The playoff is the most exciting and stressful part of any golf tournament. After 72 holes, these pros have to continue to perform at the highest level, dueling against one another, one hole at a time. The playoff is where a golfer demonstrates exactly how much grace they can show under incredible scrutiny. They are the sole attraction left on the course, being watched by millions on television and by every spectator on the course.
The great pressure in the playoff is that the result depends entirely on after-regulation play. In some of these examples, one golfer barely holds on as a motivated player tears up the back nine in an attempt to force a playoff. As we’ll see, quite often the one with the momentum comes away with the victory. The pros who stagnate on Sunday and lose the playoff are forever stuck with the knowledge of what could have been.
The following is a list of some of the most expensive missed putts in a PGA playoff round. These are moments when the golfer has the chance to extend the playoff round with one putt. Although many of these golfers went on to win their own tournaments, these are the putts that will forever haunt them on sleepless nights. Pros like Ernie Els, Thomas Levet, and Rocco Mediate all fell in the playoff because of one stroke. That doesn’t mean they didn’t go on to continue wonderful careers, but the playoff does not take into account a pro’s reputation. That’s the beauty of the playoff – it is cold, uncaring, and unforgiving. The prize goes to the man who can withstand the pressure and perform at each instance.
A surprising amount of these playoffs have been decided by one stroke, most often a missed putt. We decided to tally up exactly how much money they lost because of this, and share it with you.
How kind of us.
10. 1995 PGA Championship, Colin Montgomerie Lost $144,000
Steve Elkington (winner) – $360,000
Colin Montgomerie – $216,000
Loss of $144,000
In 1995, the PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club came down to a single putt in a sudden death playoff. Steve Elkington made a 20+ foot putt to make birdie. Colin Montgomerie tried to follow suit, but could not make his shot.
This all happened after both golfers managed to come back from six and five stroke deficits behind Ernie Els. Elkington shot a 64 in his final round to force the playoff and outlasted Montgomerie to take the first prize. “Elk”, as they called him, was a fan favorite. He completed the comeback to the delight of his supporters both in the US and in his native Australia.
T8. 2004 British Open, Ernie Els Lost $290,000
Todd Hamilton (winner) – $720,000
Ernie Els – $430,000
Loss of $290,000
Ernie Els, after finishing in the 60’s for all four rounds, missed by one stroke on the third playoff hole. Els shot a 68 in the fourth round of the tournament, one under Hamilton’s 69, to force the playoff. This gave Todd Hamilton the chance to win with a par putt on the fourth and final playoff hole, which he sank with ease.
This was the second time Ernie Els had lost the Open while scoring in the 60’s for the entire tournament. Todd Hamilton was somewhat of an unknown entity in this tournament. He succeeded in winning his first Major, and against non other than Ernie Els. An impressive feat.
T8. 2000 Mercedes Championship, Ernie Els Lost $290,000
Tiger Woods (winner) – $630,000
Ernie Els – $340,000
Loss of $290,000
Poor Ernie Els makes the list again. Once again, he played a stellar set of rounds at the tournament, only to be beaten by a 40 foot putt. The playoff between Woods and Els went down as the most memorable event in the Mercedes/Tournament of Champions’ history.
The playoff was forced when both players, after a lengthy battle for the lead on Sunday, eagled the 18th hole. Both players had good momentum coming into the extra rounds. They tied on the first hole, after Woods was forced to make an 8 foot putt for birdie. It was Els who cracked under the pressure on the second extra hole.
Of course, we can’t really say “Poor Ernie Els”- He walked away with $340,000. But the sting of losing after yet another impressive performance would have hurt more than missing the big prize.
7. 2000 PGA Championship, Bob May Lost $360,000
Tiger Woods (winner) – $900,000
Bob May – $540,000
Loss of $360,000
In a three hole playoff round, Tiger Woods birdied the first. Bob May managed a par, but failed to make up the one stroke difference on the next two holes. His missed putt on the first playoff hole came back to haunt him, as Woods took the Championship, and a $900,000 prize, right from under him.
This of course finished off a dramatic comeback for Tiger Woods. He birdied the 18th hole to force a playoff. Bob May probably still dreams about these two putts- Tiger’s dramatic birdie on 18 and his own miss on the first playoff hole. Bob May had many chances to put this away.
This isn’t the last we’ll see of Tiger either.
6. 2002 British Open, Thomas Levet Lost $413,333
Ernie Els (winner) – $700,000
Thomas Levet -$286,667
Loss of $413,333
This loss hurts even more for Thomas Levet, who beat out Stewart Appleby and Steve Elkington in the first four playoff holes. After those two were eliminated by one stroke, the prize came down to sudden death. After landing in the bunker, Levet finished with a bogey. Ernie Els tapped in a par to win first place.
The loss of $400,000 must sting even more knowing that you beat out two other finalists, and that you took the eventual winner to five extra holes. Levet took home $286,667, the same as the other playoff contestants.
5. 2003 Masters Tournament, Len Mattiace Lost $432,000
Mike Weir (winner) – $1,080,000
Len Mattiace – $648,000
Loss of $432,000
The playoffs in the 2003 Masters Tournament were between two golfers who few people expected to be battling for the lead. Both were eager to finally prove themselves at golf’s most coveted tournament.
Mattiace hit a rough approach shot, which put him to the left of the green. Tree cover forced him to chip it in short, leaving him with a 30 foot putt for bogey. He missed, and tapped in the next shot to finish two strokes over. Mike Weir finished with a bogey.
That missed putt cost Mattiace $432,000, as well as the prestigious green jacket. Neither player would make it this far again.
4. 2005 Masters Tournament, Chris DiMarco Lost $504,000
Tiger Woods (winner) – $1,260,000
Chris DiMarco – $756,000
Loss of $504,000
The 2005 Masters showcased one of golf’s greatest shots, with Tiger Woods’ dramatic chip in on 16. This was the shot that had the ball almost refusing fall into the hole, flashing the Nike logo before finally falling in for a birdie. Woods then went on to blow a four stroke lead, letting DiMarco force a playoff with a birdie on 18.
In the sudden death round, DiMarco two-putted for a par. That missed putt led to his demise as Woods sunk an eighteen footer to win the Masters. DiMarco said of the event:
“You know, I went out and shot 68 on Sunday, which is a very good round, and 12 under is usually good enough to win… I was just playing with Tiger Woods”
3. 2008 US Open, Rocco Mediate Lost $540,000
Tiger Woods (winner) – $1,350,000
Rocco Mediate- $810,000
Loss of $540,000
As many others had before him, Rocco Mediate fell to yet another Tiger Woods comeback. Only months after knee surgery, Woods came back from one stroke back by sinking a dramatic 12 foot putt on 18.
Mediate survived the ensuing 18 hole playoff round, managing to return from a four stroke deficit on the back nine. In the sudden death round, Mediate missed a chance to extend play to a second hole when he didn’t sink a putt from the green side rough. He would tap it in for a bogey, and fall to Woods’ birdie.
Mediate’s fall to the classic Tiger comeback cost him a cool $540,000.
T1. 2012 Masters Tournament, Louis Oosthuizen Lost $576,000
Bubba Watson (winner) – $1,440,000
Louis Oosthuizen -$864,000
Loss of $576,000
Oosthuizen made a double eagle on the par-5 second hole at Augusta, only the fourth ever double eagle made at a Masters event. The score put him at ten under, and in the lead. He would finish at that score, only to be tied by Bubba Watson who birdied four times on the back nine.
Oosthuizen would throw away his incredible round on the second sudden death hole. He missed his putt for par after slowly making his way to the green. Watson only had to two putt the hole to take the tournament.
T1. 2013 Masters Tournament, Angel Cabrera Lost $576,000
Adam Scott (winner) – $1,440,000
Angel Cabrera – $864,000
Loss of $576,000
Both Scott and Cabrera finished by sinking a birdie on 18 and forcing a playoff. Cabrera had previously won the 2009 Masters in a playoff, but he could not keep up with Adam Scott. Both finished the first playoff hole in four strokes, forcing yet another sudden death hole.
The jacket came down to a single putt. Cabrera failed to sink a 15 foot putt from good position on the green. Scott sunk his own putt from 12 feet to win. Angel Cabrera failed to repeat his 2009 playoff performance, and as a result came home with a mere $864,00, more than five hundred grand short of the big prize. And of course, one green jacket short as well.
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