The 5 Most Unlikely Open Championship Winners

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Louis Oosthuizen has been knocking on the door in recent majors but can he repeat his feat of 2010 and win the Claret Jug, when he caused a big surprise.

Louis Oosthuizen was a surprise Open winner back in 2010

As we build up to the 2021 Open Championship, we’ve been taking a look at the five biggest surprise winners of the Claret Jug.

All five caused a stir when seeing off the competition to win the oldest prize in golf, see if you agree with our pick of the top five.

Ben Curtis – 2003 Royal St George’s

Ironically our list starts with the course that hosts the 2021 Open – Royal St George’s – where Ben Curtis stunned the golfing world with his win in 2003.

Just to highlight how tough Sandwich can play, Curtis shot just one sub-70 round across the four days and that was a final round 69.

Going into Sunday, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn led the field by a shot, with the likes of Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, who is 6/1 for a Top-10 finish this week, all within two shots of the lead.

Bjorn held a three-stroke lead with four holes to play, but dropped four shots over the last four holes to card a 72 and finish one shot behind Curtis.

The American was 300-1 to win the tournament at the start of the week and was as low as 396th in the world rankings heading into the Major.

Todd Hamilton – 2004 Royal Troon

Just a year after Curtis’ win, there was another seismic shock at Royal Troon when Todd Hamilton upset the odds to get his hands on the most famous trophy in golf.

The man from Illinois had spent much of his golfing career on the Japanese Tour and at the eighth time of asking, gained his PGA Tour card at the age of 38.

Hamilton took a one-shot lead into the final round, but nobody expected him to claim victory with Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods all within four shots of the leader.

The little-known American though carded a final round 69, which was good enough to get into a play-off with Els. Hamilton then parred all four play-off holes to claim the Claret Jug.

John Daly – 1995 St Andrews

The man nicknamed ‘Wild Thing’ shocked the word of golf in 1991, when he claimed the US PGA Tour title having only played due to the late withdrawal of Nick Price.

Most of the golfing world thought that win – his first on the main tour – had been a fluke and that his ‘grip it and rip it’ style would not suit the challenge of links courses.

Daly proved the doubters wrong though when he claimed victory at the home of golf in 1995. He was tied for the lead at the midway stage, but looked to have blown his chances with a 73 on Saturday.

A 71 in the final round looked to be good enough to win, but Italy’s Costantino Rocca forced a play-off after he holed an incredible 65-foot putt on the last.
Daly’s nerve held firm though and the American beat Rocca by four shots in the four-hole play-off.

Louis Oosthuizen – 2010 St Andrews

One of the most emphatic victories in Open history came back in 2010, when Louis Oosthuizen defied the odds to take the title.

The South African – 25/1 to win the trophy this week – went into the tournament having only made one cut in eight Major Championship appearances. In fact, he had never won on the European Tour until four months prior to this event.

Oosthuizen started the week with an impressive opening round of 65 and then took advantage of the morning conditions on Friday, to card a 67.

He took a four-shot lead into the final day but many expected him to fold, with a number of big names chasing him, including Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood.

But Oosthuizen was imperious on the final day and eventually went on to win by a massive seven shots. He has since finished runner-up in all four Majors.

Paul Lawrie – 1999 Carnoustie

July 18, 1999 was a momentous day for Scottish golf on what is arguably the toughest course on the Open roster.

Paul Lawrie created history, with a little help from Frenchman Jean Van de Velde, to complete the biggest final round comeback in Major history.

The man from Aberdeen was not even in the top-10 going into the final round and was 10 shots behind the leader heading into Sunday.

Lawrie’s final round 67, coupled with a dramatic triple-bogey on the 72nd hole from Van de Velde, lead to a three-way play-off, with Justin Leonard making up the trio.

The Scot fired a birdie on the final play-off hole to clinch the title and write his name in Open folklore.

*All odds correct at time of writing

Warren has been employed as a sport journalist for over two decades and as well as years of written experience, has also worked in other areas of the media including radio and television. Football has always been his number one passion, but has also commentated and written on a number of other sports including golf, cricket, tennis and rugby.

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