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Each year, there are a few unexpected winners on the PGA Tour. But surprise winners this year read like a Who’s Who of Who?
Russell Henley, Sony Open
For his debut on the PGA Tour, the 23-year-old Henley didn’t just win; he destroyed the tournament record by four shots with a 24-under-par 256 that included birdies on the last four holes.
Now ranked a respectable No. 17 in the FedEx standings, the two-year PGA member has had a solid season, making the cut 14 of 19 times with three top-10 finishes. He even made the cut at the British Open.
John Merrick, Northern Trust Open
You can pretty much say Merrick came out of nowhere for his first-ever win.
A look back at Merrick’s season to date shows a pretty uneventful year that includes only 10 made cuts of 17 events.
In fact, his only top-10 finish was his win at Riviera in February, or one fewer than last year. Merrick, who attended nearby UCLA, had to beat Charlie Beljan for his first title after 169 starts.
Michael Thompson, Honda Classic
With his inaugural win at the Honda Classic, Thompson reminded us of the kind of play that made him a celebrity at last’s year’s U.S. Open, where he shocked the golfing public by finishing in a tie for second place.
Thompson seems to punctuate otherwise mediocre play with the kind that wins tournaments. He has already been cut 10 times in 25 tourneys this year.
Kevin Streelman, Tampa Bay Championship
Perhaps the big surprise here is that Streelman hasn’t won sooner.
You may have noticed his name rising up the leaderboard on Sundays, as he is ranked sixth on the tour in final-day scoring. He is 10th in top-10 finishes with five, and it may be even more surprising that he is listed eighth in FedEx points. He is also 13th in total putting on the tour, a telltale sign of future success.
But this was his first win in 153 starts. Not surprisingly, he had three straight top-six finishes just a month later.
Derek Ernst, Wells Fargo Championship
If you have heard of Derek Ernst, you are definitely a golf nerd.
Ranked No. 1,207 in the world—and that is not a typo—the former UNLV star entered the Wells Fargo Championship as a fourth alternate.
Couple that with the fact that it was only his seventh event as a pro, and you can see why he is on this list.
Jonathan Blixt, Greenbrier Championship
Blixt blitzed the field at the Greenbrier with four highly consistent rounds of 67.
It has been a feast-or-famine career for the Swede, who won at the 2012 Frys.com Open.
We’ll be watching to see when he can complete the hat trick.