BETHESDA, MD. (AP) - Greg Norman was famous for his shortcomings in the majors, especially his “Saturday Slam” from 25 years ago when he led all four majors going into the final round and only captured one of them.
That’s not nearly as bad as what’s going on in the majors these days.
They might as well be called “Sunday Slammed.”
It started last summer, when Dustin Johnson took a three-shot lead into the final round at Pebble Beach and shot an 82, the highest score by a 54-hole leader in nearly 100 years at the U.S. Open. Two majors later, Nick Watney had a three-shot lead going into Sunday in the PGA Championship and shot an 81.
And most fresh in the major memory: Rory McIlroy.
Equipped with a four-shot lead at the Masters, and still one shot ahead when he made the turn, he hooked a tee shot into the cabins left of the 10th fairway and made triple bogey, and on the next two holes he took seven putts from a combined 20 feet on his way to an 80. He wound up joining a select group, just not the one he was expecting.
The scores are shocking enough.
Perhaps more troublesome is they have happened so frequently. Three times in the last four majors, the leader going into the final round couldn’t even break 80.
“You’re playing for history,” Ernie Els, a three-time major champion, said Tuesday. “When you start thinking that way, especially if you’re going for your first one … that’s when things can go haywire is when you’re really trying to win instead of just letting that picture in your mind play itself out, just letting your game go and just doing what you’ve done for three days.”
Johnson, Watney and McIlroy are only the latest examples, and they are getting plenty of attention because their implosions came one right after another, all within the last year. Plus, any score that starts with an “8” is sure to be remembered.
But they are not alone.
In the last decade of majors, 15 players who had at least a share of the lead going into the final round have shot 75 or worse. Aaron Baddeley shot 80 at Oakmont and Retief Goosen shot 81 at Pinehurst, both times at a U.S. Open. Norman shot 77 at Royal Birkdale when he was trying to become golf’s oldest major champion. Justin Leonard had a three-shot lead at Hazeltine and shot 77.
Three of those players already had won majors, so it can’t be blamed entirely on inexperience.
The last player to break 70 in the final round of a major when he had the lead going into Sunday was Tiger Woods, who shot 69 in the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. That was 13 majors ago.
It shows how hard majors are to win.