Five biggest PGA Championship surprises

By Doug FergusonAugust 8, 2012, 2:34 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – The PGA Championship has delivered its share of unlikely winners over the years, particularly one stretch in the 1990s when eight of its 10 champions that decade won their first major.

Go back to 1990, and the PGA Championship produced the most players who won only one major in their careers.

A year ago at Atlanta Athletic Club, Keegan Bradley was tied for the lead through 36 holes, and Brendan Steele had a share of the 54-hole lead. This was remarkable because both of these PGA Tour rookies were competing in their first major. Even more surprising was when Bradley made triple bogey on the par-3 15th hole and was trailing by five shots with three holes remaining. He wound up winning in a playoff over Jason Dufner.

Surprise winners can mean different things to different people, but here are five big ones to consider over the years:

5. LITTLE POISON BEATS THE BLOND BOMBER

Craig Wood was an impressive figure in golf, known as the 'Blond Bomber' because of his good looks and his ability to smash the ball a long way. He met his match in a man that seemed half his size, Paul Runyan, who went by the nickname 'Little Poison.'

This was the 1934 PGA Championship at Park Club of Buffalo, and it might have been a surprise on paper.

Wood knocked out Denny Shute, 2 and 1, in the semifinals. That put him up against Runyan, a former pupil and an assistant pro under Wood.

Wood built a 1-up lead in the morning round, and he regained the lead in the afternoon with an eagle on the 29th hole. Runyan won back-to-back holes to take the lead, only for Wood to square the match by nearly holing his approach on the 35th hole. With the title on the line, both made birdie putts on the 36th hole to force overtime. Runyan beat him on the 38th hole by making an 8-foot par putt.

It was the first of two PGA Championship titles for Runyan, and it set the tone for Wood's career in other ways. He went on to lose the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in playoffs, too. Greg Norman, another blond bomber of sorts, lost all four majors in a playoff in stroke play.


4. THE FORMER CAR STEREO SALESMAN

Rich Beem had all but given up on a career in golf in 1995 when he walked away from the Dakotas Tour and took a job selling stereos and cell phones in Seattle. He eventually decided to give golf another try, and it's a good thing.

He won the 1999 Kemper Open, and two weeks before the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, he won the International. Still, no one gave him much of a chance. He started the final round at Hazeltine three shots behind Justin Leonard, who was going for his second major. Still in the mix was Tiger Woods, who won the first two majors of the year and was trying to become the first player to win the 'American Slam' – the three U.S. majors in one year.

Leonard vanished quickly and closed with a 77. Woods was poised to pounce. Beem never buckled.

He hit a 5-wood into 6 feet for eagle on No. 11 to seize control. Woods put together a stunning charge with birdies on his last four holes for a 67. Instead of folding, Beem answered with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th, allowing him to make bogey on the final hole for a 68 and a one-shot victory.

It was the first time Woods had been runner-up in a major – to a former car stereo salesman, no less.

'I'm still surprised at myself,' Beem said.


3. THE POST-WAR UPSET

The PGA Championship was the only major held in 1944 because of World War II, held at Manito Golf & Country Club in Spokane, Wash. Bob Hamilton was a lightly regarded player, who had served as the pro at Fort Lewis, Wash., in the latter years of the war. His only win was at the North & South Open earlier that year.

Byron Nelson already had won four majors, including the 1940 PGA, and this was one year before he ran off 11 straight win. He easily advanced to the finals in the 1944 PGA Championship, with his closest match a 5-and-4 win in the second round.

Hamilton was a long shot, but he put up a good fight over the first 18 holes when both players shot 70. Hamilton won the first hole of the afternoon, and Nelson never led again. Nelson did square the match with a birdie on the 33rd hole, only for Hamilton to regain the lead with a birdie on the next hole. The 18th hole at Manito was about 300 yards, and Nelson came up short in thick rough. He pitched to 10 feet. Hamilton also was short, but played his chip to about 20 inches. Nelson missed, and had Hamilton putt for the win. He calmly sank the putt for his only major.


2. THE NINTH ALTERNATE

John Daly was a 25-year-old PGA Tour rookie from Arkansas, not known except for those who had witnessed his prodigious tee shots. He was the ninth alternate for the 1991 PGA Championship, but decided to drive through the night to Crooked Stick in Indiana. When he arrived, the light on his hotel phone was blinking with a message. Nick Price had withdrawn to be with his wife for the birth of his son. No other alternates were on sight. He was in.

And what a debut.

Daly opened with a 69, then really turned heads in the second round with a 67 to take the 36-hole lead. Would he fade? No chance. Price's caddie hung around to work for Daly, and it was easy to detect the voice of Jeff 'Squeaky' Medlin who said as Daly stood over tee shots, 'Kill it.' Did he ever.

Daly closed with a 71 for a three-shot win over Bruce Lietzke, the start of an up-and-down career marked by suspensions, divorces, gambling debts and eventually another major championship at St. Andrews.


1. THE TIGER SLAYER

Death. Taxes. Tiger Woods with a 54-hole lead in a major championship.

Fourteen times in his career, Woods had at least a share of the lead going into the final round of a major. Fourteen times, he won. The 2009 PGA Championship did not seem as if it would end any differently. This was his final chance to extend his streak of winning a major for the fifth straight year, and he opened with a 67 to take the lead, and then stretched his lead to four shots going into the weekend at Hazeltine.

He played conservatively Saturday afternoon, and one birdie on the back nine gave him a 71. Still, it gave him a two-shot lead over Padraig Harrington and Y.E. Yang, a South Korean who had gone through Q-school the previous year and won the Honda Classic in the spring. Yang also had won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, with Woods in the field, though no one gave him much of a chance Sunday.

Surprise!

Woods started missing putts, and they were tied going to the back nine. Woods took the lead with a two-putt birdie on the 606-yard 11th hole, only to give it back with a poor tee shot on the 12th. The turning point came on the 14th, when Yang chipped in for eagle on the short par 4. He kept a one-shot lead going to the 18th. Yang hit a hybrid just over the bunker to 12 feet, and holed the putt for birdie. Woods made a meaningless bogey for 75 to finish three shots behind.

Yang became the first Asian male to win a major. Woods has never come that close to winning a major since then.

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.