Book of the Week: Celebrating major players in choking game

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The Independent Online
Fairway To Heaven

By Tim Glover and Peter Higgs Mainstream, pounds 15.99

EACH WEEK in golf, there is one winner and up to 155 losers. Most of the latter never got a chance to win. Apart from the tournaments which turn into one-man (or one-woman) processions, there is always a victim to go along with the victor. In researching the four major championships, Tim Glover and Peter Higgs found plenty of source matter and have presented the fruits of their labours in a highly entertaining tome.

If there was anyone better at avoiding the Choking Game, it was Jack Nicklaus. The American won 18 majors, many because others blew their chance. There was no better example than at St Andrews in the 1970 Open.

Doug Sanders came to the last leading Nicklaus by one. Tom Morris is an innocuous hole, measuring 354 yards with a very wide fairway and a large green and Sanders was left with a three-foot putt to win. As he crouched over the ball, he bent down to remove a brown speck from his line. Rather than recompose himself, Sanders quickly hit the putt. "I was thinking about which side of the gallery I'd turn to when I holed it," he admitted.

He missed. On television, Henry Longhurst said: "There it is... and there but for the grace of God..." Nothing was more inevitable than that Nicklaus would win the play-off the following day. "It doesn't bother me," Sanders said of The Putt. "Sometimes I go five minutes without it crossing my mind."

Choke is almost as taboo a word as shank in the game but, unfortunately, it rhymes with Hoch, as in Scott. The American had a short putt to win the 1989 Masters. It came on the first extra hole of a sudden-death play- off at Augusta and his miss allowed Nick Faldo to claim his first Green Jacket at the 11th.

One of the most dramatic sudden-death finishes came when Larry Mize beat Greg Norman by chipping in at the second extra hole in the '87 Masters. Norman also lost the 1986 USPGA when Bob Tway holed out of a bunker at the last. But Norman's other great choke, against Faldo in the '96 Masters, was so bad he lost by five and failed to gain a place in this celebration of the game's tightest, nerve-tingling finishes.

ANDY FARRELL

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2 Golden Boy - The Fame, Money and Mystery of Oscar de la Hoya - Tim Kawakami (Andrew McMeel, hardback, pounds 16.95)

3 Hoolifan - 30 Years of Hurt - Martin King and Martin Knight (Mainstream, paperback, pounds 7.99)

4 Aravinda - My Autobiography - Aravinda da Silva (Mainstream, hardback, pounds 15.99)

5 Manchester United Ruined My Life - Colin Shindler (Headline, paperback, pounds 5.99)

6 Athletics 99 - edited by Peter Matthews (Sports Book, paperback pounds 14.95)

7 Yellow Fever - The Dark Heart of the Tour De France - Jeremy Whittle (Headline, hardback, pounds 16.99)

8 Phil Tufnell - What Now? - Phil Tufnell with Peter Hayter (Collins Willow, hardback, pounds 16.99)

9 One-day International Cricket - Stephen Samuelson, Ray Mason and David Clark (Robinson, paperback, pounds 14.99)

10 Ayrton Senna - As Time Goes By - Christopher Hilton (Haynes, hardback, pounds 19.99)

List compiled by Sportspages Bookshops; 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London, 0171 240 9604; and St Ann's Square, Manchester, 01612 832 8530; and www. sportspages.co.uk

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