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6 Surprise Winners of The PGA Championship

By: | Mon 16 May 2022 | Comments

PART of the fun of watching any sporting event is trying to pick out the winner. The very nature of the beast means that, from time to time, a complete outsider will surprise everybody. 

Remember a 17-year-old Boris Becker winning Wimbledon? Or Wimbledon beating Liverpool to claim the FA Cup? 

When it comes to golf, we have seen the likes of Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis win The Open, but the major that produces more surprise winners than any other is the PGA Championship.

The likes of Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa are expected to be fighting it out for the Wannamaker Trophy this week, but do not be shocked if a comparative unknown has the week of his life.

Here, we look at some unlikely winners of the PGA Championship:

John Mahaffey, 1978

Mahaffey had a dream year in 1978, when he defeated Jerry Pate and Tom Watson in a playoff at Oakmont. He trailed Watson by seven shots with 14 holes to play but managed to reel him in. Mahaffey, Watson and Pate were tied after 72 holes and all made pars on the first playoff hole. The drama ended on the second playoff hole when Pate missed the green, Watson missed a 30-foot birdie attempt and Mahaffey made his 12-foot birdie putt. As things would turn out, the PGA Championship was the only major Watson never won.

Jeff Sluman, 1988

Sluman was one of the most unlikely of all major winners. He stood 5ft 7in and weighed just 10 stones but at Oak Tree Golf Club he saw off some giants of the game, including Nick Faldo, Tom Kite, Ray Floyd, Mark O’Meara, Greg Norman, Paul Azinger and Payne Stewart for his first win on the PGA Tour. He would go on to win five more times but had to wait nine years for his second victory.

John Daly, 1991

The Wild Thing wasn’t even supposed to be in the field in 1991 at Crooked Stick, starting the week as the ninth alternate. But as more and more people pulled out of the Championship, Daly famously drove through the night to get to the course in time to tee it up. He opened with a 69 - despite not playing a practice round at the course - and ended up winning by three shots with a display of big hitting that the game had not witnessed before.

Rich Beem, 2002

Rich Beem

All eyes were on Tiger Woods, who was the dominant figure in the game at the time, but Beem beat him by a stroke at Hazeltine even though Woods birdied each of his four final holes. Seven years earlier, Beem had been selling mobile phones to make ends meet, and has since become a popular commentator on Sky Sports.

Shaun Micheel, 2003

Micheel came into the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club ranked 169th in the world. But Micheel played well all week and held his nerve to beat Chad Campbell by two shots. Micheel, Campbell, and Tim Clark were the only golfers to finish under-par for the week. He would never win another PGA Tour event.

Y.E. Yang, 2009

Yang’s 2009 triumph came at Hazeltine as he became the first Asian to win a men’s major and stunned the world because the man he beat was Tiger Woods, somebody who had never lost a major when playing in the final group and had never lost a 54-hole lead. Yang capped it with a stunning approach to the final hole that landed just a few feet from the cup.

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

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Tags: US PGA Tour PGA PGA european tour dp world tour daily picks


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