When Tiger Woods announced he'd miss the Masters this week, an audible groan was heard through the golf world. But Woods' absence shouldn't temper the excitement of golf's first major -- its history, after all, is littered with spectacular comebacks, incredible shots and memorable meltdowns.
It's been five years since the last killer collapse at Augusta National, but as a reminder of just what lurks behind those beautiful azaleas, here's a look at the Top 5 most stunning meltdowns of the past three decades. While Greg Norman's 1996 disaster was the most complete, the list below is in reverse chronological order.
2011: Rory McIlroy
At the tender age of 21, McIlroy, who went on to be the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world for 95 weeks and has won four majors to date, had a collapse that could kill a career. After opening the 2011 event with a bogey-free round, he had a 2-stroke lead after Friday and a 4-stroke lead after Saturday. But disaster didn't take long to strike on Sunday, the most stressful day of any golf tournament.
McIlroy opened the final round with a bogey, but held on to a 1-shot lead through the front nine. But McIlroy's back-nine scorecard looked like that of any duffer -- it included a bogey, a double and a triple, for a net total of 43. The triple-bogey 7 on No. 10 was the worst of it -- he hooked his tee shots into the cabins lining the left side of the hole. Charl Schwartzel won the tournament, while McIlroy finished 15th after posting the worst round by any pro who led after three rounds at the Masters.
Just a few months later, McIlroy won his first major -- an 8-stroke victory over Jason Day at the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club. He also went on to win two PGA Championships (2012, 2014) and the British Open (2014). But alas, his best finish in Augusta was fourth in 2015.
1996: Greg Norman
Widely regarded as the biggest meltdown not only at the Masters, but in any major golf tournament, Norman’s turn of fate on a gorgeous April day 30 years ago was painful to watch. Six shots ahead of Nick Faldo entering Sunday, the Great White Shark drowned himself in bogeys -- of both the single and double variety. The shot that truly dashed Norman’s hopes came in the middle of the famed "Amen Corner," on No. 12, when his 7-iron tee shot over Rae’s Creek rolled down the hill into the water. Norman double-bogeyed to fall behind and never recovered. He plunked a shot on No. 16 into the water to cap his humiliation.
Faldo won by five strokes, shooting a 67 to best Norman’s ghastly 78.
The meltdown was not Norman's first at Augusta -- 10 years prior, he entered the back nine on Sunday tied with Seve Ballesteros for the lead before double-bogeying No. 10. Norman didn't say die, though, and birdied four consecutive holes to tie for the lead going into No. 18. But he missed a par putt and had to settle for second to Jack Nicklaus.
The Shark won only two majors -- the 1986 and 1993 British Opens -- during a pro career that spanned decades. He finished second three times at the Masters (1986, 1987, 1996), twice at the U.S. Open (1984, 1995) and twice at the PGA Championship (1986, 1993).
1990: Raymond Floyd
Twenty-nine years into his professional career and with a Masters (1976) victory to his credit, Floyd must have felt pretty good about his chances of winning a second green jacket in 1990. Unlike many other Masters meltdowns, Floyd's ultimate loss was just as much about Nick Faldo’s great play as his own mistakes. Floyd held a 4-stroke lead with six holes to play when he bogeyed No. 17. That in and of itself wasn't enough to lose the tournament -- while Floyd was keeping his head down mostly making pars, Faldo caught fire and birdied three of the final six holes to force a playoff.
Mentally spent, Floyd lost his focus, and the tournament, when he put his 7-iron into the pond next the 11th green on the second playoff hole. Faldo parred and won.
The only major Floyd didn't win during his career was the U.S. Open.
1989: Scott Hoch
They don't call him Scott Choke for nothing. The 1989 Masters was Hoch's best shot at winning a major but after missing a two-foot putt on the first playoff hole, that opportunity was gone. Unlike many others who melted down on the final day, Hoch did not enter Sunday with the lead. In fact, he was four strokes behind Ben Crenshaw and played lights out on the back nine, closing the gap to the point where he needed pars on Nos. 17 and 18 to win outright.
But Hoch told Golf.com that the wet weather and a fan shouting to him between Nos. 16 and 17 broke his concentration. Instead of two pars, Hoch hit one too many club on 17 and ended bogey-par, forcing a playoff with ... you guessed it, Nick Faldo!
On the first playoff hole, Faldo bogeyed. Hoch rolled his first putt (25-foot uphill effort) past the hole and missed that infamous two-foot downhill return before sinking his third putt also for a bogey. On the next hole, Faldo drained a 25-footer for birdie and the win while Hoch put his approach right of the green and wasn't able to get up-and-down.
1985: Curtis Strange
Realistically, Strange never should have even been in contention to win this Masters. His opening-round 80 was lousy enough that he really shouldn’t have even made the cut. But with a 65 on Friday, Strange did make the cut and a 68 on Saturday put him in contention. He played a bogey-free front nine, but things got, uh, strange, as the day wore on.
Strange opened the back nine with a bogey, but got the stroke back with a birdie on the par-3 12th. That was the end of good things happening. Strange entered the 13th hole with a three-shot lead, but chose a driver off the tee that landed him in Rae's Creek. Two holes later, on the par-5 15th, Strange put another ball in the water and ultimately played the final three holes at 3-over. He finished in a three-way tie for second, two shots behind winner Bernhard Langer.
That finish was Strange's best at a Masters. He won two majors during his career -- U.S. Opens in 1988 and 1989.