How golf destroys the masters of the game.
First, Maggert destructed. He got on a bogey run that wouldn't quit, and he grimmed his way right out of the tournament. Then Lehman hit into the rough by the 16th green and lost a stroke. The next hole, the 17th, we all watched in gut-wrenching horror as Lehman hit his approach shot into the pond. Nice guys finish third.
Lehman said afterward, "I feel an incredible amount of pain."
Just before Lehman's disaster, Montgomerie had made the crucial mistake of the tournament. He and Els were on the 17th green, tied at 4 under. Montgomerie had a five-foot putt. He waited for the group on the nearby 18th green to finish. He waited and waited. Minutes passed. Sometimes a person in life is faced with a crucial decision, a life choice, a yes-or-no question, a moment when action must be taken decisively without pause or excessive contemplation. Everyone watching thought: Hit the putt! Just walk up and hit it! Montgomerie wandered around the green, waiting for total silence. Tommy Tolles, a golfer finishing on 18, made some gestures as though he was going to throw his ball in the lake, and the crowd cheered him on, which got Montgomerie flustered again. The man just did not want to hit the putt. Because he knew it wasn't going in. He knew he was about to crash.
Finally he walked up and almost half-heartedly tapped at the putt, which missed, and he lost, and when it was over he cried.
Joel Achenbach is a reporter for the Washington Post and the author of the new book, A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher.
Illustrations by Hillel Halkin.