The Americans had a commanding lead in the Ryder Cup, only to lose Sunday. Where does this collapse rank in the history of sports?
Women's Open collapse in '90 was devastating
By Mechelle Voepel
Falling apart when it seems like a victory is just about the formality of finishing? The U.S. Ryder Cup team experienced that Sunday.
It surely will prompt memories of the usual names of unfortunate individuals/teams known for their throats getting, well, a little tight at a most inopportune time. The 1964 Phillies blowing a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 games to go. Jean Van de Velde playing No. 18 as if he'd lost his mind in the 1999 British Open. Jana Novotna being a point away from a 5-1 lead in the third set over Steffi Graf in the 1993 Wimbledon women's final, only to have her game -- and the title -- suddenly evaporate.
But here's a less-cited case of the horror of watching a "sure thing" get away: In the 1990 U.S. Women's Open, bad weather forced the last two rounds to be played Sunday. Patty Sheehan led by 11 shots early that day, but she completely plummeted and lost to Betsy King by one stroke after rounds of 75 and 76.
Sheehan was devastated, but did bounce back to win the Women's Open in 1992 and '94.
Ryder collapse bigger than the rest
By Melissa Isaacson
This was Frenchman Jean Van de Velde's triple-bogey on the 18th hole of the 1999 British Open. Greg Norman in the '96 Masters. The 2012 White Sox in September.
The 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline. Oh, wait.
That was the year the U.S. prevailed after facing a four-point deficit, the same margin the Europeans overcame Sunday to capture this year's Cup. Somehow, however, this felt bigger than all of those.
Seemingly en route to a U.S. rout before a home crowd as raucous as it gets, the turning point would come when the Europeans took the final two matches Saturday night before sweeping the first five on Sunday. By the time Tiger Woods missed a 3 1/2-foot putt for par on 18 -- the Americans losing five of the six matches that went to the last hole on the final day -- Chicagoans were having flashbacks to the '69 Cubs.
Was this past weekend the biggest collapse ever? Maybe not. But the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team is, as they say, in the team photo.
Late collapses abound in Chicago
By Sarah Spain
Living in downtown Chicago, just a quick train ride from both Medinah and the Cell, I can't help but compare the Ryder Cup collapse to the meltdown on the South Side. In great position heading into the final day, the U.S. team allowed the Europeans to stage a record-tying comeback, losing eight of the 12 singles matches. Sounds a bit like the White Sox down the home stretch ...
The South Siders have lost 10 of their last 12 games to blow their lead in the AL Central and fall three games back of rival Detroit. The Sox, who haven't been this far back in the standings since late May, have hit .153 with runners in scoring position over their last 12 games. The only chance they have to make the postseason now would be if they win each of their last three games and the Tigers lose each of their last three. Two stunning collapses happening right in my backyard. Thank goodness the Cubs were considerate enough to tank the season right from the start -- no late-season disappointments from those guys!
Ryder Cup collapse not high on my list
By Kate Fagan
Sunday's collapse was bad -- tortured, really. If you take into account the U.S.'s home-course advantage, the Miracle at Medinah (that's what we're calling it already) is probably the biggest choke in Ryder Cup history. But where exactly does it rank in sports history? Well, perhaps I'm biased against Ryder Cup golf, but not that high on my list.
First, without a doubt, are the '04 Yankees, who became the first team in major league baseball to lose a 3-0 series advantage. I shouldn't have to explain this one any further, although it's fun to remember how that ALCS collapse sent the Bronx Bombers into a spiral for years to come.
That Yankees' collapse is No. 1 by a long shot. Really, after that, there are just a bunch of others tied for second place, like the 2011 Red Sox, who led the wild card by nine games in early September and failed to make the postseason, or the 1992-93 Houston Oilers, who lost a playoff game to the Buffalo Bills, despite Houston leading by 32 points in the second half.
And who could forget the 2008 NCAA men's basketball title game, in which the Memphis Tigers lost to the Kansas Jayhawks after leading by nine points with just more than two minutes to play?
Heck, I think even golf itself has produced a more epic collapse than Sunday's: Adam Scott blowing a four-shot lead with four holes to go at the British Open earlier this year, or in 1996, when Greg Norman lost the Masters after leading by six strokes in the final round.
Biggest collapse depends on what sport you favor
By Melissa Jacobs
This is a tough question with no objective answer. It really depends on what sport you find most engaging. To me, 2010's "Miracle at the New Meadowlands" is a standout.
Michael Vick is rightfully lauded for leading the Eagles from 21 points back with only eight minutes left to beat the Giants 38-31 on New York's home turf. It was arguably the greatest comeback in NFL history. However, the Giants choked and choked and choked again. For those eight minutes, the Giants' offense couldn't advance the ball and kill the clock; the Giants' defense had no idea what coverage to put out there and seemed to lose all ability to tackle. But no missed tackle compares with Giants' punter Matt Dodge's decision to punt the ball to DeSean Jackson with 14 seconds remaining rather than kicking it out of bounds. Jackson took it to the house. The Eagles won 38-31.
The Giants missed the playoffs by one game that year, and Tom Coughlin's seat got hot in a hurry.
Ryder Cup disappointment will be short-lived
By Amanda Rykoff
Since we're discussing historic sports choke jobs, I could turn this into a rehashing of the Red Sox epic September collapse last season to miss the playoffs. But since the Yankees have completed their freefall from a 10-game lead to a tie for the American League East with three games to play, I'm going to refrain from spending too much time on that one (thankfully there's the additional wild-card spot to cushion the fall).
This weekend's Ryder Cup provides yet another memorable sports collapse/comeback, but there's something odd about the Ryder Cup: It's a team event by definition, yet several individual golfers had to collapse down the stretch. So do we measure this U.S. Ryder Cup team collapse against other team collapses -- like the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series, the 1992 Houston Oilers, the 2003 Chicago Cubs in the NLCS or the 2004 Yankees in the ALCS -- or individual choke jobs like Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters or Jean Van de Velde at the 1999 British Open? And why is it that so many of the most memorable choke jobs involve golf? Is it because the game is by definition frustrating (it's referred to as "a good walk spoiled") and out of the player's control? But I digress.
I'm not sure if sports fans will be discussing this 10 or 20 years from now like some of the other memorable choke jobs mentioned above. I'm not even sure if sports fans will be discussing it next month. The Ryder Cup, while a significant event in the world of golf, isn't a major championship, an Olympics, an NFL conference championship or a championship series with a spot in the World Series on the line. It's a golf competition that plays on our jingoistic instincts, gets sports fans riled up while it's on TV, and then fades off into the distance. It's a talking point, but nothing soul-crushing.
Miracle at Medinah lacks certain remarkableness
By Graham Hays
If someone asks me to come up with a list of memorable collapses a couple of decades from now, there's a good chance I'll remember Sunday at Medinah. There's no chance it will top the list.
Slow-developing collapses like those engineered by the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves last season eventually lose some of their luster in our news cycle of constant analysis and ceaseless ranking. By the time a collapse reaches completion, there's not much left to see, the scapegoats long since designated and the shock gone.
By the same token, the sudden collapse is almost too powerful, overwhelming in the moment but the equivalent of consuming your beverage of choice with a funnel and plastic tubing. Jean Van de Velde's meltdown on the 18th hole in the 1999 British Open and Lindsey Jacobellis' self-inflicted snowboard ignominy in the 2006 Winter Olympics would make my list of top collapses without hesitation, but they came and went in the blink of an eye. They are memorable for the hubris and human failure involved, but they need to be replayed to be fully appreciated.
Sunday's Ryder Cup drama fell in the sweet spot. It had the necessary time to simmer as it played out over many hours -- presumably like a lot of beyond-casual golf fans, I only flipped to NBC once Twitter and other outlets made it clear something potentially historic was unfolding. (And social media surely plays a role in enhancing the legacy of something like Sunday.) It had timing, it had history, it had pageantry and it had a strong final scene. But we've seen better.
I can't imagine anything in my lifetime displacing the 2004 ALCS as the most memorable collapse. Spread out over a series of nights, but not stretched thin over a series of weeks, it seemed to peak at precisely the moment all of those watching had come to fully appreciate its significance without tiring of it. It was about teams and history. And it was about long-suffering and not yet entirely insufferable fans in Boston. The Miracle/Meltdown at Medinah was close, but it wasn't all of that.