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The Loop

The seven most surprising golfers to play in the final pairing of a major

June 19, 2016

With a long birdie putt to close out his third round at the 116th U.S. Open, Andrew Landry booked a spot in the final pairing of Sunday's final round. He's not the first unlikely player to find himself in that position -- and he won't be the last -- but where does he rank in terms of surprising serious contenders? We look back at the major championships of this century to construct this list of biggest shockers.

Before we get to the ranking, a few things. You might expect to see names like Rich Beem, Todd Hamilton and Y.E. Yang on here. They're not, though, because despite how surprising their major victories were, all three had recently won PGA Tour events. And you won't see Bob May (48th) or Stephen Leaney (56th) because of their Official World Golf Ranking at the time. And oh yeah, Ben Curtis was NOT in the final group at the 2003 Open Championship. OK, now that we've cleared that up, here we go:

7. Paul Dunne, 2015 British Open: Dunne became the first amateur to have the 54-hole lead at the British Open since 1927. It didn't end well. Dunne shot a final-round 78 to finish T-30.

6. Shaun Micheel, 2003 PGA Championship: The lone winner on this list, Micheel arrived at Oak Hill No. 169 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He beat Chad Campbell by two shots with a final-round 70 that included this famous approach shot on No. 18:

5. Jason Gore, 2005 U.S. Open: Gore surprised everyone when he played his way into the final pairing at Pinehurst in 2005. He wound up shooting 84 to fall to T-48.

4. Ricky Barnes, 2009 U.S. Open: Sure, Barnes was a former U.S. Amateur champ, but he arrived at Bethpage Black in 2009 as the 519th-ranked player in the world. He grabbed a six-shot lead at one point and still led eventual champ Lucas Glover by one through 54 holes. But he had to settle for a T-2 after a final-round 76.

3. Greg Norman, 2008 British Open: OK, so Norman breaks our rule of not having a PGA Tour title, but these were extreme circumstances. Norman was 53, semi-retired and on his honeymoon when he took the 54-hole lead at Royal Birkdale in 2008. He shot a Sunday 77 to finish T-3 behind Padraig Harrington.

2. Tom Watson, 2009 British Open: For a second straight year, a senior took the 54-hole lead at the Open. Yes, Watson was a five-time British Open champ, but he was 59 at Turnberry. 59! Watson hung tough on Sunday, but a closing bogey forced a playoff with Stewart Cink that he eventually lost.

1. Andrew Landry, 2016 U.S. Open: No matter what Landry does on Sunday at Oakmont, it's been an incredible week for the 28-year-old. Landry arrived at the tournament with a T-41 being his career-best finish on the PGA Tour and an Official World Golf Ranking of 624. To put that in perspective, Ben Curtis, the lowest-ranked golfer to win a major, was ranked 396th when he claimed the claret jug in 2003.