What are the biggest choke jobs we know in sports?
Greg Norman, as great a golfer as he is, is best remembered for the epic bottle job he did in the 1996 US Masters. Discounting the time when in ’86 and ’87 in major tournaments, his opponents holed out their shots to beat him (it wasn’t his fault), the 1996 bottle job was the bottle job of all time. Leading by six going into the final round, he ended up losing it by his own stupidity.
Jean Van De Velde – bottler on the 1999 British Open. We all knew what happened at Carnoustie. Last hole, up by 3, and bottled it due to his own stupidity.
Arnold Palmer – 7 stroke lead in 1966 US Open on the last day – bottled it and lost. Adam Scott – 2012, played +4 in the last 4 holes and lost to Ernie Els. Rory in 2011 Masters, Dustin Johnso – God knows how many times he bottled. Jordan Spieth – 2016 Masters. Bottled.
Even away from golf, 1988 FA Cup comes to mind, with Liverpool expected to eviscerate Wimbledon. They bottled and lost. They did make up for it in 2005 Champions League Finals in Instanbul, where they turned a 3-0 deficit to win it against AC Milan. Ironically, they bottled it again with Crystal Palace in 2013 and lost the title race for good – 3-0 with 11 minutes to go and they couldn’t win. Idiots. Brazil losing 1 – 7 to Germany in 2014. At home, in Brazil. WTF was that.
Of recent memories – PSG bottling it with Barcelona last year and this year with Manchester United, makes them officially the biggest bottling football team in history. Barcelona choking this year to Liverpool – ironically again a 3-0 deficit being erased. Liverpool loves and hates these 3-0 scorelines somehow. Ajax bottling it with Tottenham, and Arsenal doing their own series of bottling and choking this year to somehow miss Champions League and lost 1-4 to Chelsea in the Europa Finals. In Baku. Where-ever that is.
Why am I going on with this?
Because I am a bottler. I am officially now a Choke-artist.
My golfing goals in life is simple: Hole In One (luck) and breaking 80 (skill and not being a bottler).
I have mentioned previously, the best chance I have for breaking 80 is always in Mines Golf Course – not just because it plays to a 71, but because I like this course. It’s my go-to course for great scores. My 81 last year and my other scores of 80s are all there. I don’t remember the last time I scored 90 and above in Mines, which is saying a lot.
So I had a competition round this week in Mines and we started off shotgun on the tough Hole 3 Index hole.
Hole 3: Bogey. It’s the first hole. It’s the toughest. A bogey with a 7 footer to start? I’ll take it.
Hole 4: Missed a 4 footer birdie putt. In a tournament with system 36 where Birdies means you play under. How choking is that? Par.
Hole 5: Bogeyed which is fine for a tough par 3.
Hole 6: Par, good putt from the fringe.
Hole 7: Great shot to the tough par 3, 2 putt par.
Hole 8: Almost bottled this as my 3 wood was topped and I ended up in the rough. I managed to coax this with a 4 on, and amazingly two putted from the top of a super difficult green. Bogey.
Hole 9: Almost lost ball, but instead regulation on, and two putted from VERY far away for Par.
Hole 10: Bogey. This is the one with a big tree in the middle.
Hole 11: Pretty amazing par as I chipped from very far away and had to hole an 8 footer.
Hole 12: Again, almost bottled this par 5 when I topped my hybrid the same way as the other par 5. I landed in the deep bunker but conjured an amazing bunker shot to land in front of green and navigated for a bogey.
Hole 13: Tough par 4, my first double bogey, but it’s pretty expected on this hole.
Hole 14: Par, putted from fringe.
Hole 15: Par, putted from fringe.
Hole 16: Pulled my shot but also recovered with a putt from off the green and holing par with an 8 footer.
Hole 17: Tun’s hole – par from a very long two putt.
Hole 18: Again, pulled left, and again, like Hole 7, recovered and managed to hole my par from 6 feet.
So let’s recap. At this point, after 16 holes, my scores were +1, +1, +2, +2, +2, +3, +3, +4, +4, +5, +7, +7, +7, +7, +7, +7.
I was +7 with 2 to play. It dawned on me that I could break bloody 80 for the first time.
Going back to hole 1, I popped my drive but recovered by playing it safe. I landed near the hole and barely missed my birdie putt. Settled for another par.
I was +7 going into the final hole = the long par 5 hole 2. I knew I just needed to navigate and avoid the water on the left. I could bogey the hole and still break 80.
Amazing drive. Best I hit all day and I hit some pretty amazing drives all day. Best second shot with my six iron to land me around 120m from the green. Mission accomplished, I avoided the water on left, and had a pitching wedge in my hand to the enticing green and all I had to do was to put it on or near and I could play par and bogey and ride off into the sunset.
I had two clubs in my hand.
The 52 Gap was never going to reach the green but it would be short, and I was playing to a red pin. I would be comfortable putting slightly off the green for a par. The 52 was my go-to club. I can hit this baby with my eyes closed and with my left leg chopped off.
My pitching wedge was not so confident, but it would put me pin high. I was chasing a birdie to put my round under for the tournament.
My God, I should have selected the damn 52.
My pitching wedge dug too deep into the ground and because of it being soggy, the whole ball duffed. Not only duffed, it duffed into a fairway BUNKER. So my fourth ball was hit out of the bunker (I was already extremely shocked) and I managed to chip on for 5 – on , reasonable but it would be a snaky 10 footer downhill for my coveted prize of sub-80.
HOW THE FLAMING F*** did it even come to this??
Going for 3 bloody on with a pitching wedge and now I had to sink a 10 footer to avoid double bogey and to avoid bottling my sub 80 opportunity??
I had so many looks at this damn putt, but inevitably, fatefully, the putt slithered offline midway through and ended up low and shit – just as how my soul ended up.
Still the best round but it was the way I played to final hole that really killed me. I bottled it. I choked.
So the next time I call someone or some team a bottler – I am reminded – I bottled it in Mines, and choked my sub 80 round.
The mission in life to break 80 continues.