Top 5 PGA Championships in history

By Doug FergusonAugust 7, 2012, 1:48 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Being the last of the four majors does not mean the PGA Championship lacks excitement.

Think back to a year ago, when Keegan Bradley was five shots behind when he walked off the 15th green at Atlanta Athletic Club and wound up the winner. Tiger Woods went 21 holes with Bob May at Valhalla in what felt like match play for the entire round. And the PGA Championship had its share of match-play moments, considering that was the format until television dictated a change to stroke play in 1959.

In the last 20 years, the PGA Championship has delivered surprises like Bradley, Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel, along with stars like Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.

With a history that dates to 1916 – the PGA Championship was played one year before World War I intervened – here are the best five:

FOUR IN A ROW FOR THE HAIG: Walter Hagen's 1-up victory over Joe Turnesa in 1927 PGA Championship at Cedar Crest in Dallas made him the only player to win the same major four straight years. Young Tom Morris won the British Open four straight times in five years. There was no championship in 1871.

This was Hagen at the peak of his game, particularly when it came to match play.

He was on the verge of being eliminated in the semifinals when Al Espinosa was 1 up on the 36th hole. Hagen sailed the green and chipped to a foot for a conceded par. Espinosa rolled his 25-foot birdie putt to within 3 feet of the cup. Hagen had conceded every putt from that distance during the match, but as Turnesa looked to him for a concession, Hagen turned to the gallery. Espinosa missed the putt, and three-putted the first extra hole to lose.

In the championship match, Hagen stopped conceding short putts on the back nine, and Turnesa missed short putts on the last six holes. That included the 36th hole when he had a chance to extend the match, only to see his putt hang on the lip of the cup.

Also notable about this PGA – Hagen needed a cap to keep the sun out of his eyes, so he borrowed one from a 15-year-old in the gallery named Byron Nelson.


JACK SETS THE MARK: The 1973 PGA Championship at Canterbury was like so many other majors that Jack Nicklaus won. With a 68 in the third round, Nicklaus took a one-shot lead over Mason Rudolph and Don Iverson, and then wore them down in the final round with a 69 for a four-shot victory.

There was not much drama, only history. This is the major where Nicklaus set the standard in the biggest events.

Bobby Jones held the record of 13 majors – four U.S. Opens, five U.S. Amateurs, three British Opens and one British Amateur. Nicklaus wasn't even aware of the record until he won the 1970 British Open and a reporter mentioned he was at 10 majors. Two years later, he reached 13 majors with his U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach.

The record was broken at Canterbury, no matter which way it is counted.

It was the 14th major of his career, including two U.S. Amateur titles. And it was the 12th professional major, one more than Walter Hagen.


VALIDATION FOR THE SQUIRE: Gene Sarazen was the defending champion in the 1923 PGA Championship. A year earlier, he had become the youngest winner of the PGA at age 20, though in today's terminology, that would have carried an asterisk – Walter Hagen didn't play because he had prior engagements.

In 1923 at Pelham Golf Club, Hagen crushed everyone in his path – he won his opening match 10 and 9, and beat George McLean in the semifinals, 12 and 11 – to set up a championship match against Sarazen that lived up to its hype.

The match was all square after the morning session, and Sarazen was 2 up late in the match until Hagen won the 34th and 35th holes to square the match again. On the second extra hole, Sarazen hooked a tee shot that was a few feet from going out-of-bounds. Sarazen – whose birth name was Eugenio Saraceni – later said Hagen complained there was spaghetti sauce on the ball. ''He said the greenskeeper lived there and was eating spaghetti and threw the ball back out,'' Sarazen said with a chuckle in a 1999 interview.

From deep rough, Sarazen slashed it onto the green to 2 feet away. Hagen was in a bunker and nearly holed it. That left Sarazen a short putt, which he made to win in 38 holes for his second straight PGA title. A year later, Hagen began his run of four in a row.


WILD THING: Nick Price had to withdraw from the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick because his wife was expecting their first child. He was replaced in the field by the ninth alternate, a 25-year-old rookie from Arkansas named John Daly.

The next four days became an introduction like no other in the majors.

Daly took the club almost far enough back to touch his toes, and then uncoiled a swing that produced prodigious power. He opened with a 69, and then really caught everyone's attention with a 67 in the second round to take the lead. He never hit more than 7-iron into any of the par 4s. And the magical ride kept right on going. Another 69 in the third round kept him atop the leaderboard, and Daly was never seriously challenged.

He used Price's caddie for the week, Jeff ''Squeaky'' Medlin, whose voice became part of the legend. As Daly stood over tee shots, Medlin could be heard saying, ''Kill it.'' And that's what he did. 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.


TIGER'S BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Tiger Woods was coming off a record 15-shot win at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open, and an eight-shot win at St. Andrews in the British Open to complete the Grand Slam. Next up was the PGA Championship at Valhalla, where Woods had a chance to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win three straight professional majors in one calendar year.

This was tougher than anyone imagined.

Woods played the first two rounds with Jack Nicklaus, who came away saying, ''I think he's a better player than I was.'' Woods had a one-shot lead over Bob May going into the final round, but May had a one-shot lead with four holes to play. On the 15th, May had a 4-foot birdie putt and Woods faced 12 feet for par. Woods made, May missed, and Woods caught him two holes later with a birdie. On the par-5 18th, May holed an 18-foot birdie from the fringe. Woods had to make a 6-foot par to force a playoff.

In the three-hole playoff, Woods birdied the 16th hole and saved par from the front bunker on the 18th for a one-shot playoff win.

Just over seven months later, Woods won the Masters to become the first player to hold the four professional majors at the same time. The PGA Championship was the only one of those that made him sweat to the end.

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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”