10 Major Shocks in Golf

By: | Mon 23 Sep 2019 | Comments


WHAT do Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Rory McIlroy, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan all have in common? They won majors - lots of them. And when we think about the biggest prizes in golf, those are the men we tend to bring to mind, along with the likes of Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Bobby Jones. In 2019, Woods and Koepka added to their major tally, while Gary Woodland became a first-time-winner at the US Open and Shane Lowry did the same thing at The Open at Royal Portrush. Woodland and Lowry were already proven winners.

But, just like any other sport, from time to time there are shocks. Big shocks. Men who seemingly have no right to do so, who have no pedigree, come from absolutely nowhere to win a major. Here, we take a look at 10 of the biggest shocks in the majors. It is by no means a definitive list, but hopefully it will get you thinking.

These guys all had four magical days and saw their lives changed forever.

Orville Moody, 1969 US Open

Moody was an ex US Army sergeant who came to golf late in life and discovered that he had an aptitude for the game. But at a time when the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Tony Jacklin were dominating the game, nobody gave him a second thought at the US Open - other than defending champion Lee Trevino, who had tipped him to win. Moody, aged 35, had other ideas, however, and went out and beat a world-class field at Cypress Creek after coming through local and regional qualifying. It was his only PGA Tour success.

John Daly, 1991 US PGA

Daly had to drive through the night to get to Crooked Stick after a number of withdrawals gave him a place in the field. Nobody had ever heard of him, but they knew all about him after four days of the most sensational golf. He hit the ball mile, with a huge backswing. What’s more, he found plenty of fairways. And he putted like a god. Daly would go on to win The Open four years later, but Crooked Stick was his finest hour and his victory stunned the world of golf.

Rich Beem, 2002 US PGA

Beem became so disillusioned with golf that he ended up selling car sound systems. But he decided to give it another crack and in 2002 he upset the applecart by winning the US PGA Championship at Hazeltine. He shot a par 72 in the first round, but followed that with a six-under 66 in the second round to pull into a five-way tie for first place. In the third round, he again shot 72 and found himself three behind Justin Leonard. In the fourth round, Beem held off Tiger Woods, who birdied his last four holes but finished one shot behind Beem, who shot a final round 68 to Woods' 67. Beem never won another tournament and now plies his trade as a Sky Sports TV commentator and analyst.

Shaun Micheel, 2003 US PGA

Micheel only ever won a solitary mainstream tournament - and it came at the 2003 US PGA Championship at Oak Hill. It was his 164th PGA Tour start, and his odds were 250-1. In the first two rounds, he shot 69-68 (−3) to take a two-shot lead over Billy Andrade and Mike Weir.  A third round 69 put him at −4, tied for the lead with Chad Campbell, and three ahead of Weir.  He shot a par 70 in the final round to defeat Campbell by two strokes. Three years later he was runner-up to Tiger Woods in the same event.

Michael Campbell, 2005 US Open

The New Zealander had come close to winning The Open at St Andrews some years earlier but was more famous for a rollercoaster career that was punctuated by some incredible highs and some awful lows. His victory at the 2005 US Open was most definitely the highlight. And the biggest surprise. Nobody saw it coming - and that probably included Campbell. He qualified through sectional qualifying at Walton Heath, holing a six-foot birdie putt to secure his place. Campbell ended the third round four strokes behind defending champion Retief Goosen. The South African had an 81 in the final round. Campbell shot a 69, seeing off the challenge of Tiger Woods on a day of monumental scoring. He won by two shots, carding an even par of 280. In 2015 he retired, citing injury and personal issues, but has now returned to play senior golf.

Y E Yang, 2009 US PGA

Tiger Woods led going into the final round of the year’s final major. He had come through leg surgery after winning the previous year’s US Open at Torrey Pines. Now here’s the thing - when Woods led going into the final round of a major he ALWAYS won. But on this occasion he proved that he was human after all. He hit a number of loose shots, while South Korean YE Yang kept his cool and went on to become the first man from that part of the world to win a major. He never came close again.

Todd Hamilton, 2004 Open

Hamilton was 38 when he finally earned his PGA Tour card in 2003. He had made a decent living in Japan, winning several times. His first victory came at the 2004 Honda Classic but he was a massive outsider at that year’s Open at Royal Troon, where he caused one of the sport’s biggest upsets, defeating Ernie Els in a four-hole playoff. After shooting an opening round 71, Hamilton fired a second round 67 to move to -4 and a fifth-place tie with Els, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie and Michael Campbell. He added another 67 in the third round to lead Els by a shot. Entering the tournament's 72nd hole, Hamilton held a one-shot lead over Els, but Hamilton bogeyed the 18th hole, leaving Els with a 12-foot birdie putt for the win, which he missed. Els and Hamilton headed for the four-hole aggregate playoff, in which Hamilton carded four pars while Els managed three pars and a bogey, and Hamilton took the win, the last of his career.

Paul Lawrie, 1999 Open

The Scot had won several tournaments on the European Tour and was making a decent living. But a major contender? Never. And then came an extraordinary day in July at Carnoustie. Lawrie began the final round trailing by TEN shots. In trying conditions, he went out and shot a remarkable round of 67. He finished long before Jean Van de Velde, who appeared to be cruising towards the Claret Jug. Lawrie’s coach, Adam Hunter, told the player he should hang around. Van de Velde came to the final hole needing a six to win. He ended up having to hole a brave putt for a seven. It meant he, Lawrie and Justin Leonard were tied and had to head off for a four-hole playoff. Van de Velde was shot to pieces and Lawrie sealed the deal with a glorious shot to the final green. It was his one and only major victory.

Ben Curtis, 2003 Open

Ben who? Curtis no longer plays competitively and there are those who will tell you that he spent most of his career failing to play competitively. But for four days in July 2003 at Royal St George’s he defied his odds of 300-1, shooting rounds of 72, 72, 70 and 69 to win as Thomas Bjorn came to grief in a green side bunker. At the beginning of that week he was ranked 396th in the world and he ended the year being named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. He was the first man since Francis Ouimet in the 1913 US Open to win on his major debut, and was the lowest-ranked player to win a major since official world rankings were first calculated.

Tiger Woods, 2019 Masters

Woods had spent years in the doldrums, trying to rebuild his battered body after a succession of knee, leg and back surgeries. His last major victory had come at the US Open was back in 2008, when he needed 91 holes to beat Rocco Mediate, and later revealed he had done so with a broken leg. He won the Tour Championship at the end of 2018 but nobody really believed that he would add to his 14 majors. They reckoned without the greatest golfer of his era. Unbelievably, he arrived at Augusta for The Masters in April 2019 and only went out and won the Green Jacket, seeing off the challenge of a host of young pretenders, including Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Yes, it was a shock.


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