I was watching the event live, I saw the birdie putt slip past the hole about a foot and I went for the remote. I had entered the new channel and just as it was about to change I saw the putt horseshoe around the hole. I frantically switched back, but by that time they were hugging and beginning to walk off the green. Watching I.K. Kim miss that one-foot tap-in makes you begin to ask yourself where this miss ranks in the history of golf.
Of course those of you who don't follow the LPGA, I.K. Kim would lose in the playoff to a birdie on the first playoff hole but at that point the damage was done. Expecting her to sum up any amount of strength to play the playoff hole was a difficult ask. My first thought after she missed it was that she still had a chance, but after watching her walk off the green I could tell that the miss destroyed her and she would have no chance.
I was discussing this with friends and if I felt I had missed the putt to fall out of a playoff, say for example if I were tied for the lead and then missed, I think the pain would not run as deep. Yes, I still would have given the tournament away, but even if I had made the putt I would still have had to beat the other golfer to win, in this case I.K. had for all intents and purposes won the tournament. I believe that was a harder pill to swallow, and it will be very interesting to watch and see how it affects her long term.
Certainly she is not the first to miss a short putt to lose a golf tournament. The first thought that comes to mind is Scott Hoch's short putt to win the playoff at the 1989 Masters allowing Nick Faldo to win, sits in a close second. The difference in my mind is Hoch's putt was more like two feet and it was on the 10th hole at Augusta which has a good deal of break to it. Hoch would have had to definitely aim the putt at the end of the hole bringing a miss into play. Hoch certainly hit the putt too hard because it went a full 3-4 feet long after catching the edge, but I don't feel I would put that putt into the gimme section. Kim's was barely a foot and did not have anywhere near the break that Hoch's did.
The other putt I hear mentioned is Doug Sanders at the 1970 Open Championship. This is really not much of a comparison as it was much closer to three feet and certainly not a gimme. Sanders would go on to lose an 18-hole playoff by a shot to Jack Nicklaus. Sanders blamed his routine but it certainly looked to me as though he mishit the putt and never really got it online.
The only other putt that I have heard or read about that would rival this would Sam Snead in the 1947 U.S. Open. By all accounts Sam missed a 2½-foot birdie putt to give Lew Worsham the win. Interestingly in that event Worsham supposedly asked for a measurement of who was away after Snead had taken his stance and was about to putt. This sounds like a bit of gamesmanship on the part of Worsham, sadly for the Slammer it worked. Snead had a bad history with the U.S. Open blowing a couple of chances. Another miss during that era was performed by Ben Hogan at the 1946 Masters where Hogan three-putted to fall out of a playoff with Herman Keiser. By all accounts the two-footer didn't even touch the hole.
If you expand the errors to include more than short putts than I could go on forever. Van de Velde in 1999, Norman in 1996 (and many more of course), Arnold Palmer losing a seven-shot lead at Olympic in 1966, but they cannot even come close to matching the heartache of missing a gimme on the final hole to win a major golf title.
To I.K. Kim's credit I did see an interview that she did after the event was over. I can say for a certainty that I would not be interested in giving any interviews after missing that putt and then losing in playoff. After a few days of cooling off I might be able to talk about it, but certainly not right after it happened. I feel this is a good sign. It is similar to what happened to Rory McIlroy in the 2011 Masters where after melting down in the back nine, he answered all the questions, did all the interviews and took his lumps.
We all know what happened to Rory, he bounced back beautifully everyone has all but forgotten his Masters experience. I.K. Kim will have to answer tough questions not only for the next few weeks but also in the lead up to the Kraft next year. She can of course calm many of those questions by winning the Women's US Open in the same way Rory won the US Open. A miss like that is beyond heartbreaking but now she can go down in history as the woman who missed a gimme or the woman who bounced back and went on to greater heights.
Photo credits: © Associated Press - Chris Carlson.