Over the years the US Open has produced a number of upsets with outsiders defying all the odds and going on to be victorious. In 2005 Michael Campbell failed to make the cuts in the first five tournaments of the year but caused a shock when he lifted the US Open title at Pinehurst and then in 2010 Graeme McDowell became the first European to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin was triumphant in 1970. Could this year’s event be another repeat of an outsider coming out on top at Pebble Beach? In this article we look at what upsets have already occurred this season.
Max Homa became the second player ranked outside the top 400 in the World Ranking to win on the PGA Tour this year. Homa was 413th entering the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow while Adam Long was 417th when he won the Desert Classic in California. In addition, Keith Mitchell won the Honda Classic ahead of Rickie Fowler when ranked 161st and Corey Conners clinched the Texas Open ranked 196th.
But who is the biggest outsider ever to win on the American circuit? The answer: Derek Ernst. The 22-year-old was ranked 1,207th when he finished clear of Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney and runner-up David Lynn at the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship. Lynn lost out in a play-off and later said “I’d never heard of him,” in reference to the champion.
Ernst’s win was even more unlikely considering that he only got into the tournament as the fourth alternate due to many players withdrawing because the greens at Quail Hollow were in bad condition. However, since that high, Ernst missed the cut more often than not in the following seasons and eventually lost his card in 2016.
The biggest outsider to win a Major Championship was Ben Curtis when he won The Open in 2003. Curtis was a lowly 396th in the world when he kissed the Claret Jug at Royal St. Georges after finishing ahead of Thomas Bjørn and Vijay Singh, with Tiger Woods and Davis Love III a shot further back. It was the first time Curtis (pictured right) had ever played a Grand Slam event, making him the first player to win on their Major debut since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 US Open. Curtis’s feat has since been accomplished by Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship in Atlanta. He went on to win three more times on the PGA Tour and play in the victorious 2008 Ryder Cup team before retiring last year to work as a coach.