By News Team
Last Updated: 10th November 2020
Given the four Majors are the only events on the golfing calendar where all of the world’s best are guaranteed to line up, it’s more than likely that one of the elite players will be the one holding the trophy come the end of the tournament.
However, that’s not always the case and there have been a number of instances where a golfer few had heard of puts it all together to defy the more-fancied contenders.
Here’s our run through of golf’s most unlikely Major winners.
Shaun Micheel, 2003 PGA Championship
Although Shaun Micheel’s victory at Oak Hill in 2003 was one of the most unexpected ever, it perhaps wasn’t quite as unexpected as it could have been given the three winners of the Majors prior to his victory: Mike Weir won the Masters, Jim Furyk the U.S. Open and Ben Curtis the Open – three surprising winners, although Micheel’s maiden Major win was still a huge shock.
The American had never won in his previous 163 starts on tour and perhaps more amazingly, he hasn’t won since he lifted the PGA Championship trophy.
However, despite it being his first time in Major contention, Micheel didn’t buckle under pressure and started the final hole with a one-stroke lead. Though inside he must have been a ball of nerves, he wasn’t showing it on the outside as he flushed a majestic 7-iron to tap-in distance to complete a truly remarkable two-shot victory.
Michael Campbell, 2005 U.S. Open
Michael Campbell first came into the golfing public’s attention at the 1995 Open, where he held the 54-hole lead. However, a disappointing 76 on the final day saw him finish in a tie for third.
He was very in-and-out after that with six victories on the European Tour intermingled with several missed cuts. Although he showed elements of his better play during the 2005 season, he still had to qualify for the U.S. Open at sectional qualifying at Walton Heath in Surrey.
Having safely made it through to the tournament at Pinehurst, he flew under the radar for much of the four days and given he was four shots behind Retief Goosen going into Sunday, few thought he had much of a chance of denying the South African a third U.S. Open title. However, Goosen, as well as other contenders Olin Browne and Jason Gore, imploded spectacularly and left Campbell in the clear. A composed 69 saw him finish two clear of Tiger Woods and complete his first and only Major win.
Y.E. Yang, 2009 PGA Championship
Heading into the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship, there was a sense of inevitability. Already a five-time winner that season, Woods held a two-shot lead and given his unblemished record when leading or co-leading in a Major, pretty much everyone thought this was a full-gone conclusion.
All 14 of his successes had come from a position of strength with 18 holes to play, so although defending champion Padraig Harrington – winner of three of the previous nine Majors – represented a worthy challenger as well as Henrik Stenson, nobody really expected anything other than another Woods triumph.
The European pair were considered Woods’ main challengers with the unheralded Y.E. Yang, Woods’ playing partner on the final day, expected to falter as the day went on. Ranked 110th in the world, the South Korean boasted a career-best finish of a tie for 30th in Majors, and the final pairing was, on paper at least, a total mismatch.
Yang had won before – the 2006 HSBC Champions – and notably Tiger was in the field there so he must have held out some hope of beating the American, and he did in magnificent fashion. As the South Korean excelled, Woods faltered and the final blow was struck on the 18th with a laser-like approach. A closing birdie secured a three-shot victory and etched his name in PGA Championship history.