GULLANE, Scotland — Paul Azinger leaned against the railing around the 18th green at Muirfield, where 13 players have won the silver claret jug since the British Open first came to a links course known as the fairest of them all.
It sure didn’t feel that way to Azinger.
Muirfield is where Nick Faldo won his first major championship by making 18 pars in the final round in 1987. It would not have been good enough if only Azinger’s tee shot had not run into a bunker on the par-5 17th or his approach to the 18th had not found that bunker left of the green.
He made bogey on both holes. A one-shot lead became a one-shot loss.
“It could have scarred me,” Azinger said. “But I didn’t recognize the magnitude of what I was losing as much as I knew I could make history if I had won. And I didn’t know 20 years later I was still going to be asked about it.”
The topic this summer evening: As much as majors are won, how many more of them are lost?
Five years later, Faldo won again at Muirfield when John Cook missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 17th and made bogey on the 18th to finish one-shot behind.
Faldo won the Masters three times, each time with plenty of help. Scott Hoch missed a 3 1/2-foot putt for the win in 1989, and Faldo beat him on the next hole. A year later, Faldo won another green jacket when Raymond Floyd hit into the water on No. 11 in a playoff. And who can forget Greg Norman blowing a six-shot lead against Faldo in 1996, still the greatest final-round collapse in a major.
It takes something colossal for the runner-up to be remembered as much as the champion, but it happens. A lot.