At least Doug Sanders’ agony was short-lived. Same with Jean van de Velde. But Greg Norman’s ran and ran, and it was like that for Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.
We’re talking here about golfers, specifically those who had the finish-line in sight only to do a wobbly. Their private agony unfolded in a most public way.
Sanders was within 100-yards of the pin on the final hole of the 1980 British Open showing three clear. His second-last shot was from three feet, and he missed it. He then tapped in to find himself all-square with Jack Nicklaus. Eighteen holes were required to decide the issue, and given the nature of his collapse the previous day, Sanders did well did finish within a shot. But it was still a Major loss, an agonising one at that.
Van der Velde found water late on in 1999, also in the Open, and had the title nicked from him. It was very sudden, but at the same time painful.
What Norman and McIlroy would have given for a quick release as their Masters woes began to pile up. Norman had a six-shot lead in the final round of the 1996 renewal of the Augusta showpiece, but then the wheels began to come off. He could do nothing right after playing his first wayward shot, and by the time he had finished with the 18th he was five shots adrift of Nick Faldo.
It was a turnaround of excruciating proportions for the Australian, and for those looking on, Faldo supporters included, it wasn’t pleasant viewing.
Same, maybe even worse, last year. McIlroy was the bubbly youngster we’d all taken to our hearts, and when he went into the last round in a commanding lead, preparations to celebrate a famous win had begun.
But it got really bad from the 10th onwards, one of the last live shots on television showing the Co Down lad pondering over a shot that had him backed up against a wooden structure. He finished well down the field behind Charl Schwartzel.
Just as Norman had done, McIlroy bounced back to with the US Open – but we can only wait to see if Adam Scott can recover from his Devon Loch at Royal Lytham the Sunday before last.
A bogey at each of the last four holes had Scott finish a shot behind Ernie Els. As the drama unfolded the inclination was there to switch off the telly, but we stayed on hoping that somehow the Aussie would find a rescuing shot.
The eyes of millions, looking in on television and on the course were focused on his every shot, yet like the others before him, he was in the loneliest place in the world.