Updated June 18, 2020 - 3:49 pm
Jean Van de Velde’s meltdown at the 1999 British Open, in which the Frenchman blew a three-shot lead and waded into the water on the final hole, is considered by many to be the biggest collapse in golf history.
But preeminent professional sports bettor Rufus Peabody of Las Vegas begs to differ.
“The Kyle Stanley collapse was worse,” he said. “But it wasn’t in a major.”
Peabody was denied a payday of “a few hundred thousand” dollars Sunday when Collin Morikawa missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the final hole that would have won the Charles Schwab Challenge and lost in a playoff to Daniel Berger.
The painful loss inspired Peabody to make a list of the top five golf bad beats of his career. He said Morikawa wouldn’t even crack the top 10.
At No. 1 is Stanley, who blew a three-shot lead on the final hole of the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open and lost in a playoff.
Peabody and his betting partners had a little more than $2,000 in wagers to win $173,000 on Stanley at odds ranging from 75-1 to 88-1.
Stanley led by seven strokes early in the final round at Torrey Pines. But Peabody was sweating it.
“It’s tough to hold a lead unless you’re Tiger Woods,” he said. “I was really nervous. I thought he was going to blow it. But then he made a clutch par putt. When he made it to 18 with a three-shot lead, I relaxed.
“It was the easiest hole on the course that week. His live win probability was 99 percent plus.”
Needing only a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 to prevail, Stanley hit a perfect tee shot and then laid up less than 100 yards out. But his third shot spun off the green into the water.
He then three-putted from 45 feet for a triple-bogey 8, missing a 3-foot putt for the win.
“I still remember on the broadcast the make probability was 91 percent for the putt. He just pulled it,” Peabody said. “He could’ve putted from 100 yards out around the water and still made double bogey.”
On the first playoff hole, Stanley and Brandt Snedeker birdied the 18th. On the second playoff hole, Snedeker’s tee shot hopped over the green and was headed for a canyon when it bounced off a TV tower and stayed in play.
Snedeker saved par. Stanley’s 5-foot par putt lipped out to seal Peabody’s fate.
“My buddy found his address and sent him a fake Groupon for a lesson on making 3-foot putts and a copy of one of our tickets,” Peabody said.
Up in smoke
But the story didn’t end there. The next week, Peabody suffered another all-time bad beat on Spencer Levin, a small, chain-smoking golfer who squandered a seven-stroke lead in the final round of the Phoenix Open.
Peabody and his partners had $500 to win $50,500 on Levin at 101-1 odds. Looking through spreadsheets of bets he keeps dating back at least a decade, Peabody noticed his partner highlighted the Levin wager in green before the final round with the following notation:
“It’s guaranteed. Can’t lose. He has a six-stroke lead, and he’s using performance-enhancing drugs. Nicotine calms the nerves.”
Incredibly, after Levin’s tickets went up in smoke, it was Stanley who emerged to win the tournament.
“That was definitely the worst eight-day stretch ever, in terms of bad beats,” Peabody said. “It redefines bad beats.”
Stanley likes tweet
After Peabody posted on Twitter this week, “And to make it worse, Stanley was the beneficiary of the Levin collapse!,” he was surprised to get a Twitter notification that a verified Kyle Stanley account liked the tweet.
“It’s something I can laugh about now. Things like that make you grow stronger,” Peabody said. “There’s no use wondering about what could’ve been.”
Buddhist philosophies about acceptance have helped Peabody deal with bad beats.
“Believe it or not, Buddhist philosophies and gambling really go hand in hand,” he said. “Buddhism is better than therapy. But don’t tell that to my therapist.”
Beats go on
Any bettor would need therapy after enduring Peabody’s string of top five bad beats, which took place in a 12-month span from 2011 to 2012 — when he was denied a $152,000 payday on Adam Scott (40-1), who squandered a four-shot lead with four holes left at the British Open.
The brutal run started at the 2011 PGA Championship, where Peabody had $365 to win $137,000 on Jason Dufner at 371-1 odds. Dufner led by five strokes with four holes left before blowing the lead with three consecutive bogeys. He lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley, who drained a 50-foot birdie putt on 17.
“There are times when you get lucky,” Peabody said. “The problem is you don’t remember those as well.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.