet, DJ managed to recover from both tragedies and won the BMW Championship in September. Had 99% of any other pro had the same summer DJ had, they would be traumatized for life and probably would only contend in another major after years of therapy.
3. Blake Adams/Jason Day tag team, HP Byron Nelson Championship. Hanging onto a one-shot lead going into the 72nd hole, Jason Day chunked his approach shot into the water that guards the left-side of the green. Meanwhile, Blake Adams was in the trees on the right and didn’t see Day’s ball get wet. He followed Day and hit his second in the hazard, too. Day rolled in a six-footer to salvage bogey and win by two. Obviously, he’ll take the win, but I doubt that’s the way he envisioned the finish.
4. Tiger Woods, Chevron World Challenge. Sure, it’s an exhibition event, but with Tiger going winless in 2010, it was his last chance to break the losing streak, so everyone was treating the Chevron like a fifth major. Plus, there were world ranking points. Tiger had a four-shot advantage going into the final round. Never ever had he blown such a commanding lead. Tiger got off to a shaky start, three-putting two of the first three holes. He lost his swing in the middle of the round, but slowly managed to piece it back together at the end. However, it wasn’t enough to hold off Graeme McDowell, who pulled a Tiger. McDowell did to Tiger what has become his signature move, draining huge clutch putts on his opponent to win. Bottom line: Tiger blew a four-shot lead.
5. Roland Thatcher, Children’s Miracle Network Classic. If you were watching the final round of the Disney, you got a front row seat to a complete meltdown. Thatcher started the day with a four-shot lead and ended it with a three-shot loss. The pressure on the back nine got to him and one bogey led to more bogeys with a few tantrums sprinkled in between. He lost his composure and his swing. It was just ugly, especially since he was fully aware that he was having a meltdown. But there was a silver lining — he sank a clutch five-footer on the last hole to finish solo second and keep his card. Afterward, Thatcher said, “You’ll never see a happier guy who just vomited away a tournament.”
Honorable Mention: Phil Mickelson coming up short in the 12 (or more?) consecutive opportunities he had to dethrone Tiger Woods as the world’s No. 1. At tournaments like WGC-Bridgestone and the Tour Championship, it was practically teed up for Phil, but he just didn’t play well on Sundays. At least he has a few Green Jackets to help him sleep easier. Still, the whole No. 1 thing was something that would have been “cool,” said Phil. Realistically, chances are slim he manages to rise to No. 1 since it’s only gotten harder. When we look back, it’ll be an accolade that slipped through his fingers.
Your turn! How would you rank 2010’s most epic trainwrecks? With all the meltdowns, choke jobs, or whatever you want to call them, I’m sure I missed at least one of your favorite cringe-worthy moments. (I can think of at least 7 more examples off the top of my head, so I know you have a few.) Please share!