Top 10 Unlikely Masters Champions
If you are looking for a long-shot to back in the Masters then you will be encouraged by this set of outsiders who have triumphed at Augusta. Throughout the history of the major tournament there have been men who have seriously upset the odds and beaten the favourites to the famous green jacket. From way back in the history of Augusta National to the 2016 champion, there has been serious money to be made by betting on the outsiders – here are the most unlikely champions in Masters history.
10. Mike Weir - 2003
The Canadian seems like one of the most obscure Masters winner in history, but he actually came into the event as a bit of a dark horse. Weir had already won two PGA Tour events in 2003 before his triumph at Augusta and was firmly in the world’s top 10. However, as he had not major-winning experience (and never won another in his career) it was still a shock to see him don the green jacket. His play-off victory over Len Mattiace may be the most obscure ever.
9. Angel Cabrera – 2009
El Pato became the lowest ranked player in history to win the Masters in 2009 as he came into the tournament at 69th in the world, making this win a huge upset. However, he isn’t higher on this list as he was already a major champion at this point, having won the US Open in 2007. He suffered a couple of barren years before his Augusta masterclass, but clearly the Argentine is a man for the big stage.
8. Charl Schwartzel - 2011
The South African only joined the PGA Tour in at the start of 2011 and he was already Masters Champion by April that year. Schwartzel did have six European Tour titles to his name by this point, so didn’t come in completely unheralded, but few expected him to challenge in only his second Masters, when he had finished 30th the previous year. His previous best major finish was T14 at the 2010 Open – this was quite an improvement.
7. Craig Stadler – 1982
The Walrus only won one major and it was at Augusta in 1982 when he held off challenges from the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson and Raymond Floyd to claim the jacket. Stadler has won four PGA titles in the two years previous but with such an impressive field to compete with, he wasn’t fancied for victory. Weirdly, though, it was Dan Pohl, and not one of these greats of the game, who he beat in the play-off to win it.
6. Charles Coody - 1971
Coody had a couple of PGA Tour wins to his name by 1971 but was very unlikely to claim victory at Augusta when he turned up alongside the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Johnny Miller. However, it was Miller and Nicklaus who were tied for second come the end of Sunday with Coody claiming a shock win over the golfing greats. From journeyman to champion, it was the highlight and only major of his career.
5. Claude Harmon – 1948
Harmon really came out of nowhere to turn in a stunning display in 1948 – setting a new tournament record for margin of victory (5 shots) and equally=ing the course low with 279. He was a club pro at the time and had barely managed any success in his career to that point before the dazzling display. Harmon picked up ,500 for his troubles.
4. Danny Willett – 2016
The Sheffield outsider was a whopping 60/1 to win the Masters in 2016 before he shocked the world on the final day to win the tournament by three shots. Willett had four European Tour victories to his name before his major triumph, but was not expected to get anywhere near the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlory or Jason Day. However, it was Spieth he beat into second place with a stunning final round of 67 to pick up the unlikely win.
3. Fuzzy Zoeller - 1979
Zoeller became the first man to win the Masters at the first attempt since 1935 when he claimed a dramatic play-off victory in 1979. He had been a professional for six years but only reached Augusta for the first time in ’79 having won his first PGA Tour title in January of the same year. With Tom Watson alongside him in the play-off he was still a considerable outsider to win even at that stage but Zoeller prospered against the odds, going on to win a second major at the 1984 US Open.
2. Trevor Immelman – 2008
Immelman’s victory was incredible in a number of ways. He had a non-cancerous tumour removed from his stomach earlier in 2008 and his form was awful coming into Augusta. The South African had missed the cut in four of his first eight starts on the PGA Tour in 2008. Despite this, he rocked up to the first major of the year and led from the end of Thursday to the end of Sunday, a ridiculous achievement given the circumstances. The world number 29 had dominated the field completely, comfortably beating Tiger Woods into second place by three strokes.
1. Larry Mize - 1987
The hometown hero managed to oust two legends in Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman in the play-off to win the 1987 event in Augusta, out of absolutely nowhere. Mize had been a pro for seven years without much to shout about except one PGA Tour win in 1983 at the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. His previous best Masters finish was T11 in ’84 and best major result T6 at the PGA Championship in the same year. Safe to say no one though Mize would come through a field which also featured the likes of Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw, nevermind topple Norman and Ballesteros at the climax. He would never scale those height again with just two top five finishes in majors to come in his career, but what a day in April ’87.