Open Championship’s top-5 Greatest Misses – #2

Mike Wilson

Doug Sanders (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA via Getty Images)

With this year’s Open Championship denied to golf fans all around the world due to Coronavirus, it may be second best, but looking back at Opens past, and savouring some of the most significant single golf shots – good and bad – to have adorned the world’s most prestigious ‘Major’ in living memory might help ease – if not altogether eradicate – withdrawal symptoms and pangs of ‘Wish I was there,’ syndrome.

So here’s a highly-subjective selection of some Misses to forget – in the absence of real, live Open golf. We started at number 5 where Adam Scott’s painful finish at Royal Lytham & St Annes gifted the Claret Jug to Ernie Els in 2012. His wait for a Major would finally end at Augusta.

It was a similar story at number 4 at Royal St George’s in 2011 as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson left the door Open for our own Darren Clarke to walk through to glory while taking the podium place at 3 was Hale Irwin and his one-handed calamity missed putt at Royal Birkdale in 1983.


We’ve got two to go. Let us know what you think.


#2 99th Open Championship, St. Andrews, 8th – 12th July 1970

Dressed in a gaudy purple and mauve outfit, colourful American Doug Sanders had played himself into a position to win the Open Championship and with it, a maiden ‘Major,’ and at the spiritual ‘Home of Golf, St. Andrews over the inimitable Old Course.

The un-fancied American had never been outside the top 10 all week, going into the final round tied in second place with Jack Nicklaus, his playing partner Lee Trevino two ahead with 18 to play, but a disastrous 77 took the Mexican-American out of the frame.

Arriving on the 72nd green after a laser-like approach into the most famous putting surface in world golf, Sanders had a 3ft, downhill putt to win the Open Championship and the biggest title and pay cheque – US$7,000 – of his career.

Sanders lined it up, drew his putter back, then inexplicably halted his tried-and-tested pre-shot routine, spotting a minuscule fragment – real or imaginary remains uncertain – of dust, which had blown into his line; he removed the offending article, reset, repeating his elaborate surveying of the putt all over again as the tension built all around him.

But, his stance changed imperceptibly, something the American surely was unaware of, and the rest is history; an uncertain, edgy prod forward, the putter head making poor contact with his ball, which leaked off to the right, the subsequent tap-in at least earning him a play-off over 18 holes against the Golden Bear the following day, Sunday, but the Sanders momentum had been halted in its tracks.

And the Monday play-off, in front of a skeleton crowd was a tense, uninspiring affair, Nicklaus shooting a level-par 72 against his compatriot’s 73, one-over, to hand the Golden Bear a second of his three Claret Jugs. For his part, Sanders, who put the events of the 72nd green 24-hours-earlier down to, ‘Sheer bad thinking on my part,’ his chance had come and gone, his race was run and he was never to win a ‘Major.’

Having lived with the ignominious incident for the rest of his life, Sanders took memories of that short missed putt to his grave when he sadly died at the age of 86 in April this year.

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