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Ranking the Most Surprising Performances on the PGA Tour in 2014 so Far

Ben AlberstadtFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

Ranking the Most Surprising Performances on the PGA Tour in 2014 so Far

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    There have been surprises aplenty on the PGA Tour in 2014. 

    Some have been good in nature"I'm surprised that guy won" types of surprises. 

    Others have been, well, not so good"How the heck did he miss the cut at that tournament?" types of surprises. 

    How do the unexpected outcomes stack up against one another? Click through to find out. 

9. Graeme McDowell at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship

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    Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

    What Happened

    In his first three matches at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Graeme McDowell never hit a tee shot with the lead in 58 holes. He trailed badly in all of his matches but came back to win all three.

    He was 3 down with three holes to play in his first match, 2 down with four to play in his second and 2 down with two to play in his third. 

    Eventually, his luck ran out when he fell to Victor Dubuisson in his fourth match. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    While he didn't win the tournament, Graeme McDowell should have been eliminated in the round of 64 at the Accenture Match Play Championship. The fact that he was able to stay alive three times when facing certain (match play) death is both surprising and impressive. 

     

    Why It's Here

    An Evel Knievel-ian foiling of match play death is a surprise worthy of the first entry on our list. 

8. Tiger Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    What Happened

    Tiger Woods has won at Torrey Pines more than any other golfer has won anywhere. Indeed, El Tigre has tasted victory at the California course eight times in his career.

    Entering the Farmers Insurance Open in January, we expected the then-world No. 1 to play well. Instead, a third-round 79 put Woods outside the secondary cut line, and he missed out on the final round. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    In short, nobody expected Tiger Woods to play so poorly at a course he routinely dominates.

    While we chastised him at the time for not being in game shape, it seems Woods was already dealing with the back issue that would eventually sideline him. The nerve issue almost certainly contributed to his struggles.

    At the time, however, the performance was quite surprising. 

     

    Why It's Here

    If Tiger Woods were to tee it up at Torrey Pines in a body cast, we'd still expect him to contend. Thus, it was shocking to see him in the field and then heading home before the final round. 

7. Matt Every at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    What Happened

    In March, Matt Every won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, beating Keegan Bradley by a stroke. Every has participated in PGA Tour events since 2005 and has been a regular fixture on tour since 2010, but the victory was his first. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    It's surprising when an unheralded tour player faces down one of the top 25 golfers in the world and earns a victory.

    However, what was even more surprising about Every's win was how he followed it upnamely, by missing cuts. After winning the Arnold Palmer, Every missed the cut in five of his next seven events. Crazy game. 

     

    Why It's Here

    The weirdness of Every's big win and subsequent inability to play professional golf in an above-average fashion lands him ahead of Tiger Woods here. 

6. Kevin Streelman at the Travelers Championship

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    Jeff Haynes/Getty Images

    What Happened

    Seven birdies in a row, that's what happened. During the final round of the Travelers Championship, Kevin Streelman poured in birdie putts from the 12th hole through the 18th hole to win by a stroke. The barrage gave him a Sunday 64 to complement his Saturday round of the same score. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    To make seven straight tweeters at any point during a tournament is an impressive feat, to be sure. However, when a golfer accomplishes the feat down the stretch on Sunday to earn a one-stroke victory, the performance is equal parts surprising and superlative. 

     

    Why It's Here

    While Every's win may have come from a more unlikely source and at a more difficult track, seven birdies in a row to close out an event is an unparallelled feat on any course, even a mini-golf one. 

5. Jordan Spieth at the Masters

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    What Happened

    Playing in his first Masters, Jordan Spieth went toe-to-toe with Bubba Watson on the weekend and came up just short of victory.

    Spieth entered the final round tied with Watson but wasn't able to match the latter's 69, settling instead for 72. Still, it was an impressive performance from a 20-year-old in his first Masters. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    Spieth's incredible showing at Augusta was surprising because it was entirely unexpected. His best finish in a major up to that point was a tie for 21st as the low amatuer at the 2012 U.S. Open.

    First-timers at the Masters simply don't do what Jordan Spieth did. More often, they do what Patrick Reed did: enter the tournament with a bounty of confidence and then fire 73, 79 to miss the cut. 

     

    Why It's Here

    The enormity of Spieth's task (trying to win the Masters) and the lack of experience with which he greeted it make it more surprising that any entry on this list up to this point. 

4. Patrick Reed's Two Wins

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    Jeff Haynes/Getty Images

    What Happened

    In January, Patrick Reed was buoyed by an opening-round 63 at the Humana Challenge. The Texas native recorded his second career victory at the beginning of his second season on the PGA Tour. Competing in just his second WGC event two months later, Reed was again victorious at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, an event with one of the deepest fields outside the majors. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    Given the depth of PGA Tour fields, it's always surprising to see multiple winners. It's more surprising still to see a 23-year-old record three victories in his first two seasons on tour.

    Reed's wins this season at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the Humana Challenge weren't a surprise to at least one person: Reed himself, as he indicated in his post-round press remarks at the WGC. 

     

    Why It's Here

    Patrick Reed made it to the PGA Tour using a formula of Monday qualifying and capitalizing on limited opportunities, which is to say that he was relatively unheralded. Thus, two wins from the Augusta State alum bump him ahead of surprise narratives that didn't involve so many trophies. 

3. Phil Mickelson at the Masters

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    What Happened

    Phil Mickelson opened with 76 at Augusta National earlier this year. The poor first round put him behind the eightball. After a second-round 73, Mickelson found himself outside the cut line at Augusta for the first time since 1997. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    Phil Mickelson has been Mr. Masters for more than a decade. He's won three times at Augusta since 2004. Thus, it was truly surprising to see him heading home before the weekend. 

     

    Why It's Here

    Lefty was a pre-tournament favorite, so no one expected this type of performance from him, even given his lackluster 2014 campaign. It's the most significant negative surprise of the year this far. 

2. Jimmy Walker's Three Wins

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    What Happened

    In less than a four-month span, Jimmy Walker won the Frys.com Open, the Sony Open in Hawaii and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this year. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    Prior to this PGA Tour season, Jimmy Walker had never won an event on golf's premier circuit. Very simply, then, it's truly surprising that JW has three wins halfway through the season. 

     

    Why It's Here 

    Three victories in a few-month stretch are necessarily more impressive than two. Thus, Walker is positioned before Reed in this list. Because of a preference for positive surprises, Walker nudges out Mickelson. 

1. Martin Kaymer at the Players Championship, US Open

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    What Happened

    Martin Kaymer has a pair of surprising victories this season. The German, who hadn't won on the PGA Tour since 2010, captured The Players Championship and The U.S. Open in ways both impressive and surprising.

    Kaymer opened with a 63 at The Players and went wire-to-wire to win despite some hiccups down the stretch. At the U.S. Open, Kaymer was even more dominant, winning by an incredible eight strokes. 

     

    Why It Was Surprising

    Who could have anticipated any golfer would win the U.S. Open by eight strokes? Who would have thought that the same golfer who won the "fifth major" (The Players) would also win the second major of the year?

    Additionally, Kaymer fell off the face of the earth after his major-winning 2010 season, so such a powerful resurgence was largely unexpected. 

     

    Why It's Here

    Kaymer earns the top spot on our list because of the magnitude of his victories and the significance of his accomplishments relative to any projections as to how he would play this year (i.e. relatively average). 

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