Doug Sanders has died at the age of 86. Here he reflects on the putt that would have made him a major champion

As the news from Houston, Texas, filters its way across the Atlantic that 20-time PGA Tour champion Doug Sanders has sadly died, we remember the moment where he came closest to removing himself of the ‘Best Player to Never Win a Major’ tag…

The background

Doug Sanders’ clothing was colourful and co-ordinated, a far cry from the hand-me-down clothes he wore growing up in Great Depression-era Georgia.

He didn’t even own a pair of shoes until he was eight years old. Unable to afford food, let alone golf lessons, Sanders learnt to play after begging to be allowed to caddie at a 9-hole course. He would practise his swing in the moments when the players weren’t watching.

Now, aged 36, he was just 30 inches away from winning the Open at St Andrews.

The scene

Sanders was the peacocking playboy of the golfing world during the 1960s.

In the off-season he would party with the Rat Pack and Evil Knievel and during practice rounds beautiful women would be strategically located to deliver him vodka and tonics.

But during the season, Sanders dropped the booze and amassed 20 tour wins, the most of any golfer without capturing a major.

At the 1970 Open Championship, that anomaly should have been corrected.

The moment

Sanders lined it up, drew his putter back. And stopped.

He had spotted a minuscule spot of dust, blown into his line. Removing the tiny obstacle, his stance changed slightly, but Sanders hadn’t noticed.

He missed the putt.

A play-off with Jack Nicklaus ensued, but the miss had shattered Sanders, without a win in three years.

“I just made a big mistake trying to hurry up and get it done,” said Sanders. “The gallery were going wild. It wasn’t that I was nervous, it was just bad thinking on my part.”

What happened next?

As the Swinging Sixties gave way, so too was his playing career. He never got over the disappointment, and never achieved that missing major.

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