Five of the greatest golf comebacks

28 May 2014

With great comebacks from Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy over the weekend we look at five of the greatest ever comebacks in this history of the sport.

Who: Tiger Woods

Event: 2000 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Woods was at the peak of his powers and came into the tournament with five consecutive wins under his belt. It became de rigeur in any tournament to never rule Tiger out and it was events like this that ensured he would always be relevant even when not near the top of the leaderboard. He began five strokes adrift of Matt Gogel and Mark Brooks, but Gogel made three early birdies and Woods was seven behind at the turn. Amazingly Woods won by two clear shots.

Who: Gary Player

Event: 1978 Masters

Comebacks in golf are even more impressive when it is a case of one golfer overhauling another without the help of ‘another’ dropping a few shots along the way. Hubert Green went into the final round as a clear leader and didn’t do much wrong, hitting a par final round. Tom Watson and Rod Funseth both carded 69s to draw level, but irrepressible Player came from nowhere with a round of 64, scoring just 30 on the back nine including five birdies in his last seven holes to make up eight shots, overhaul everyone and take the title.

Who: Jack Nicklaus

Event: 1986 Masters

Player was 42 when he crowned his auspicious comeback. Nicklaus was 46 when he pulled this one off. He had won his 17th major back in 1980 and no-one really gave any credence to the idea of another one, especially as four shots separated him and leader Greg Norman going into the final round. Norman did OK, carding a final round 70. Meanwhile. Tom Kite, who started the round two in front of Nicklaus, posted an excellent 68. But Nicklaus matched Player’s feat of a back nine score of 30 including eagle, birdie, birdie on 15, 16, 17 to come from nowhere and take the title 23 years after his first Masters win.

Who: Paul Lawrie

Event: 1999 British Open

In truth we were going to leave this out as it owes a lot to another golfer’s demise. But ultimately, while the overwhelming memory of this event was Jean Van de Velde making a damp, sandy, rough triple-bogey on 72, Lawrie must be give credit for getting back into contention as he went into the fourth round 10 shots behind the leader. He carded a tournament high 67 (remarkable considering the winning tournament score was +6) to make up double figures on van de Velde and five on Justin Leonard. The three of them would go into a three-way play-off over four holes. Lawrie finished even while his opponents went three-over.

Who: USA and Europe

Event Ryder Cup 1999 and 2012

Both teams have claim to massive comebacks in the Ryder Cup. In 1999 it was the Battle of Brookline and Europe looked set to make it a hat-trick of wins as they went into the last day leading 10-6 and need just 4 out of 12 Singles to retain the title. But the US put six points on the board before Europe could draw breath and none of the wins were even closely fought. The US took 8½ shots on a bad tempered day to win.
13 years later and it was Europe’s turn for a Miracle at Medinah. In this case Europe were actually down 10-4 with two four-balls still out on the course on day two. They won them both but still faced a seemingly unsurmountable 10-6 deficit. But as 1999 proved, “seemingly insurmountable” was also “eminently possible” as Europe stormed to a 14½ 13½ victory.

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