We all enjoy golf; therefore, we all watch it. That much should be clear. When we care, we anticipate something extraordinary to occur. A truly outstanding athlete should deliver a performance that will define their career. Throughout a competition, we want to see the lead switch hands and for everything to come down to the last hole. We want to watch someone manipulate their way into difficulty before influencing their way back out of it.
But there’s something else we’re all eager to see, and that’s a huge disappointment. While witnessing a great professional performance at the pinnacle of their craft has many positive attributes, you also come to anticipate it. You recognize a player’s potential but are not overly astonished when one of the top 10 players in the world wins the trophy at a major tournament. Unexpected events give the situation a completely new perspective. With an upset, someone who unjustly won has just accomplished the unthinkable and turned the sport on its head. You consider yourselves fortunate to have witnessed it firsthand.
Although it has been a while since we witnessed a major upset in golf, they occasionally occur. The next five are, in our opinion, the most significant in the game’s history.
In 2011, Charl Schwartzel won the Masters.
The night when South African Charl Schwartzel won the Masters in 2011, there was something in the air. He had only recently joined the PGA tour and was not considered a favorite for the competition, and it would have been cruel to rank outsiders to label him one. This is the most recent of the major upsets on our list, and many of our readers will probably still remember it well.
Schwartzel wasn’t thought to be in the running for the Green Jacket even at the beginning of the final round. Despite his excellent performance, he was placed behind Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Adam Scott. He nailed four straight birdies to breeze past his stunned rivals and claim the victory, something no other player at the Masters had ever done to bring themselves over the finish line. His success was poetic because it occurred exactly 50 years after his countryman Gary Player became the first foreigner to win the Masters. It was fantastic, and it was fate. Schwartzel continues to compete but has yet to capture another major.
Jack Nicklaus wins the 1986 Masters.
There should be a law against using the terms “Jack Nicklaus” and “upset” together, yet there is no other way to explain what the Golden Bear accomplished in Augusta in 1986. When the competition began, Nicklaus was 46 and had gone six years without winning a major championship. He hadn’t won the Masters’s in nine years, and after doing so five times, nobody thought he would ever do so again. Jack and fate had other plans.
On his final round on the course, Nicklaus fired seven under 65, including 30 across the back 9. Seve Ballesteros watched in awe and disbelief. No one could match Nicklaus’ sensational run of form, which made him the oldest Masters champion ever. The mark is still valid—Tiger Woods’ emotional victory at the age of 43 sent memories of the victory flooding back. Therefore you may have recently seen clips of it again in the gold media.
Y.E. Yang wins the 2009 PGA Championship
Now that we’ve brought up Tiger Woods let’s speak about one of his most memorable losses. Tiger, I’m sorry. In 2009, Woods was still in the prime of his career, and he had won the PGA Championship in 2007 and the US Open in 2008. In 2009, he appeared set to repeat the victory, but Y.E. Yang had other plans. The barely-known Yang was an afterthought in third place as the media and commentators concentrated on a final-round matchup between Woods and Padraig Harrington. He went from being a non-factor to a star in hours.
Throughout the decisive round, Harrington’s performance was unimpressive, and woods discovered that his ability to put would sometimes disappear. At the fourteenth hole, Yang chipped in for an eagle to fly past both of them, seemingly taking the wind out of their sails. Yang of South Korea became the first Asian golfer to win a major after making a birdie on the last hole to secure victory.
Larry Mize triumphs at the 1987 Masters.
Greg Norman has never won the Masters. Although everyone knows this, nobody brings it up around him, and it’s a sensitive subject. Three painful times, Norman came in second place at Augusta National, and while his 1996 defeat to Nick Faldo is arguably the one that bothers him the most, his 1987 loss to Larry Mize was the most amazing.
All Larry Mize has ever wanted was to take home the Masters trophy. He was raised in Augusta, where he was born, and he is the only native Augustinian to have ever won a regional tournament. He had to compete against Norman and Seve Ballesteros in a playoff round to pull it off. Ballesteros was forced to watch in horror as he was eliminated at the first hole—not for the first time in the annals of startling upsets. Mize chipped an unbelievable birdie on the second hole from 140 feet away. History was made when a shell-shocked Norman was unable to tie him. Mize never had a big finish higher than fourth, and he didn’t have to because his reputation was already legendary.
Francis Ouimet wins the 1913 US Open.
We’re grateful that no one who reads this can recall Ouimet winning the 1913 US Open. It has been a very long time, and we also don’t remember it. For you to understand how implausible this was, let us first set the scene. Ouimet winning the US Open was as improbable as going to an online casino, opening Fluffy Favorites, placing one bet, and winning the jackpot immediately. It was as fantastic as going into a casino with a dollar in your pocket and coming out with a million dollars without ever having lost a bet. The chances of Ouimet winning the Open would have destroyed the casino as a whole, not just on that particular day. That amount of improbability is what we’re referring to.
The British golfing duo of Ted Ray and Harry Vardon was regarded as one of the greatest in the world in the years preceding World War One. It was anticipated that they would resolve their disagreement over the US Open. Francis Ouimet didn’t play golf professionally, and he needed special permission from his job to play. He easily defeated the British team by five strokes on his preferred course in soggy conditions. The world witnessed one of the most incredible sporting upsets in history, and America had its first-ever golfing hero. A legend was also born.