My assignment today isn’t to pick the favorite – it’s to pick some sleepers – golfers outside the top-50 in the world rankings who have a shot to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy this week.
Baltusrol has a history of underdog winners (if you overlook the two Nicklaus US Open victories). Other Open winners there included Tony Manero, Ed Furgol and Lee Janzen. And in the 1926 US Amateur on the Lower Course, unheralded George Von Elm upset two-time defending Amateur champion Bobby Jones.
So it could happen, and if it does, maybe one of these pros could be the one.
I didn’t have to look too far below the top-50 in the world rankings to choose my first sleeper, No. 51 Martin Kaymer.
Kaymer is no stranger to major tournament success: he won the 2014 US Open and the 2010 PGA and he comes into this week’s tournament on a good run. In his last six events Kaymer has three top 10 finishes and hasn’t been out of the top 40. Last year he finished tied for 12th in the PGA.
It almost makes you wonder why he’s fallen out of the top-50 in the world rankings. And you’re right. Maybe he’s not really a sleeper since I see Oddsshark.com lists him tied for 17th in their odds list; but since he is outside the top-50, technically he qualifies to be one of my selections. Hey, Golf Digest agrees.
My second sleeper lies a bit deeper on the world list though he’s a solid player who has won on the big stage, albeit as an amateur. Colt Knost is currently ranked No. 97 in the world and he’s missed the cut in his last two events.
On the positive side, the 2007 US Amateur champion has three top 5 finishes on the PGA Tour this year, including a tie for third in the Players where he missed the playoff by one stroke. Knost is listed as a 250-to-1 shot to win this week after missing the cut in both the Canadian and British Opens.
My final sleeper selection is Australian Greg Chalmers, currently ranked 229th in the world – an improvement of some 200 places after he almost fell out of the top-500 of the World Golf Rankings after missing several cuts on the Web.com Tour earlier this year.
The reason Chalmers is even at Baltusrol this week is that he won on the PGA Tour a few weeks ago at the Barracuda Classic, which was played in Reno at the same time the stars were at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron.
Chalmers is the sleepiest of sleepers: officially listed at 1000 to 1. And while he made the cut at the British Open this year, he finished dead last in 81st place. However he does have some PGA Championship success on his resume: in 2000 at Valhalla he finished tied for 4th, six strokes out of the playoff between Bob May and Tiger Woods.
Okay, granted, my sleepers aren’t as likely to win as Jason Day or Jordan Spieth and if you bet more than $5 on any of them, well don’t complain to me when you lose your money.
On the other hand, major tournament golf is full of surprises, especially the PGA Championship – if you don’t believe me, just ask Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel and Yang Yong-eun.