Nothing is guaranteed in the sports world. While it’s easy to presume that our favorite athletes can perform at their highest levels or at least continue to compete on a week-to-week basis, an injury, age, or a mental lapse can cause a player to lose what it is that made them a star. Golf is no exception, and these seven golfers are evidence that when someone loses their talent, health, or mojo, it’s hard to gain it back.
7. John Daly
Known for heavy-drinking, womanizing, and sideshow antics, John Daly makes it easy to forget he was once a promising young golfer who seemed destined for greatness. Daly’s career, unfortunately, never lived up to the potential it was prescribed.
6. Yani Tseng
Although she’s still young, Yani Tseng has failed to ever live up to the promise of her young career when she won the 2011 Women’s British Open, her fifth major on the women’s circuit. While many of these burned-out golfers have been derailed by public scandal or injury, many believe Tseng simply couldn’t cope with the spotlight and her game suffered.
5. Johnny McDermott
Going back over 100 years, Johnny McDermott was a teen phenom in the days before social media and even TV. He won back-to-back U.S. Opens. But McDermott became a victim of the fame and expectations around him. He quickly burnt out and spent much of his life in mental institutions.
4. David Duval
A perennial winner, David Duval was one of the best golfers on the planet during the late ’90s and early 2000s. He was a scarily accurate hitter — and quick burnout. Many believe Duval’s swing wore out his body, leading to his burnout. He had occasional bouts with greatness afterward, including a 2009 runner-up match at the U.S. Open, but he never reached his prime.
3. Pedraig Harrington
Around 2007, Pedraig Harrington was deemed one of the best up-and-comers. He won three majors. But, by 2014, he couldn’t even compete on the PGA Tour. His fall was quick and drastic, as even some of the worst cases continue to compete at a low level. Sometimes, expectations hurt reality.
2. Michelle Wie
Although she may not have reached the heights of these other names, Michelle Wie’s talent bypassed her young age and elevated her as not only one of the biggest names in women’s golf but as a potential competitor in traditionally male PGA tournaments. Unfortunately, Wie, who’s still in her twenties, was derailed by injuries.
1. Tiger Woods
At his peak, Tiger Woods was believed to be the best golfer in history. A perennial champion, he finished in the top-10 in 62.4% of his tournaments. Woods was well on his way to dethroning Jack Nicklaus as the all-time leader in career grand slams; he barely trailed him still in his mid-thirties. Then, something happened.
A tabloid scandal, injury woes, and a notorious fall from grace began to haunt Woods in 2009. He’s struggled to regain even the slightest dominance since then. While he has shown flashes of his former greatness, like his 2019 victory at the Masters. However, he has experienced far more disappointments over the last decade.