Doug Sanders was four times a Major runner up, 20 times a winner on the PGA Tour, but he will be most remembered by many for his Open golf choke in 1970
Worst Open Golf Choke #5: Doug Sanders, St Andrews, 1970
Having saved par from the bunker on the Road Hole, Doug Sanders stood on the 18th tee of the 1970 Open holding a one-shot lead.
His drive from the tee was long and took him to within 75 yards of the green.
He knew the distance to the green as he had paced it out before playing his approach shot. But this shot was over-hit, coming to rest at the back of the green and leaving him a downhill putt.
This putt came up 3ft short. This left him with a 3ft putt to win The Open.
He took a long time reading the putt, and then settled down to play the shot. Then he stopped to flick a bit of debris off the line.
The watching Ben Hogan said under his breath: “Back away, back away.”
But rather than walk away and re-start his pre-shot routine Sanders played. And pushed it right.
“I never got set,” Sanders admitted afterwards.
This took him into an 18-hole play-off with Jack Nicklaus, who went on to win the seventh of his 18 Majors.
Sanders’ choke meant it was the fourth time Sanders was runner up in a Major, and the second time at The Open.
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Sanders was born to a poor family, picked cotton as a youth and was self-taught as a golfer.
“If I had made that putt, all the endorsements, the clothing lines, the golf-course designs,” Sanders reflected later in life on his Open golf choke. “It’s like buying a lottery ticket worth $200 million and then dropping it in the can and watching the numbers wash away. I felt like I cheated myself.”
“But measure my worth in friendships and I’m rich. This game has given me the opportunity to play golf with presidents and kings.”
In 2000, on the 30th anniversary of his Open Golf choke, Sanders told an interviewer: “It doesn’t hurt much anymore. These days I can go a full five minutes without thinking about it.”