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Dublin: 9°C Sunday 16 May 2021

7 great sporting stories that were just not meant to be

Didn’t they almost have it all?

LAST SUNDAY, ON his 43rd birthday, Phil Mickelson finished second at the US Open for an incredible sixth time.

It’s easy to feel sorry for Lefty, going into the final round he looked odds on to break his rotten luck in this competition but, in the end, it was Justin Rose who prevailed.

Mickelson’s run did get us thinking though, specifically about those teams and athletes who could have written their name in lights but instead finished as disappointed as this concussed bridesmaid.

Image: Gif Bin

7. South Korea, 2002 Football World Cup

YouTube: jhwang333

Emerging as winners from a group that contained Poland, USA and Portugal; South Korea went on – with the help of some interesting refereeing decisions – to beat Italy and Spain in the round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively at the 2002 World Cup despite being considered no-hopers prior to the tournament.

Their remarkable run came to an end as the result of a solitary Michael Ballack goal for Germany in the semi-final, ruining the hopes and dreams of neutrals everywhere.

6. Tom Watson, 2009 British Open

YouTube: 30641000

Imagine being 59 years old, having an 8-foot putt to win the Open for the sixth time and, in doing so, becoming the oldest winner of a major by 11 years?

That was the situation facing Tom Watson in 2009 before his missed putt sent him into a four-hole playoff with Stewart Cink who played the role of party spoiler perfectly. An honourable mention must also go to Greg Norman who blew a two-shot lead a year earlier.

5. New England Patriots, 2007

YouTube: lminsk

Perfection is rare in any sport. It’s so rare in the NFL that it’s never been done when a team has had to play a 16 game regular season.

In 2007, with Tom Brady seemingly invincible, the Patriots went into the Super Bowl as overwhelming favourites to finish the season undefeated. However, somebody forgot to tell Eli Manning and David Tyree’s helmet how the script was supposed to play out.

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4. Waterford hurling, 1998 – Present

YouTube: joekilgobinet

Pity the Deise. Despite four Munster Championships over the last decade, Waterford have failed to lift the Liam McCarthy cup since 1959.

They lost the All-Ireland final to Kilkenny in 2008 and have fallen at the semi-final stage no less than eight times in the past 15 years: 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

3. Armando Galarraga, 2010

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The perfect game is rare in baseball, so rare that it has only happened 21 times in 113 years. To pitch the perfect game, a pitcher cannot allow any hits, walks or errors.

Imagine how you’d feel then if you were Armando Galarraga. The Detroit Lions star had retired the first 26 batters he’d faced in 2010 against the Cleveland Indians only for a terrible call by the first base umpire to deny him a pitcher’s ultimate honour.

2. Buffalo Bills, 1990 – 1993

YouTube: Peyton Power

Few teams in any sport are as defined by their losses as the Buffalo Bills. If people aren’t talking about the fact they haven’t made the postseason since 1999, they’re reminding them of the four years in a row they reached the Super Bowl only to leave empty handed.

It’s all Scott Norwood’s fault of course. Had his 47-yard field goal not gone ‘wide right’ in 1990, many believe the Bills would have started a dynasty. Instead, Buffalo fans will always be left to wonder what might have been.

1. Jean Van De Velde, 1999 British Open

YouTube: gowfhacker

Jean Van De Velde was a journeyman golfer at best, having won a total of four tournaments in his career. At the 1999 British Open however, the Frenchman stunned the field, opening up a five shot lead going into the final round.

Despite poor conditions on the last day, Van De Velde held his nerve and stood on the 18th tee knowing that even a double bogey would be enough to secure him a longed-for Major.  Then the carnage came and potentially the greatest fairytale in the history of sport was laid to rest in a watery grave.

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