Largest 54-hole lead lost in PGA Tour golf history
- May 21, 2019
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It's a lost no player wants to be on: Largest blown 54-hole lead in PGA Tour history.
But just as in life, crazy things can happen in golf.
Imagine playing your tail off for 54 holes, building a massive lead and then the final round comes and, suddenly, POOF!, the lead disappears and the tournament you figured you had in the bag is gone. Even worse if it comes in a major.
Elite golfers will tell you they take things one shot at a time.
That's got to be mostly true. But it can't be easy to at least think a little bit into the immediate future when you're sporting what most would consider an insurmountable lead.
If you do think that way, it can lead to a crushing demise.
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That's what has happened to seven players in PGA Tour history. The biggest blown lead in golf history entering the final round of a four-round tournament is six strokes. Here's the players who it has happened to, according to the PGA Tour media guide:
Biggest 54-hole leads lost in golf history (all led by 6 strokes)
- Bobby Cruickshank, 1928 Florida Open
- Gay Brewer, 1969 Danny Thomas-Diplomat Classic
- Hal Sutton, 1983 Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic
- Greg Norman, 1996 Masters Tournament
- Sergio Garcia, 2005 Wachovia Championship
- Spencer Levin, 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open
- Dustin Johnson, 2017 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Here's how it happened to them, chronologically.
1928 Florida Open: Bobby Cruickshank
Back in the 1920s, the PGA Tour hadn't yet formed, but professionals played on a circuit run by the PGA of America that would eventually become the PGA Tour.
That's where Scotland's Cruickshank played, and quite successfully, we might add.
Cruickshank won 17 times and even notched top-6 finishes in all four majors, highlighted y runner-up showings at the 1923 and 1932 U.S. Opens.
But, the 1928 Florida Open got away from Cruickshank. The details are scarce, but Cruickshank clearly did not enjoy the final day, shooting 80, and Henry Ciuci came away as the unlikely winner.
1969 Danny Thomas-Diplomat Classic: Gay Brewer
Gay Brewer, 1967 Masters champion, took a healthy six-stroke lead into the final round of the 1969 Danny Thomas-Diplomat Classic in Florida at Diplomat Presidential Country Club.
Brewer shot a 73 in that final round and a hard-charging Arnold Palmer stole the win.
Brewer would never have a chance to avenge that loss — it was the first and only time the tournament was played.
1983 Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic: Hal Sutton
The PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year in 1982, Sutton had a little setback that would end up being a mere blip on the radar of an otherwise stellar career when he coughed up a six-shot, 54-hole advantage at the 1983 Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic.
Sutton was unraveled by a disappointing 77 in the tournament's final round and settle for a T3 finish. Calvin Peete won the tournament when he fired a final-round score of 69.
1996 Masters Tournament: Greg Norman
This is, no doubt, the most memorable and most painful entry in the "blown 54-hole lead" club.
Greg Norman, one of the most dominant players of his era, looked like he was finally going to get the monkey off his back at Augusta National, a place where he finished inside the top 5 six times previously, including two T2s.
Already a two-time Open Champion, Norman looked poised to win the green jacket and become the first Australian-born player to do so.
But, it wasn't meant to be for the Shark.
Norman imploded in the final round with a 6-over 78, just enough for a stalking Nick Faldo to pounce.
Faldo fired a 67 that day to defeat Norman by five shots and seemed more apologetic than ecstatic in the aftermath.
Even with the 78, Norman would still finish second.
2005 Wachovia Championship: Sergio Garcia
Garcia began the final round at Quail Hollow six strokes ahead of Vijay Singh.
The 2017 Masters champ had an early meltdown, but recovered to hold a one-shot lead with two to play. With a bogey-par finish, Garcia shot 72 and went into a three-man playoff with Singh and Jim Furyk.
The playoff would go four holes with Singh winning, but Garcia was eliminated with a three-putt bogey on the first playoff hole.
"They say you learn more from your losses than your wins," Garcia said at the time. "And I've got a lot from this week to learn."
And he did.
2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open: Spencer Levin
Talk about a brutal place to have a meltdown.
TPC Scottsdale's par-3 16th hole is, hands down, the most rowdy in golf. The entire tournament has and encourages a party-like atmosphere.
But the final round in 2012 was no party for Spencer Levin. Far from it.
Throughout his career, Levin has been known as a player who can get hot under the collar. It's certainly not good for his game.
Levin shot 4-over 75 in the final round, while Kyle Stanley rallied with a 67 to win the tournament. Levin finished third.
Interestingly, it was Stanley a week earlier who surrendered a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines.
Redemption came quickly for Stanley.
2017 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions: Dustin Johnson
Did anyone see this one coming?
A six-stroke lead for the No. 1-ranked player in the world, a major champion, with one round to go? Surely the final 18 holes would be a mere formality for Dustin Johnson, right?
As was the case for the six players before him, Johnson was not on his game for those last 18 holes. He struggled to a score of 77 (mind you, there were 25 mph winds that day), while Justin Rose emerged victorious, thanks to a final-round 67 that included a back-nine 31.
Johnson tied for second.
Like Stanley, however, Johnson bounced back to win his very next start — the Tournament of Champions a couple months later.
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