The oldest of golf's majors, the British Open produces champions that are anything but traditional. In fact, the Open Championship, as it is steadfastly referred to by the Royal & Ancient, has given golf some of its most unlikely champions, the most notable being John Daly.
As the 145th edition of the tournament tees off this week at Royal Troon in Scotland, here's a look back at some of the Open's most unexpected winners:
Darren Clarke, 2011
After not breaking the top 10 in more than a decade in any major (he finished T-3 at the 2001 British Open), Clarke won by three shots to cap a week of what may have been the best ball striking of his career. Clarke, who was 42 at the time of his first and only major victory, was playing in his 20th British Open. His victory, while stunning by itself, was also part of a larger revolution – in a span of 13 months three Northern Irishmen won majors (Rory McIlroy, 2011 U.S. Open and Graeme McDowell, 2010 U.S. Open).
Louis Oosthuizen, 2010
Also known by his nickname "Shrek," Oosthuizen truly came out of nowhere to dominate this Open Championship. Ranked No. 54 entering the tournament, Oosthuizen had but one European Tour victory to his credit, but took the lead on Friday and never let up. The South African native, who had made only one cut in eight previous majors appearances, was second to McIlroy after the first 18, but shot the low round of the day (67) on Friday to take the lead and set a record for the lowest two-day total at St. Andrews. He ultimately won by seven strokes. The victory really made Oosthuizen a major force – he's been a bridesmaid at three majors since, including two last year – the U.S. and British Opens. He also lost the 2012 Masters in a sudden-death playoff to Bubba Watson.
Todd Hamilton, 2004
It took Hamilton eight tries to earn his PGA Tour card and when he finally did in 2003 at 38, he put it to good use. Hamilton won the 2004 Honda Classic and went on to win the only major of his career by defeating Ernie Els in a four-hole playoff at Royal Troon. Hamilton had a one-shot lead over Els entering the 72nd hole, but he bogeyed No. 18 to open the door for Els, who failed to make a 12-foot birdie putt, forcing the playoff. The Open gave Hamilton a 5-year PGA Tour exemption. He didn't win again on the PGA Tour and lost his exempt status in 2010.
Ben Curtis, 2003
You want unexpected? The British Open at Royal St. George's was Curtis' major debut and he entered the tournament ranked No. 396 in the world, proving that, yes, everyone has a shot. Curtis, then 26, had never even finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event, but when the going got tough, he carded a 69 on the final day – the only player in the field to do so. Going out early and posting his score as conditions deteriorated for the leaders, his 69 proved good enough for a 1-shot victory over Thomas Bjorn and Vijay Singh. Curtis became the first player since Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open to win his major debut.
Paul Lawrie, 1999
Truth be told, Lawrie's win was made all the more surprising by the complete collapse of leader Jean van de Velde, who blew a three-shot lead on the final hole. Lawrie was never in the lead during the tournament at Carnoustie, but won a three-man playoff against van de Velde and Justin Leonard much to the delight of his fellow Scots. Lawrie, who hasn't finished in the top 10 in a major since, was 10 shots back when play began on that fateful Sunday. Since then, Lawrie has never finished better than T-15 in a major.
John Daly, 1995
Long John and his mullet surely weren't what St. Andrews' club members were expecting in the winner's tent when this event teed off. But maybe no one should have been all that surprised. Daly had already won a major – the 1991 PGA Championship – which allowed him plenty of opportunity to play at golf's top venues. Known for his long drives and erratic play, Daly put the former to good use at the Old Course and landed in a playoff with Italy's Costantino Rocca, who drained a 60-foot putt on 18 to force the playoff. Daly hadn't been performing well entering the tournament – he'd missed five cuts in 16 tries - and hasn't finished better than T-15 in a major since. Which, of course, is not at all surprising. Daly is the only two-time major winner to never play in the Ryder Cup.
Kel Nagle, 1960
This guy may be the best Aussie you never heard of. A shark himself, Nagle held off Arnold Palmer for his British Open win – the only major victory of his career. Nagle entered the tournament at St. Andrews having never even finished in the top 10 of a major. He was 39. Nagle went on to have the best season of his career five years later, when he finished second (losing in a playoff to Gary Player at the U.S. Open), T-15 (Masters) and T-20 (PGA) in golf's other three majors while finishing T-5 at the British – his fifth of six top 5 finishes in seven years at the Open Championship.