Hunter Mahan and the greatest choke artists of all time
Moments after Rickie Fowler gave the Americans a chance to win the Ryder Cup, Hunter Mahan flubbed it away.
Mahan succumbed to the pressure on the 17th hole Monday, chunking a chip to hand Europe a 14.5-13.5 victory in this year’s international golf showdown. Mahan’s inability to come through in the clutch looked even worse after the 21-year-old Fowler had birdied the final three holes of his round to earn a half-point and keep the U.S. in contention into the final match.
Mahan is hardly the first to wilt in the heat of the spotlight. Here’s a look at six classic meltdowns when the stakes were at their highest.Jean Van de Velde, 1999 British Open
The Frenchman’s debacle on the final hole has to be the greatest individual gag job in the history of sports.
Despite owning a three-shot lead, Van de Velde elected to hit driver off the tee and was actually fortunate to keep the ball in play. Then, instead of laying up, he went for the green on his second shot and drilled it off the greenside grandstands and into knee-deep rough. Van de Velde chunked his third shot into Barry Burn, where he ridiculously actually considered hitting out of shin-deep water before taking a drop. He then hit his fifth shot into a bunker and needed to get up and down for a triple-bogey seven, forcing a three-way playoff that he eventually lost to Paul Lawrie.
At least Van de Velde could laugh at himself. He later replayed Carnoustie’s 18th hole using only a putter for a commercial, scoring a double bogey on his third attempt. Phil Mickelson, 2006 U.S. Open
Lefty played the first 71 holes like the best golfer in the world, then resembled a drunken Saturday afternoon hacker on the final hole. Needing a par to win or a bogey to force a playoff, Mickelson hit a tent with his drive, then drilled his second shot off a tree and then duffed his next shot into a sand trap. His bogey putt ended up 10 feet past the hole as Mickelson finished with a double-bogey and in second place.
“I just can’t believe that I did that,” said Mickelson. “I am such an idiot.”Lindsey Jacobellis, 2006 Olympics
The American was coasting to gold in snowboard cross when the urge to showboat got the best of her. With a three-second lead over Tanja Frieden of Switzerland, Jacobellis tried an unnecessary backside method grab on the second-last jump of the course and wiped out just before the finish line, forcing her to settle for silver.