Major Losses Overshadowing Victories

As I watched the television coverage from the Masters I noticed that when analysts recalled the 2016 Masters, they did not speak of Danny Willett’s win, they focused on Jordan Spieth’s meltdown. Spieth had a five shot lead when he came to the back nine then disaster — bogeys on 10 and 11 followed by a quadruple-bogey (seven) on hole 12. Willett shot a bogey free 67 but that doesn’t matter because most golfers remember Spieth losing the Masters. Plus, it doesn’t help that Willett has played horribly since winning.

The ANA Inspiration is another example. Can you name the winner of the 2017 ANA? I bet if you are a golf fan you vividly remember that Lexi Thompson was assessed a four-stroke penalty due to a Rules infraction that occurred during Saturday’s third round which was “phoned-in” by a fan watching the broadcast. Thompson played through tear-filled eyes to give herself a chance in a playoff against So Yeon Ryu and Ryu won.

As with the Masters, much of the golf coverage leading up to the 2018 ANA championship focused on what happened to Lexi Thompson in 2017 thus taking away from the normal focus on the previous winner.

I cannot remember who won the  2012 Kraft Nabisco (now called the ANA Inspiration) but I remember the image of I.K. Kim missing a one-foot putt for the win. I had to look up the winner – I.K. Kim lost to Sun Young Yoo. Or should I say Sun Young Yoo won the 2012 Kraft Nabisco in a playoff.

I would guess most golf fans cannot tell you who won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open but they will remember Anna Nordqvist was assessed a two-stroke penalty because a television viewer “phoned-in” that her club had grazed the sand in the bunker. This did impact the championship outcome with Brittany Lang coming out on top.

A true golf fan will know the name Jean Van de Velde. Van de Velde is famous for his meltdown at the 1999 British Open. Every year the video of Van de Velde’s meltdown is shown sometime during the week of the British Open. I had to look up the winner, it was Paul Laurie.

Even Jordan Spieth’s 2015 U.S. Open win at Chambers Bay will always have an asterisk noting Dustin Johnson’s 3-putt on the 18th hole causing him to lose the championship. Most golf fans were not shocked that Spieth won but how he won was shocking. Of course, redemption came when DJ won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

The bottom line is “a win is a win” (as the saying goes) but it must be frustrating for a winner who’s victory will always be overshadowed by the story of the person that lost.

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There are no “gimme” putts in major tournaments

The most amazing thing about watching the Kraft Nabisco TV coverage on Sunday was the sound — the sound of the spectators gasping in unison as they watched, what everyone thought was a “gimme” putt lip-out of the cup.  The sound of disbelief that the leader, I. K. Kim missed a one-foot putt.

Instead of winning her first major in regulation, Kim was now in a sudden-death playoff.  The players would play the 18th hole over and over again until someone won.  Well, it only took one playoff hole and it was heartbreaking to see how Kim looked so defeated.  As much as I’m sure everyone was hoping she would win in the playoff, it was not surprising to see Sun Young Yoo make a birdie putt and win.

Once again, we witnessed how golf tests the mental toughness of players.  First, the loss of concentration to miss a “gimme” putt.  It is called a “gimme” putt because it is so close to the hole that if you were playing for fun (not scoring for a handicap or anything meaningful), your friends would say “that’s a gimme” assuming you would make the putt.  So, you’d pick up your ball and move on.  But there are no “gimme” putts in majors.

Then, after such a monumental error, the player must have the mental fortitude to get prepared for the playoff.  You could tell from I. K. Kim’s body language that she was still in shock from what just happened a few minutes earlier.  Her first shot off the tee when left into the rough.  That is when I knew that mentally she was done and it would not be a multiple hole playoff.

Hopefully, Kim will move on and learn from this experience.  We have seen other players “shake it off” after a devastating loss.  I wrote a post about Kyle Stanley’s amazing comeback after losing at the Farmers Insurance Open and winning the next week at the Waste Management Open.

I’ll be watching now to see if I. K. Kim can over come her “big miss.”  Her next opportunity to win will be mid-April at the Lotte Championship when the LPGA goes to Hawaii.

A final note on human nature — the sad thing is that most people will not remember Yoo’s win; but they will remember Kim’s loss.