Boston Red Sox

The World Series of Baseball was inaugurated in 1903 and by the end of World War I the Boston Red Sox had already won the championship five times. However, on Boxing Day, 1919, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the talismanic George ‘Babe’ Ruth, a.k.a. ‘The Bambino’, to arch rivals the New York Yankees, leading to a popular superstition, which became known as the ‘Curse of the Bambino’.

Boston Red Sox did not appear in the World Series again until 1946 and, when they did, committed a series of fielding error that led to a play, known for all time as ‘Slaughter’s Mad Dash’, which allowed Enos Slaughter to score the winning run in the decisive seventh games against St. Louis Cardinals. In 1967, the Red Sox defied expectations and achieved what became known as the ‘Impossible Dream’, by reaching the World Series, where they once again faced St. Louis Cardinals. The World Series once again went to the seventh games, which the Cardinals won 7-2.

Eight years later, in 1975, the Red Sox once again appeared in the World Series, this time against Cincinatti Reds, but their luck did not improve. In the sixth game, at Fenway Park, catcher Carlton Frisk hit an oft-replayed game-winning home run, in the twelfth innings, to extend the series to seven games, but the Red Sox lost the decisive seventh game 4-3. In 1986, a fielding error by first baseman Bill Buckner handed game six to the New York Mets and the Red Sox lost the decisive seventh game, yet again, despite leading 3-0 at the bottom of the sixth innings. Finally, after a championship drought of 86 years, the Boston Red Sox won their sixth World Series, beating their old rivals St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 in 2004.

Louis Oosthuizen

Born in Mossel Bay, South Africa in 1982, Lodewicus ‘Louis’ Oosthuizen turned professional in 2002 and won his first event on the European Tour, the Open de Andalucia de Golf, in March, 2010. The following July, he entered the Open Championship at St. Andrews, having missed the cut in seven of his eight previous appearances at major championships. However, Oosthuizen defied expectation, shooting 65-67-69-71 for a total of 272 – the second lowest in St. Andrews’ history – to win the Open Championship by seven strokes.

Strangely, though, it was after his maiden major championship victory that Oosthuizen started to develop a ‘nearly man’ reputation. Since his wide-margin win at the ‘Home of Golf’, he has finished outright second or tied second in all four major championships, including the Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2015, at least once apiece.

Oosthuizen began his run of ‘seconditis’ in the Majors at the Masters Tournament in 2012, where he finished tied with Bubba Watson after 72 holes, but lost on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff after Watson hit a remarkable recovery shot from the trees on the right of the tenth fairway. Three years later, he finished tied second in the US Open at Chambers Bay after shooting 77-66-66-67 – thereby tying the record low score for 54 holes, 199 – and the aforementioned Open Championship at St. Andrews, losing out to Zach Johnson by a single stroke in a four-hole playoff.

More recently, Oosthuisen has also finished tied second in the PGA Championship twice, losing out by two strokes to Justin Thomas at Quail Hollow in 2017 – thereby completing a career ‘Grand Slam’ of runner-up finishes – and by the same margin to Phil Mickelson at Kiawah Island in 2021. The following month, he was tied for the lead in the US Open at Torrey Pines after 54 holes, but eventually finished tied second again, by a single stroke, after John Rahm holed birdie putts from 25 feet and 18 feet on the final two holes.

Jean Van De Velde

On July 18, 1999, French professional golfer Jean van de Velde stood on the cusp of winning the Open Championship. He led by five strokes at the start of his final round and, although that lead was cut to three strokes, he still only needed a double-bogey six on the eighteenth, on which he had scored a par four and two birdie threes in his three previous rounds.

To the consternation of BBC commentator Peter Alliss, Van de Velde elected to take driver off the tee and struck a wild tee-shot so far right that he missed the water hazard and ended up in front of the seventeenth tee. His two-iron approach shot was equally wild, richocheting off the grandstand into deep rough some way short of the green. Electing to hack out left off the flagstick, towards the front of the green, Van der Velde advanced his ball only as far as the water hazard known as the ‘Barry Burn’.

Having removed his shoes and socks and waded into the hazard, he eventually decided against attempting to hit his ball – described by Alliss as ‘pure madness’ – and took a penalty drop instead. Even so, he pitched his fifth shot into the bunker short of the green, thereby needing to get up and down to force a three-way playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie. That he did, but only after holing a slippery six-foot putt. Paul Lawrie eventually won the the four-hole playoff, having started the day ten shots off the lead. Reflecting on his meltdown, Van de Velde remained philosophical, saying, ‘Things happen for a reason. You find out what you’re made of. It’s a game. It’s nothing more.’

Greg Norman

During a long, illustrious career, Greg Norman won 91 professional tournaments, including 20 on the PGA Tour. However, his two wins in major championships – both in the Open Championship, at Turnberry in 1986 and Royal St. George’s in 1993 – were scant return for the 331 weeks he spent as the number one ranked golfer in the world, according to Official World Golf Rankings.

‘The Great White Shark’, as Norman was known in his heyday, finished runner-up in major championships on eight occasions during his career, losing in a playoff four times and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory more than once. Of course, it wasn’t always entirely his fault, as was the case when, in 1986, 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus played the back nine at Augusta in six under par to win the Masters by a single stroke, but he did experience more than his fair share of misfortune.

The following August, Norman surrendered a four stroke lead after 54 holes of the PGA Championship at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, eventually finishing two strokes behind Bob Tway, who holed out from a greenside bunker for an unlikely birdie on the final hole. Back at Augusta in 1987, Norman was involved in a three-way playoff with Severiano Ballesteros and Larry Mize, but lost out again in extraordinary fashion. On the second playoff hole, the par-4 eleventh, Mize ‘bailed out’ to the right of the green with his approach shot but, from what has become known as ‘Larry Mize Country’, holed his pitch shot to win the Green Jacket. Last, but by no means least, in 1996 Norman led the Masters by six strokes heading into the final round, but shot a disastrous 78, finding water from the tee at the twelfth and the sixteenth, eventually suffering a five-stroke defeat by Nick Faldo.