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A Look at Golf’s Biggest Comebacks

Englishman Justin Rose defied the odds at this week's HSBC WGC Champions tournament in China. RealSport looks at other great comebacks in the sport.


Rose started the final round eight strokes behind leader Dustin Johnson in China, however, due to Johnson’s mishaps and Rose’s steady play, he found himself winning his second World Golf Championship.

The win was the third largest comeback in Tour history, so, what are the biggest and most famous comebacks in golf? 

Paul Lawrie – 1999 British Open

The Scotsman is currently the record holder for the biggest comeback in golf. The venue was the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie Golf Links and the event is famous not only for Lawrie’s fight back but for Jean Van de Velde’s infamous choke.

Van de Velde held a three shot lead going down the very last hole, but he took a triple bogey to wind himself into a play off. In that playoff Lawrie would be the victor and claim his only career major.

Lawrie had started the day 10 shots back from Van de Velde as the final round got underway. Through five holes Lawrie was level par, and the Frenchman was two over, resulting in an eight shot difference with 13 holes to go.

For the remaining holes Lawrie reached four under par as he signed off for a round of 67. Van de Velde, on the other hand, was only one over par for the rest of the round until the dreaded 18th hole. The Frenchman ended up signing off for a round of 77!

After this horrendous tournament, Van de Velde would eventually go on to to win one more time on the European tour – in 2006, a full seven years after his British Open incident.

Lawrie, on the other hand,
went on to win a further five times on the European Tour, with his last win coming in 2012 at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

Stewart Cink – 2004 MCI Heritage

At the 2004 MCI Heritage, Stewart Cink started nine shots behind overnight leader Ted Purdy.

Purdy had been getting better with every round he played, achieving a 69, 67 and 65. However, a two-over final round soon dropped the American into a tie for the lead with Cink.

It was a contrasting round for Cink as the American delivered a seven-under 64 to put him into a playoff with Purdy. Both men battled bravely but it would be Cink who came out on top with a birdie at the fifth extra hole.

After losing in the play off, Purdy would go onto to have one PGA Tour win at the 2005 Byron Nelson Championship. A few years later he would lose his card and ended up playing on the minor tours.

Cink, on the other hand, would go on to have a more successful career with four more victories. These included a World Golf Championship in 2004 and the British Open in 2009, his only Major to date.

Justin Rose – 2017 WGC Champions

The most recent entry is from this week’s tournament in China. England’s Justin Rose started the day eight shots behind world number one Dustin Johnson. But Rose somehow clawed his way back to claim his second World Golf Championship event.

The Englishman finished two strokes ahead of the field but five hours earlier the picture had looked very different.  

The final day started with the overnight leader Johnson making an extremely poor start with a bogey at the first and a lost ball at the next.  As the field began to close up, the last four holes would prove decisive.

With both Johnson and playing partner Koepka making a mess at the 15th, Rose took advantage. The 37-year-old birdied 16 and 17 to take a one shot lead and, with Johnson making a bogey at the last, the Englishman claimed the title.

 It was a historic event with plenty of drama and thrills. With this win, Rose will move up the world rankings and must be a definite choice for Europe’s Ryder Cup team next year.

For Johnson it’s another event that “could have been” as the American adds another tournament to the list of tournaments he should have won.

 Can you think of any other great golfing comebacks? Let us know in the comments!

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Matt Cradock

Hello, my name is Matt Cradock and ever since the age of 3 I have had a passion for playing and writing about sport. I'm currently studying Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University and I mainly write about Golf and Football.

Follow my Instagram: @mdcradock

A Look at Golf’s Biggest Comebacks

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