Top 5: Greatest underdog victories in modern golf

The Scoop

After Danny Willett's shock victory at the Masters, we take a look at some memorable golf upsets in recent history

Memorable underdog victories

Few people would have backed underdog Danny Willett to be crowned the 2016 Masters champion when leader Jordan Spieth tucked away his fourth consecutive birdie on the 9th hole on the final day.

Many would have gone to bed early thinking that defending champion had the title in the bag, especially after leading from the first day.

But a flawless, bogey-free round of 67, coupled with a shocking quadruple bogey on the par-3 12th for Spieth, led to Willett, of Sheffield, winning by three strokes.

To celebrate Willett’s victory, here are five of the best underdog wins in recent golfing history.

5. Trevor Immelman wins 2008 Masters

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 13: Trevor Immelman of South Africa has a green jacket placed on him by Zach Johnson after winning the 2008 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 13, 2008 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images for Golfweek)

Trevor Immelman had endured a rollercoaster ride in the months leading up to the 2008 Masters and to paraphrase the surprise victor at Augusta, the South African hates rollercoasters.

Immelman’s win came four months after he underwent surgery to remove a noncancerous tumor on his diaphragm.

But the now World No 1,673 was the man to beat throughout the tournament.

He a shot 68 in the two opening rounds and a 69 in the third.

And despite a 75 on the final day, which was blighted by the weather, he held off the challenge of Tiger Woods to land his first and only Major title.

4. Darren Clarke claims maiden Major crown at 42

SANDWICH, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland kisses the Claret Jug following his victory at the end of the final round of The 140th Open Championship at Royal St George's on July 17, 2011 in Sandwich, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Entering his 20th Open at the age of 42, you would be forgiven for thinking that Darren Clarke’s chances of winning a Major were long behind him.

But the Ryder Cup legend kept his nerve to claim a surprise maiden victory at the 2011 Open at Royal St George’s by three strokes ahead of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

He may have been a shock winner but also a hugely popular one.

3. Top Sandwich showing for Ben Curtis

SANDWICH, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Ben Curtis of the USA receives the Claret Jug as runners-up Thomas Bjorn (C) and Vijay Singh celebrate after the Open Championship at the Royal St. George's course on July 20, 2003 in Sandwich, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Playing in his first Major championship and number 396 in the world rankings, Curtis’ win in 2003 became the first debut winner at the Open since Tom Watson in 1975.

Would anyone have been brave enough to back the American to clinch the title at Royal St George’s heading into the tournament?

A 26-year-old Curtis won by one stroke after shooting a 69 to end on one-under-par.

His nearest challenger, Thomas Bjorn, imploded on the closing holes having held the lead for much of the final round.

Curtis, now ranked 1,215th in the world, may have been a surprising winner but history will show his name alongside a long list of illustrious golfers.

2. Todd Hamilton’s greatest ever golfing moment

TROON, SCOTLAND - JULY 18: Todd Hamilton of the USA celebrates victory on the 18th green at the 133rd Open Championship, after a playoff at the Royal Troon Golf Club on July 18, 2004 in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

It would be fair to say that American Todd Hamilton’s rise to the top of professional golf in 2004 came completely out of the blue.

After turning professional in 1987, Hamilton was unable to gain entrance to the PGA Tour. He instead made his name on the Japan Golf Tour.

After eight tries and at the age of 38, Hamilton went back to Qualifying School in 2003, where he finally earned his first PGA Tour card.

In one of golf’s greatest upsets, Hamilton beat four-time Major winner Ernie Els in a four-hole play-off to win the Open at Royal Troon.

Hamilton’s career has curtailed since that famous victory. He lost his full exempt status on the PGA Tour in 2010 and is now 1,741st in the world rankings.

1. Paul Lawrie bags Claret Jug after Van de Velde’s meltdown

18 Jul 1999: Jean Van de Velde of France still smiling despite finding the Barry Burn with his third shot on the final hole of the British Open at Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland. Van de Velde took a triple bogey seven to squander a three shot lead. Mandatory Credit: David Cannon /Allsport

Scotland’s Paul Lawrie clinched the Open at Carnoustie in one of the most bizarre climaxes of the competition’s history.

Frenchmen Jean Van de Velde, ranked 152 in the world, blew a three-shot lead going into the final hole with a triple bogey disaster to force a three-way play-off with Lawrie and Justin Leonard.

World No 159 at the time, Lawrie shot six birdies on his way to a 67.

And the 30-year-old kept his nerve on the final hole in the play-off to claim a birdie and the Claret Jug.

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