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When the 1913 U.S. Open came to The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, no competing golfer had more local knowledge than 20-year-old Francis Ouimet. After all, he had grown up across the street from the course and woken up every day for the past 16 years staring out at the 17th hole from his bedroom window. Ouimet had caddied at the club as a youngster and snuck onto the course whenever he could to play a few holes.
Still, despite his familiarity with The Country Club, no one gave the gangly, unknown Ouimet a shot to win. He was an amateur in a sport ruled by professionals, an American in a sport dominated by the British and Scots, and the son of immigrants in a sport played almost exclusively by society’s most elite. Plus, the 1913 U.S. Open field included the British superstars Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, the Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy of the day. Tournament organizers had moved the U.S. Open from June to September just to accommodate the schedules of the world’s two greatest golfers. Ouimet, meanwhile, had to pull strings just to get time off from his full-time job at a Boston sporting-goods store.
On the morning of September 16, 1913, Ouimet finished breakfast and walked across the street to tee off in the tournament’s qualifying round. When he arrived, he discovered that Jack Lowery, his chosen caddie, was caught skipping school by a truant officer. Jack’s younger brother Eddie, a feisty 10-year-old who had no fear of playing hooky, stepped up as a last-minute substitute.
Ouimet easily advanced through the qualifying tournament and thrilled the local crowds with his surprising play on the tournament’s first day, which included 36 holes of play. He was tied for 17th place after the first round and found himself only four shots behind Vardon after the second.
With the pint-sized Lowery, hardly taller than the clubs he was toting, offering encouragement, Ouimet fired the lowest score of the third round and found himself tied with four-time British Open winner Vardon and reigning British Open champion Ray entering the final 18 holes. As word spread around Boston that the local boy was in the thick of the hunt, throngs clung to crowded streetcars destined for Brookline and flooded The Country Club.
With six holes to play, Ouimet found himself trailing by two. Across the street from the golf course, his anxious mother clutched a rosary and rocked nervously on the front porch of the family’s modest two-story clapboard house. Each roar of the crowd, such as the one that echoed through the trees after Francis sank a miraculous chip-in for birdie on the 13th hole, sounded like an answered prayer to her pious ears. On the 17th hole, in the shadow of his bedroom, Ouimet made a 20-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead. After sinking a knee-knocking par putt on the final hole, Ouimet walked off the course in a three-way-tie with his idols, Vardon and Ray.
The trio returned to The County Club the following day for an 18-hole playoff along with a crowd of at least 10,000 people, the largest gallery to ever witness a round of golf at the time. Few of them, however, expected to see David slay not one, but two Goliaths.
Ouimet had an opportunity before the biggest round of his life to switch to an experienced club caddie, but the loyal amateur stuck with Lowery. Through the drizzle, the American played a solid front nine and gained the lead on the 10th hole. On the 17th tee, he led Vardon by a mere stroke, but for the second day in a row he birdied the hole across the street from his humble home. The birdie propelled him to a round of 72, five shots better than Vardon, six in the clear of Ray.
The fans hoisted Lowery and Ouimet, the first amateur and only the second American to win the national championship, onto their shoulders in celebration. The victory made front pages around the world, and more than two centuries after the battles at Lexington and Concord, the shots fired by the Boston boy against the British set off an American sports revolution. The triumph by a working-class amateur ignited American interest in the sport and expanded its reach beyond just the upper crust. According to the Ouimet Scholarship Fund, which was founded in 1949 to assist students involved in the golfing community pay for college, the number of Americans playing golf soared from 350,000 in 1913 to 2.1 million a decade later. The number of courses tripled during that time period, and many of those were public.
Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open victory—the greatest upset in golf, and perhaps sports, history—is the stuff of fairytales in the best tradition of Disney. And in fact, Disney did make a 2005 movie based on the event, The Greatest Game Ever Played, based on the book by Mark Frost.
Greatest Upsets In Sports History
Prior to UFC 193, Ronda Rousey seemed unstoppable. Her past three fights lasted 34, 16, and 14 seconds and she became a superstar outside the Octagon. But she was no match for former champion boxer and underdog Holly Holm, who knocked her out in the second round after a vicious kick to the neck.
Roberta Vinci defeats Serena Williams (2015)
David Goldman, Julio Cortez/AP
Serena Williams was attempting to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to complete the calendar Grand Slam. The No. 1 ranked player in the world lost to unseeded Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals 2–6, 6–4, 6–4. It was the first Grand Slam in her last five appearances that Williams had lost.
Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal (2009)
For 31 matches, dating to his debut on May 23, 2005, Nadal never truly was challenged, much less defeated, at the French Open, allowing him to win four consecutive titles and close in on becoming the first player in history with five in a row. Until the fourth round of the 2009 French Open, when the 23rd-seeded Soderling, a 24-year-old from Sweden who never had won so much as a third-round match at any major tournament before this one, defeated Nadal 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-2). Soderling finished with 61 winners, 28 more than Nadal.
New York Giants defeat New England Patriots (2008)
One of the biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history, the New York Giants made some history of their own in Super Bowl 42, upsetting the previously undefeated New England Patriots with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the clincher with 35 seconds left in the game. The victory capped an improbable run of 11 straight road victories by the Giants, including four straight in the playoffs.
Appalachian State defeats Michigan (2007)
Ranked No. 5 entering the season, Michigan had national-championship aspirations. But Appalachian State had different plans. Led by dynamic QB Armanti Edwards and speedy WR Dexter Jackson, the Mountaineers became the first Division I-AA team to beat a ranked Division I-A team, defeating the Wolverines 34-32.
Golden State Warriors defeat Dallas Mavericks (2007)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Pick a storyline, this series had it all. Golden State becoming the first No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 in a seven-game series. Coach Don Nelson getting revenge on his former team and bitter enemy, Mavs owner Mark Cuban. The Warriors winning their first playoff series in 16 seasons. Baron Davis, on a gimpy hamstring, pulling a Willis Reed to score 20 points in the Game 6 clincher.
New England Patriots defeat St. Louis Rams (2002)
While St. Louis piled up 427 yards of offense, the 14-point favorites held only one lead (3-0) and the Patriots' dynasty was born as Tom Brady set up Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard, game-winning field goal in Super Bowl 36.
Rulon Gardner defeats Alexander Karelin (2000)
Karelin, the three-time defending champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, had never lost in international competition and was on a 13-year winning streak. Gardner, an Olympic novice, wasn't even expected to contend for a medal. But the 29-year-old from Wyoming stunned the Russian 1-0 in overtime of the 286-pound final.
Denver Nuggets defeat Seattle Supersonics (1994)
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Though they barely finished over .500 (42-40), the Nuggets, fueled by Dikembe Mutombo, defeated top-seeded Seattle in overtime of Game 5 to win the series. It was the first time in history that an eighth seed defeated a No. 1. Seattle, led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, was plagued by Mutombo, whose 31 blocks set a record for a five-game series.
Cincinnati Reds sweep Oakland A's (1990)
Talk of a dynasty followed the Athletics into the 1990 World Series. The Reds ended that notion by sweeping Oakland and outscoring the A's 22-8.
Buster Douglas KO's Mike Tyson (1990)
A 42-1 underdog against unbeaten ''Iron Mike," Buster Douglas scored a knockout in the 10th round and the undisputed heavyweight title.
Villanova defeats Georgetown (1985)
In the upset of all upsets, No. 8-seeded Villanova shot an astonishing 78.6 percent for the game to shock the top-seeded Hoyas, 66-64, and end Georgetown's hopes of a repeat.
N.C. State defeats Houston (1983)
Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma hit a defensive wall against N.C. State. The Cougars converted just one dunk in the game, while the Wolfpack had two — the most famous coming when Lorenzo Charles tossed in a Dereck Whittenburg air ball at the buzzer to beat Houston 54-52.
Chaminade defeats Virginia (1982)
Tiny Chaminade (enrollment: 800) pulled off what's considered the most stunning upset in college basketball history with a 77-72 victory over Ralph Sampson's top-ranked Virginia team in the Maui Invitational.
U.S. hockey team defeats USSR (1980)
In the Miracle on Ice, a scrappy bunch of U.S. amateur and collegiate players knocked off the favored Soviets 4-3 in Lake Placid, N.Y.
New York Mets defeat Baltimore Orioles (1969)
The Orioles led Game 5 of the '69 World Series 3-0 when Mets manager Gil Hodges proved that a pitch thrown by Baltimore's Dave McNally had hit Cleon Jones in the foot. Hodges showed the umpire that there was shoe polish on the ball. Donn Clendenon, pictured left, followed with a crucial two-run home run in the Mets' 5-3 victory that clinched the Series.
New York Jets defeat Baltimore Colts (1969)
Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images
It was the first game to officially carry the ''Super Bowl'' moniker, but it will forever be remembered for ''The Guarantee'' as Joe Namath, QB of the heavy underdog Jets said, ''We're gonna win the game. I guarantee it.'' The Jets won 16-7.
Pittsburgh Pirates defeat New York Yankees (1960)
The Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27 in the 1960 World Series but lost on Bill Mazeroski's one-out homer off Ralph Terry in the ninth inning of Game 7 at Forbes Field.
U.S. soccer team defeats England (1950)
The United States' improbable 1-0 victory over England in the World Cup — thanks to Joe Gaetjens' 37th-minute header — has become known as the "Miracle on Grass." That may be an understatement, considering the English were considered the "Kings of Football" and the Americans had lost their previous seven international matches by the combined score of 45-2.
Upset defeats Man o' War (1919)
Man o' War started 21 races in his illustrious career but lost just once — to 100-to-1 longshot Upset in the Sanford Memorial at Saratoga.
1. James “Buster” Douglas def. Mike Tyson
The Odds: Tyson was a -4200 favorite
Date: Feb. 11, 1990
Result: Round 10 KO
Perhaps the most famous upset in boxing history was James “Buster” Douglas’ 10th-round knockout of Mike Tyson in 1990. Tyson was considered unbeatable at the time. He had rolled through a solid group of heavyweights during the second half of the 1980s to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in savage form.
Undefeated and virtually untested during his first 37 professional prizefights, Tyson was a knockout machine who didn’t just beat other heavyweights but did so most of the time by producing highlight-reel knockouts.
Douglass, on the other hand, had already suffered four losses as a professional. Tyson entering the ring as a 1/42 favorite seemed like the surest bet in boxing history.
But Douglas boxed even with Tyson over the course of nine rounds before famously unleashing a vicious uppercut in round ten that started Tyson’s demise and finishing it with a sharp combination that left Tyson unable to beat the count.
9. Nuggets stun Sonics (1994 NBA Playoffs)
When the Denver Nuggets lost the first two games of their 1994 first-round NBA Playoffs series to the Seattle Supersonics, it looked as though they would be easily tossed aside, like so many #8 seeds before them. After all, they had lost the first two games by an average of 17 points. Yet Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Dikembe Mutombo and company refused to give up. They won Game 3 by the score of 110-93, Game 4 by a 94-85 margin and Game 5, 98-94, to become the first #8 seed in NBA history to defeat a #1 seed in a playoff series. Some would argue that the Golden State Warriors seven-game upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in 2007 was the bigger upset, but as the Warriors made their impact immediately and didn’t require a comeback, in this case we think you have to go with the trailblazers.
Jack Nicklaus, 1986 Masters
No doubt, Nicklaus' sixth Masters victory was the most special. At age 46, the Golden Bear became the oldest winner in the storied history of the great tournament. He won by a stroke, taking the lead with a famous 18-foot, downhill, breaking-birdie putt that resulted in a Nicklaus celebratory reaction we had not seen from the legend in quite some time. It was the crowning jewel of his 18th and final major victory
16. Jonathan Byrd—2010 Shriners Open
The scene: 2010 Shriners Open, playoff, 17th hole.
I almost don't even feel bad for Martin Laird and Cameron Percy (who lost the playoff). Sure, it's a tough way to lose a tournament, but you just have to take your hat off and smile for Byrd.
He's a class act on the PGA Tour, and I think hitting a hole-in-one on the fourth playoff hole is worthy of a smile even from his competitors.
That is a hell of a way to win a golf tournament.
The all-time greatest upsets in the history of sports: No. 16 UMBC joins the list
By knocking off No. 1-seeded Virginia on Friday in the 2018 NCAA Men's Tournament, No. 16 UMBC didn't just move one step closer to an unlikely championship bid.
It put the madness in March Madness. It ensured that way more than just UMBC students learned what UMBC stands for (it's University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for those procrastinating). It rewrote history , becoming the first No. 16 team to knock off a top seed in NCAA men's tourney history. It instantly thrust itself to the top of all-time March Madness upset lists .
But the ripples of UMBC's bracket-busting victory flow well beyond just March Madness.
They put Friday night's underdog story squarely amid the greatest upsets in the history of sports. Here, in no definitive order, we review those monumental triumphs, from the UMBC thriller and Buster Douglas' KO of Mike Tyson to USA Hockey's "Miracle on Ice" and the Joe Namath-guaranteed New York Jets Super Bowl win:
UMBC upsets No. 1 Virginia in 2018 NCAA Men's Tournament
Let's start with the newest addition to the list. The score of this game -- UMBC 74, Virginia 54 -- wasn't even close, but that only solidifies how insane this was. Entering the matchup, No. 1 seeds were 135-0 against No. 16 seeds dating back to 1985, and the Cavaliers (31-2) held the top spot of all teams in the men's basketball tourney. And yet it was all Retrievers in this one, UMBC stomping on the 20.5-point favorites by holding Virginia to 21 first-half points and then outscoring them by 20 in the second.
USA Hockey beats the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics
The "Miracle on Ice!" The Soviet Union had captured men's ice hockey gold in five of the six previous Winter Games, whereas Team USA had both the youngest team in the Olympic tournament and in national team history. The showdown spawned an iconic call by Al Michaels -- "Do you believe in miracles?" -- as the United States won a 4-3 decision. It also marked an upset at a time the Cold War was still officially occurring, and paved the way for a Team USA gold vs. Finland.
Harvard upsets No. 1 Stanford in 1998 NCAA Women's Tournament
Before UMBC, there was Harvard. The first NCAA Division I basketball tournament victory by a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed came courtesy of the Crimson women, who edged Stanford, 71-67, in an unprecedented first-round win. The lead-up to the upset, as the Associated Press said, wasn't nearly as lopsided as, say, UMBC's big stunner, but it still marked a monumental first.
USA shuts out England at the 1950 FIFA World Cup
Known after World War II as the "Kings of Football," the English entered their group match with the United States coming off 4-0 and 10-0 routs. The Americans, meanwhile, were looking to break a losing streak of seven consecutive international soccer defeats -- with largely part-time or semi-pro players, no less. And yet the U.S. prevailed, with goalie Frank Borghi halting last-second kicks and securing a 1-0 win over England.
Roberta Vinci takes down Serena Williams at 2015 US Open
Italy's tennis hero after this performance, Vinci advanced to the Open semifinals, her first ever, with more losses in 2015 than Williams had racked up over the previous decade. She was ranked a whole 42 spots below her U.S. counterpart, who was playing in her 47th career semifinal. But she topped Williams in three sets, advancing to the Grand Slam final and denying her favored opponent a calendar Grand Slam in maybe the biggest shocker in tennis history .
Buster Douglas KOs Mike Tyson in 1990
The "Tyson Is Back!" fight was built to be an international showcase for "Iron Mike," who entered the boxing ring as an undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. It's no surprise, then, why Tokyo -- and the rest of the world -- was taken aback when Tyson, 37-0 before the fight, lost by knockout at the hands of James "Buster" Douglas , who lost his mother three weeks beforehand and came in as just a No. 7-ranked heavyweight.
No. 8 Villanova upsets Georgetown in 1985 NCAA championship
They weren't a No. 16 seed, but Villanova still defied the odds to win it all in 1985 , becoming the lowest seed (No. 8) to take the NCAA men's basketball championship thanks to their "Perfect Game" against No. 1-ranked Georgetown. Squaring off with their Big East rival for the third time that season, the Wildcats dominated the floor with a Final Four-record 78-percent field goal shooting and edged the Hoyas (30-2) in a 66-64 decision.
New York Jets stun the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III
In 1969, the Super Bowl was still the final showdown between the pre-merger NFL and American Football League, and at that time the AFL was more like title-game laughingstock than anything, the NFL's Green Bay Packers having blown out its opponents in the first two Super Bowls. But the Jets and quarterback Joe Namath, who guaranteed a win against all odds, delivered against the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, essentially legitimizing the AFL with a 16-7 victory.
NC State upsets Phi Slama Jama in 1983 NCAA championship
Two years before Villanova's claim to fame as a No. 8-seed title winner, the Wolfpack unleashed an upset of epic proportions against the University of Houston, which earned its nickname for a 1982-84 run as a slam-dunking, high-flying, non-methodical scoring attack. The Cougars had racked up a 31-2 record, No. 1 seed and 26-game win streak before their 1983 men's basketball championship, but it was NC State that came out on top, 54-52.
New York Mets upset the Baltimore Orioles in 1969 World Series
Title winners in 1966, the Orioles raced back to baseball's biggest series three years later, this time with a then-record 102 wins, sluggers like Frank Robinson and Hall of Fame-caliber hurlers like Jim Palmer and Mike "Crazy Horse" Cuellar. But the Mets, playing in just their eighth season since joining the MLB as an expansion club, saw their bats come alive on an unlikely postseason run that climaxed with a five-game World Series win capped at Shea Stadium.
New York Giants upset undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Pats became the first NFL team to have a perfect regular season since 1972, and they entered the big game, their fourth in seven years, as 12-point favorites with an 18-0 record and numerous records to their name. New York kept New England from logging the most important "W" of the year, however, using Eli Manning heroics, the "Helmet Catch" and a relentless defense to upset the league's top dynasty, 17-14.
Cincinnati Reds sweep the Oakland A's in 1990 World Series
The obvious favorites to win it all after doing so the year before, the Athletics trounced the Boston Red Sox to get to their third straight World Series, but they got a taste of their own medicine from "The Nasty Boys" in Cincinnati. The Reds set the tone in Game 1 of the title tilt, dominating 7-0, and they never let up from there, sweeping the series, 4-0 -- a stunning finish for an A's team that had done the same to the San Francisco Giants in 1989.
Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal at 2009 French Open
Already a four-time French Open champion by 2009, Nadal was fresh off setting a record of 31 consecutive wins at Roland Garros when it came time to face Soderling, who had never before reached a Gram Slam final. The latter, however, brought tennis fame to Sweden by becoming the first person to ever top Nadal at the French Open, winning in the semifinals.
Chaminade upsets No. 1 Virginia in 1982 men's basketball season
This wasn't during March Madness, and Chaminade was no slouch with a 10-1 record vs. the Cavaliers' 8-0 mark. But the Silverswords were also not ranked, let alone on anyone's radar -- the matchup took place in the wee morning hours of Honolulu. UVA was a national powerhouse led by 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson and with wins over Duke and Georgetown, but it fell behind en route to what some called college basketball's biggest upset ever -- one that prompted Chaminade to keep its name rather than go through with plans to change it.
Appalachian State upsets Michigan in 2007
FCS football schools aren't to be written off. Just look at North Dakota State. But when an FCS school meets an FBS power, that's a different story. Usually. Appalachian State might have been the cream of the crop in its class, but it seemed more like Opening Day fodder for Michigan, which was hyped as a Big Ten favorite and national championship contender entering 2007. Whoops. App State ended up doing something that Vegas didn't even bother giving a betting line, upsetting the Wolverines, 34-32.
No. 8 Nuggets upset the SuperSonics in 1994 NBA Playoffs
The Houston Rockets won it all in 1994, but the Denver Nuggets earned the most headlines for their first-round stunner against Seattle, which posted a franchise-best 63 wins and claimed the Western Conference's No. 1 seed. Down 2-0 through the first two games of the series, the Nuggets didn't fold but rather exploded, taking the contest in five and becoming the first 8-seed to beat a No. 1-seeded team in the NBA playoffs.
Upset beats Man o' War in 1919 Sanford Memorial Stakes
One of the greatest racehorses of all time, Man o' War lost just once in his career, and that one loss came courtesy of a horse who was given 100-to-1 odds of winning. That horse's name? Upset. The lone defeat came in 1919, when Man o' War won nine of 10 starts, at the Sanford Memorial Stakes and Saratoga Race Course, which is now known as the Graveyard of Champions.
Howard University upsets UNLV in 2017
This one lacks the magnitude of championship upsets or bracket busters, but it went down as one of the most statistically lopsided shockers in sports . Paid $600,000 by UNLV to come from the FCS as early-September punching-bag material on the football field, Howard University proceeded not only to edge the Rebels, 43-40, but demolish an opening point spread that had them as 600-to-1 long shots and, in some books, as 45.5-point underdogs.
4. Buster Douglas at 42-1 KOs Mike Tyson
Now we&rsquore getting into rarified air.
By odds alone, Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan in 1990 is far from the greatest longshot victory. However, it doesn&rsquot seem that way now.
Douglas was an undecorated unknown. Mike Tyson was Mike Fucking Tyson. He was 37-0 with 33 knockouts. He did this to other heavyweights.
Buster Douglas had nearly 7 years of age and 4 more losses on Tyson. Regardless, despite getting knocked down in the 8 th round, Buster rallied and ended the era of Tyson with a 10 th round knockout. Tyson was never the same as a boxer. Douglas was never again relevant after losing his next fight to Evander Holyfield.
10 shocking upsets and underdog runs in WGC-Match Play history
The extended PGA Tour hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic means this week we’re without one of the more exciting events on the schedule.
There won’t be any jaw-dropping upsets or dramatic comebacks this week at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship, which is one of the more unpredictable tournaments contested each year. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look back on a few memorable – and improbable – moments.
From unexpected singular match results to dramatic runs through the bracket, here's a look back on 10 of the biggest upsets in the 20-year history of the event:
O'Hern reveals how he beat Tiger in match play
Nick O’Hern tops Tiger (2005, 2007)
Tiger Woods may be the greatest player of his generation, but he had an Achilles’ heel when it came to this event: specifically, one lanky, left-handed Aussie. O’Hern never won on the PGA Tour, but that didn’t stop him from surviving a showdown with Woods at the height of his powers – not once, but twice.
The first upset came in 2005, when the tournament was held at La Costa and the two met in the second round. O’Hern barely survived his No. 8 vs. No. 9 opener against Charles Howell III, which earned him a date with the two-time defending champ. Woods hadn’t lost in this event in three years, but he was no match for O’Hern, who putted his way to a 3-and-1 victory. He’d eventually lose to Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.
Two years later at Dove Mountain, the two met again with Woods riding a seven-tournament winning streak on the PGA Tour. He cruised through his first two matches, but again couldn’t keep pace with O’Hern, who outlasted Woods with a par on the 20 th hole.
“To beat him once was an amazing thrill, and I’m sure he wanted to even the score today,” O’Hern told reporters. “It’s something to tell the grandkids, I guess.”
Peter O’Malley stuns Woods (2002)
Before O’Hern got his claws into Woods, another Aussie showed it was possible by pulling off the biggest upset to date in tournament history. O’Malley was a 36-year-old journeyman with three European Tour wins to his credit but not much U.S. success. He was the lowest-ranked player in the field, No. 64 overall, and got in only when Jose Coceres withdrew because of injury.
Woods was the reigning Masters champ, but he struggled on the greens against O’Malley at La Costa and didn’t record a single birdie until the 16 th hole. By then it was too late, as O’Malley closed out the match, 2 and 1, with a 20-foot putt on the next hole.
“I had a no-lose situation, really,” O’Malley said. “No one expected me to win, so I can just go out there and play my game and if I win, well, it’s great. And if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter.”
It was the first time the tournament’s lowest-ranked seed won a match. O’Malley went on to lose to Nick Price in the second round and never played in the event again.
Darren Clarke takes down Tiger (2000)
In February 2000, Woods was still a couple months removed from starting the Tiger Slam. But he was already playing some of the best golf of his career, and Clarke’s run to the semifinals appeared destined to end when he, as a 5 seed, was left standing against three No. 1 seeds: Woods, Davis Love III and David Duval.
But the Ulsterman dispatched Duval in the semis to set the stage for a memorable finale. Clarke not only beat Woods in the 36-hole match, earning his first Tour title in the process, he did so in resounding fashion. The match ended, 4 and 3, after Clarke poured in 12 birdies across 33 holes and missed just one green over his final 17 holes. Even Woods, near his all-time peak, couldn’t keep up.
“Darren just flat outplayed me,” Woods said.
Clarke only won three times on the PGA Tour, but all were significant: he added another WGC title at Firestone in 2003 and lifted the claret jug in 2011.
Hunter Mahan stops Rory McIlroy’s run to No. 1 (2012)
Clarke’s wasn’t the only memorable upset in the tournament’s final match. By the 2012 edition, the final had been trimmed to 18 holes, and it seemed like a fait accompli when 6-seed Hunter Mahan went up against top seed Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy was the reigning U.S. Open champ, and with a victory over Mahan he would reach world No. 1 for the first time. Instead it was Mahan’s day to shine, as he won three straight holes on the front nine and never looked back. He won the match, 2 and 1, for the fourth of his six career victories.
“Deep down, you wanted to postpone that crowning of the No. 1 player in the world for Rory,” Mahan said. “He’ll get there. I mean, he’s phenomenal. He’s really talented. He’ll be No. 1 eventually.”
Mahan’s prediction proved accurate. McIlroy won the Honda Classic in his next start to reach No. 1 for the first time, a spot he happens to currently hold.
Lowry talks '09 Irish Open win, beating Rory at WGC Match Play
Shane Lowry knocks off friend Rory McIlroy (2013)
The relationship between Lowry and McIlroy stretched back to their days playing junior golf in Ireland, and the two met again in the opening round in 2013. While they may seem an even match currently, with Lowry in possession of the claret jug, seven years ago he had barely qualified for the 64-man field and was struggling with his game.
But 2013 was a weird year for this event – on top of Dove Mountain being unexpectedly blanketed with snow, two of the top seeds lost in the opening round. That included McIlroy, the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.
McIlroy and Lowry had even eaten dinner together the night before their match at a local restaurant, but once they hit the course it was the world No. 66 who edged his buddy with a par on the 18 th hole.
“It’s definitely a day I’m going to remember,” Lowry said. “I’m sure, after a few weeks or a couple months, I will slag Rory over it. But at the end of the day, it’s only the first round.”
Lowry went on to lose the next day to another good friend, Graeme McDowell.
Kevin Sutherland wins as a 16 seed (2002)
Which Match Play overall winner is most surprising? Kevin Sutherland, by a mile. He barely qualified, ranked 62 nd among a 64-man field at La Costa, and seemed headed for a quick exit as a 16 seed up against reigning Open champ David Duval in the opening round.
But Sutherland won that match, escaping from a 1-down deficit with two holes to go. Then he beat Paul McGinley, Jim Furyk and reigning PGA champ David Toms to make the semifinals. There he beat Brad Faxon, and in the most unpredictable final ever, he beat 12-seed Scott McCarron, 1-up, for the $1 million prize.
“I could have easily lost to David in the first round and it wouldn’t have been a very good week,” Sutherland said. “But as it turned out, the victory really opened quite a few doors for me.”
The whirlwind week changed Sutherland’s perception on Tour, but it turned out to be the only victory of his PGA Tour career. He went on to find success on PGA Tour Champions, shooting a 59 and winning a season-long Schwab Cup title in 2017.
Steve Stricker comes out of nowhere Down Under (2001)
The 2001 edition of the event remains the most unique: it was the only one held outside the U.S., played at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. And it was held in early January rather than late February, a scheduling quirk that contributed to four of the world’s top five players sitting it out.
But Stricker made the trek to Oz, where he started as a 14 seed against No. 3 seed Padraig Harrington. The American was ranked 91 st in the world, hadn’t played a Tour event since September and was five years removed from his most recent win.
But he beat Harrington, then Scott Verplank and No. 2 seed Justin Leonard. In the quarterfinals he faced another upstart, No. 16 seed O’Hern, but beat the Aussie on his home turf before taking out Toru Taniguchi. That left only Sweden’s Pierre Fulke in his way, and Stricker took the 36-hole final with a 2-and-1 victory.
Stricker would have missed out on a spot in the field by a wide margin had the top names played, but instead he earned a breakthrough win after trailing for only nine holes all week.
“They all had the opportunity to commit and come over, and they didn’t,” Stricker said. “That’s all I care about. It’s a big win, my biggest win, and it gets me going in the right direction.”
Stricker would go on to lose his Tour card in 2004, but would win again in 2007 to spark a late career resurgence.
Steve Pate erupts in opening year (1999)
Known as the "Volcano” for his explosive on-course personality, Pate barely qualified the first time this event was played as a WGC back in 1999, ranked No. 61 out of 64 players. That standing earned him an opening match against Davis Love III, who was a runner-up at Riviera just one week prior.
But Pate pulled off the upset, presenting an example of how unpredictable the single-elimination format can be, and he didn’t stop there. He beat Brandt Jobe, Fred Couples and Eduardo Romero to head to the semifinals as the highest possible seed on his side of the bracket.
There he met Jeff Maggert, and Pate appeared well on his way after building a 3-up lead through 11 holes. But Maggert stormed back, beating Pate en route to a title the next day. Pate ended up fourth, also losing the consolation match to John Huston, but his run through the bracket was a big reason why he was chosen as a captain’s pick by Ben Crenshaw a few months later to round out the 1999 U.S. Ryder Cup squad.
Dubuisson takes on nature (2014)
Victor Dubuisson was a largely unheralded figure in the golf world until he took on an elite field – and Mother Nature – in a stirring performance.
The Frenchman was the 7 seed in the Sam Snead bracket, and early wins over Kevin Streelman and Peter Hanson didn’t draw much attention. But when he knocked out Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell to reach the semifinals, people started to notice.
The ’14 bracket had some quirks to it: Ernie Els toppled wunderkind Jordan Spieth in a semifinal run that marked one of his few post-Lytham highlights, and Rickie Fowler made the semis (as a 14 seed!). But there was no bigger surprise than Dubuisson, who flashed his short game magic across Dove Mountain to advance to the final against Jason Day.
Dubuisson was 3 down with six holes to go and 2 down with three to play before storming back, burying putts on Nos. 17 and 18 to force overtime. On the first extra hole his approach ended up in a cactus but he somehow hacked it out onto the green to save par, only to repeat the heroics from the junk on the very next hole to keep his hopes alive. Day eventually won on the 23 rd hole, but Dubuisson’s improbable escapes were the main takeaway from a memorable finale.
He went on to play in the Ryder Cup a few months later, but he hasn’t won in Europe since 2015 and hasn’t factored in the U.S. since his runner-up showing in Arizona.
Bjerregaard upsets Tiger (2019)
The tournament’s format switched in 2015, featuring group play along with a single-elimination bracket. Last year, Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard was fortunate just to escape the group portion, as the lowest seed in a four-man group that also included Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley and Matt Wallace.
Bjerregaard followed with another upset over Henrik Stenson to earn a quarterfinals match against Tiger Woods. Woods was playing well, and earlier in the morning had beaten Rory McIlroy in the most anticipated match of the week. But the Dane proved to be too much, as Woods lipped out a 5-foot par putt on No. 18 that would have extended the match.
“Yeah, I dreamt about it. I didn’t think it was ever going to come true,” Bjerregaard said. “But I’ve definitely seen myself on the practice putting green when I was 10 years old making a putt to beat him or in a major or something like that. I won’t lie.”
Bjerregaard lost to Matt Kuchar in the semifinals, ultimately finished fourth and hasn’t done much of note in the 12 months since. Woods, as you may have heard, went on to win the Masters two months later.
Ranking the Biggest Chokes in Golf History
Following are our picks for the 10 worst chokes or collapses in golf history. We count them down from No. 10 to No. 1. (And after that you'll a few more famous ones.)
10. Lorena Ochoa, 2005 U.S. Women's Open
Ochoa hit one of the worst drives ever at a critical time in a major tournament. It happened on the 18th hole at the 2005 U.S. Women's Open. She had rallied throughout the day from well back and was in a position to win, or at least get into a playoff.
The 18th hole at Cherry Hills required the players to aim right, cutting off part of a lake and carrying the ball to the fairway. Ochoa's drive never even sniffed land.
Her driver hit the ground a couple inches behind the ball — taking a divot — then bounced up into the ball. The ball shot left and dove into the water. To make matters worse, Ochoa's second drive found the rough, then her approach to the green went into the grandstands. She quadruple-bogeyed No. 18 and finished four shots back.
9. Ed Sneed, 1979 Masters
Sneed was a solid player for many years and the 1979 Masters was his best shot at a major. He began the final round with a five-stroke lead and kept a lead of at least several strokes through most of the day.
Then, things fell apart. With a three-shot lead and three holes to play, Sneed proceeded to bogey the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes.
His par putts on 16 and 17 stopped right on the lip. On No. 18, Sneed again came agonizingly close. The par would have won him a Green Jacket. But with a bogey — and a 76 total for the fourth round — Sneed fell into a playoff, which he lost to Fuzzy Zoeller.
8. Phil Mickelson, 2006 U.S. Open
Mickelson started his career 0-for-46 in majors, then changed his approach. He dialed back the aggression and started making much better course management decisions. And it paid off: He entered the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot going for his fourth career major and third in a row.
And he almost got it. But then he reverted to his previous form. His driver deserted him all through the final round (he even hit into a trash can on No. 17), yet he kept hitting it, and his decision-making deserted him on the final hole.
Mickelson had a one-stroke lead as he stood on the 18th tee. Despite hitting only two fairways all day, he pulled the driver again. And again, he missed — only this time badly, his drive hitting the roof of a hospitality tent and bounding into the spectator area.
Mickelson had a decent lie, but a bad idea. Rather than advancing the ball a short distance but getting it back in the fairway — where he might make par the hard way, or, at worse, bogey to get into a playoff in which he'd be the heavy favorite — Mickelson attempted a huge slice under and around tree branches. It didn't work. The ball hit a branch and stopped 25 yards in front of him.
He hit another big slice, but this one plugged in a back bunker, and not even Mickelson's short-game magic could save him from there. He double-bogeyed and finished one shot out of a playoff.
"I am such an idiot," he succinctly said afterward.
7. Mark Calcavecchia, 1991 Ryder Cup
One of the more painful collapses to watch, with the Ryder Cup pressure appearing to almost suffocate Calcavecchia's game.
Known as the "War on the Shore," the 1991 Ryder Cup was intense from the start. The Americans failed to gain the Cup in the three previous competitions, something Team USA wasn't used to (at that time, anyway) and didn't like. A lot of tough rhetoric preceded this Ryder Cup, and tension was heavy throughout.
Calcavecchia's singles match was against Colin Montgomerie, and Calc looked in great shape: he was dormie, four-up with four holes to play. A win or even just a halve by Calc on any of the final four holes would win the Cup for America.
You know what happened: Calcavecchia lost all four holes and halved the match. The stretch included a tee shot on the par-3 17th at The Ocean Course that was very close to a shank, Calcavecchia's ball plopping into the water. That happened after Monty, who was struggling himself, had already put his own tee ball in the water. Amazingly, Calcavecchia reached the 17th green with a chance to halve the hole (and win the Ryder Cup) with a double bogey — but he missed the 2-foot putt.
Thinking he had lost the Ryder Cup for Team USA, Calcavecchia walked away from the 18th green, down onto the beach, sank into the sand and cried.
But he was saved from permanent goat status when Bernhard Langer missed a six-foot par putt on the final hole of the Cup, halving with Hale Irwin and allowing the U.S. to win back the Cup.
6. Adam Scott, 2012 British Open
Scott had always been one of those golfers with a sweet swing, consistently good results, and the mystery of why had hadn't yet won a major. He appeared poised to finally get that major at the 2012 British Open, which he opened by shooting 64 in the first round.
Scott began the final round with a four-stroke lead and appeared in control throughout the final round. As he stood on the 15th tee, Scott held a four-stroke lead and was five ahead of Ernie Els. Just after Scott striped a perfect drive on 15, Els, a couple groups ahead, made a birdie on the 16th to get within four.
It all went south from there for Scott. He bogeyed the last four holes, while Els rallied, including a birdie on the last, to beat Scott by one. Scott didn't blow up on any of the last four holes, he just made simple mistakes on each one: At the 15th, his approach shot found a bunker on the 16th, he missed a three-foot par putt on the 17th, his approach was long and found foot-high rough behind the green on the 18th, his tee ball rolled into a pot bunker.
Scott played out sideways from that bunker, then hit a great approach — but missed the seven-foot par putt that would have forced a playoff. (Scott did finally win a major at the 2013 Masters.)
5. Scott Hoch, 1989 Masters
Hoch was an excellent player for a long time but one without a major championship. He should have won the 1989 Masters, but didn't.
Hoch led Nick Faldo by one at No. 17, but missed a relatively short par putt and fell back into a tie. Hoch's and Faldo's scores matched on No. 18, so they went to a sudden-death playoff.
On the first hole of the playoff — No. 10 at Augusta National — Faldo struggled to a bogey 5. Hoch was left with a birdie putt — he could two-putt and win the Masters.
Hoch three-putted. His birdie putt rolled a short distance past the cup, a distance variously reported as from 18 inches to 30 inches. The par putt Hoch had left was definitely no more than 2 1/2 feet, however.
But Hoch might have worked himself into "paralysis by analysis." For this little putt, he spent two minutes looking at it from every side, studying every possible break. When he finally stepped up to the ball, he wound up backing off, unable to decide if he should hit it firm and straight, or hit it softly to play a small amount of break.
Finally, he hit it firmly — but also played the break. A bad combination. And on a 2 1/2-foot putt, he rapped the ball five feet past the hole.
Hoch made that comebacker to keep the playoff going, but he missed his chance to win the Masters. Faldo sank a 25-footer on the next hole for the victory.
4. Sam Snead, 1947 U.S. Open
The great Slammin' Sam won a record 82 PGA Tour events in his long and glorious career, including seven majors. But he never won the U.S. Open, and his 1947 playoff loss is just one of four runner-up finishes in the event for Snead.
In 1939, Snead needed to par the final hole to win the U.S. Open but made a triple-bogey. In 1947, Snead needed a birdie to get into a playoff and snaked in an 18-footer to do just that.
The 18-hole playoff was with Lew Worsham, and Snead had a two-stroke lead with three holes to play. But he gave both those strokes back and the pair approached No. 18 tied.
Both Snead and Worsham reached the No. 18 green in two and were faced with very short putts of similar lengths for birdies. Snead's putt was only 2 1/2 feet in length, and he took his address to putt first.
But as Snead was about to putt, Worsham interrupted and stopped play. He wasn't sure whether Snead was away and wanted a measurement to determine who should putt first.
Was it gamesmanship, or a genuine concern over an order of play? I haven't read any accounts that make that clear. But regardless, after measurements were taken, it was ruled that Snead was away after all.
The Slammer took his putting stance again . and missed. Worsham made his putt for the victory. Snead had blown a two-stroke lead with three holes to play, a 2 1/2-foot putt on the final hole, and another chance to win the U.S. Open.
3. Greg Norman, 1996 Masters
No other golfer of his generation — perhaps no other golfer, period — had a career that combined bad luck with sometimes bad nerves in critical situations. Norman seemed snakebit, and he also blew his share of tournaments. Still, his career was stellar: 20 wins and two majors. A definite Hall of Famer.
The Masters was the tournament he wanted more than any other. Jack Nicklaus was his hero, and Nicklaus had six green jackets — beating Norman by a stroke for one of them. Norman had come close at Augusta before, and 1996 seemed like his year to finally win it.
Norman played great over the first three rounds of the 1996 Masters, including a course-record 63 in the first round. He entered the final round with a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo.
But from the start, Norman's game was off, and Faldo's was on fire. Norman's lead disappeared quickly, and he never regained it. While Faldo was en route to a 67, Norman was on his way to five bogeys and two double-bogeys. When he put his tee shot in the water on No. 12, Norman's fate seemed sealed, and the remaining holes had the feeling of a funeral procession.
When it was over, Norman had shot 78 to Faldo's 67, turning a six-shot lead into a five-stroke deficit. Norman was never again a serious contender in a major.
"I made a lot of mistakes today," Norman said afterward, gracious in defeat. "I put all the blame on myself. You pay the price. That's all there is to it." He later added, "All these hiccups I have, they must be for a reason. All this is just a test. I just don't know what the test is yet."
2. Jean Van de Velde, 1999 British Open
Van de Velde was a journeyman player on the European Tour, not a golfer who had much experience playing near the top of major championship leaderboards.
But any Tour golfer who needs only a double-bogey on the last hole to win should be able to do better than Van de Velde did on Sunday on No. 18 at Carnoustie at the 1999 British Open.
Trying to become the first Frenchman to win the Open Championship since 1907, Van de Velde reached the 18th tee with a three-stroke lead. It seemed as if the tournament was already over.
Then Van de Velde compounded bad shots with bad decisions and the rest, as they say, is history.
Along the way to a triple-bogey, Van de Velde found the rough, the sand, the water and even the grandstands.
Following a mediocre drive that rolled into the rough, the smart decision would have been to lay up in front of Barry Burn, which crossed in front of the green.
Instead, Van de Velde went for the green. And instead, he found the grandstands. The ball caromed off the grandstands, bounded onto rocks along the edge of Barry Burn, and bounced into thick rough short of the water hazard.
Van de Velde tried to hack the ball out of the rough and over the burn to the green, but the ball plopped down into the burn. Then came the enduring image of this meltdown: Van de Velde, shoes off, climbing down into the flowing water of the burn, considering trying to hit the ball out.
He ultimately thought better of that and dropped behind the burn. This time he scooped the shot and the ball wound up short, in a greenside bunker. Van de Velde blasted out, then sank the putt for triple-bogey. He'd blown the Open Championship, and made the meltdown complete by losing the playoff to Paul Lawrie.
1. Arnold Palmer, 1966 U.S. Open
At the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, Palmer began the final round seven shots behind, then won.
At the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic Club, Palmer had a seven-shot lead in the final round . and lost.
Palmer started the fourth round three shots better than Billy Casper, and when the players made the turn, Palmer had stretched his lead to seven strokes.
But then Casper went on a tear (shooting 32 on the back nine) and Palmer cooled off. Arnie gave up a stroke on the 10th, then lost another on the 13th. The players halved the 14th, so to speak, which left Palmer with a five-stroke lead with four holes to play.
And Casper completely erased that lead over the next three holes. Palmer gave two back at the 15th, then gave up another two on the 16th. When Palmer bogeyed the 17th, the entire seven-stroke lead was gone. Palmer and Casper were tied.
Palmer staggered home but managed to tie Casper on the 18th, forcing an 18-hole playoff the following day.
And once again, in the playoff, Palmer let a lead slip away. Arnie was up by two in the playoff with eight holes to go but gave up six shots over the remaining holes. Casper won the playoff, 69 to 73, and the U.S. Open.
Palmer didn't play as poorly, overall, in the fourth round of the 1966 U.S. Open as did Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters. Norman shot 78 that day, while Palmer posted the very respectable score of 71.
In some respects, what happened to Palmer in 1966 might not even qualify as a "collapse." Can you really call a round of 71 a "collapse"?
And yet, Palmer's faltering in the final round of the 1966 U.S. Open was even worse than the Shark's because, well, because he's Arnie — a greater player than Norman, one of the greats. But mostly because Palmer lost a seven-shot lead entirely on the back nine, and then compounded the blunder by losing another lead in the ensuing 18-hole playoff.
Casper deserves a tremendous amount of credit for winning this championship, probably more credit for winning the title than Palmer deserves blame for losing it. Casper went out and shot a 68, with a sizzling 32 on the back nine.
But consider it a measure of Palmer's greatness and mystique that we're putting this episode No. 1 on our list of worst golf chokes and collapses. It's easy to imagine, say, Jean Van de Velde or Greg Norman blowing a big lead with a few holes to play.
But Arnie? Losing a seven-shot lead over the final nine holes of a U.S. Open? That's a collapse, all right.
Honorable mention: Louis Oosthuizen’s hole-in-one on 16 (2016 )
Louis Oosthuizen has delivered some of the greatest shots in Masters history. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
This is another shot that had no significant impact on the tournament leaderboard, but was too great for us to ignore.