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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Langer named Payne Stewart Award recipient

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 20, 2018, 12:00 pm

Bernhard Langer has been named the 2018 recipient of the Payne Stewart Award, presented annually by the PGA Tour to the golfer who best exemplifies the values and character of the three-time major champion who died in a 1999 airplane crash.

Langer, who turns 61 later this month, won the Masters twice before becoming one of the most dominant players in PGA Tour Champions history. He has won 37 times on the over-50 circuit, second most all-time, including 10 major championships. In 2002, he became the first German player ever inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

But it's his "supreme level of character and sportsmanship" that led to the award, which he'll receive at a special ceremony during next month's Tour Championship.

"We are all so proud of Payne Stewart and the husband and father he was, and the player he was and the character he had," Langer said in a release. "To now be receiving the Payne Stewart Award, I feel extremely honored. I know there are many, many other guys that deserve it as much if not more than me, and I'm thrilled to receive it."

The Payne Stewart Award was created in 2000, one year after Stewart died as the reigning U.S. Open champion. Past recipients include Ben Crenshaw (2001), Gary Player (2006), Ernie Els (2015) and Stewart Cink (2017).

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Im wins Web.com regular-season finale; 25 get Tour cards

By Associated PressAugust 20, 2018, 11:15 am

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Sungjae Im won the regular-season ending Portland Open on Sunday to earn one of 25 PGA Tour cards and become the first player to top the Web.com Tour money list wire-to-wire.

Im closed with a 4-under 67 on Pumpkin Ridge's Witch Hollow course for a four-stroke victory over John Chin. The 20-year-old South Korean player earned $144,000 to finish the season with $534,326.

Im finished at 18-under 266. He also won the season-opening event in the Bahamas and had three second-place finishes.


Web.com Tour final regular season money list

Full-field scores from the WinCo Foods Portland Open


Chin shot a 66. He was the only player to move into the top 25 on the money list, earning $86,400 to go from 41st to 10th with $207,909.

Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton was third at 13 under after a 66. Jim Knous (67) and Derek Ernst (71) were 12 under, a stroke ahead of Kevin Dougherty (70) and Curtis Luck (69).

Dougherty finished 26th on the money list, $207,909 behind Hank Lebioda for the final PGA Tour card.

Ben Taylor dropped out of the top 25, going from 25th to 29th after missing the cut.

Twenty-five more PGA Tour cards will be awarded in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

Here's a look at the regular-season top 25 (*=PGA Tour rookie in 2018-19):

The 25

Hometown

Stats

  1. 1. Sungjae Im*

Jeju, South Korea

Two wins

  1. 2. Sam Burns

Shreveport, La.

One win, five top-10s

  1. 3. Scott Langley

Barrington, Ill.

One win, five top-10s

  1. 4. Martin Trainer*

Palo Alto, Calif.

Two wins

  1. 5. K.H. Lee*

Ilsan, South Korea

Three runners-up

  1. 6. Cameron Champ*

Sacramento, Calif.

One win, five top-10s

  1. 7. Sebastian Muñoz

Bogota, Colombia

Six top-10 finishes

  1. 8. Anders Albertson*

Alpharetta, Ga.

One win, two top-10s

  1. 9. Chase Wright*

Muncie, Ind.

One win, four top-10s

  1. 10. John Chin*

Temecula, Calif.

Three top-10s

  1. 11. Kyle Jones*

Snowflake, Ariz.

Four top-10s

  1. 12. Jose de Jesus Rodriguez*

Irapuato, Mexico

One win, three top-10s

  1. 13. Adam Long*

St. Louis, Mo.

Five top-10s

  1. 14. Adam Svensson*

Surrey, B.C., Canada

One win, four top-10s

  1. 15. Josh Teater

Lexington, Ky.

Three top-10s

  1. 16. Wyndham Clark*

Denver, Colo.

Four top-10s

  1. 17. Julián Etulain

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Three top-10s

  1. 18. Alex Prugh

Las Vegas, Nev.

Four top-10s

  1. 19. Joey Garber*

Petoskey, Mich.

One win, three top-10s

  1. 20. Chris Thompson*

Lawrence, Kan.

Five top-10s

  1. 21. Carlos Ortiz

Jalisco, Mexico

Four top-10s

  1. 22. Brady Schnell*

Mesa, Ariz.

One win, two top-10s

  1. 23. Kramer Hickok*

Dallas, Tex.

Four top-10s

  1. 24. Roberto Castro

Atlanta, Ga.

Five top-10s

  1. 25. Hank Lebioda*

Orlando, Fla.

Four top-10s

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Hovland finally puts 'it' all together for U.S. Am title

By Ryan LavnerAugust 20, 2018, 1:35 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Viktor Hovland had more than an hour to decompress and regroup for the afternoon session of the 36-hole final at the 118th U.S. Amateur. During that downtime, he scrolled on his phone for 20 minutes, uninterrupted, before he finally headed toward the buffet line in The Lodge.

Every college kid is glued to his iPhone, of course, but Hovland wasn’t replying to texts or sifting through his Twitter mentions or checking out Snapchat.

He was reading a philosophical debate about affirmative action.

“He’s constantly on his phone, reading articles, gaining knowledge, and there have been times this year that it’s 20 minutes before his tee time and he hasn’t warmed up yet, so we’re thinking, ‘Is Viktor going to warm up today or is he going to roll out there cold?’” said Oklahoma State assistant coach Donnie Darr. “He would go to the range, literally hit 10 to 12 balls and off to the first tee he’d go. He knows what he’s working on – he’s not down there searching.”

Or as OSU head coach Alan Bratton put it: “If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.”

Hovland, 20, might be more interested in worldly matters than sports, but his own success story might pop up on his news feed Sunday night.

With one last commanding performance at Pebble Beach, he capped a near-perfect week by defeating Devon Bling, 6 and 5, to win the U.S. Amateur.

The new Prince of Pebble’s dominance this week was astounding.

The fifth-ranked amateur in the world, Hovland never trailed during his final 86 holes and was 1 down only once in six matches. His 104 total holes tied the fewest played by a U.S. Amateur champion since 1979.

You’d never have known it was just the Norwegian’s second career victory – at any level.  

“It wasn’t anything flashy,” he said afterward, “but this week it all came together, which is really cool.”

His championship match against the 302nd-ranked Bling wasn’t flawless, but he also didn’t need to be.

Hovland so thoroughly trounced his opponents this week that he played 15 fewer holes than Bling, a sophomore at UCLA. In front of a few dozen family and friends, Bling played the best round of his life in the semifinals, but he was 5 over par during the morning 18 Sunday and managed only one non-par 5 birdie all day.  

Hovland led outright for all but two holes, taking the lead for good after the signature shot of the championship. On the fourth hole, he blasted his tee shot over the cliff, into an ice plant. After sliding down the embankment to reach his ball, he saw it sitting perfectly.

“It was a hit-and-hope moment,” he said, “and it ended up pretty sweet.”

Hovland chopped out to 3 feet, the unlikely birdie jump-starting his day. He took a 4-up lead into the intermission and never came close to surrendering that advantage during the afternoon.


 

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


His eventual 6-and-5 decision was the second-largest margin of victory since 2010.

“He’s been on a steady rise,” said Bratton, who caddied for Hovland this week, “and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.”

Bratton was also on the bag for the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion at Chambers Bay. But unlike Peter Uihlein, the top amateur who wanted to play for the top program, Hovland was an underrated addition in Stillwater.

In the summer of 2013, Bratton took a trip to Scotland to watch one of his prized recruits, Kristoffer Ventura, at the European Boys Championship. While there Bratton watched the rest of the Norwegian national team practice, and the newest and youngest member of that squad stood out.

“I promise you I know what good is when I see it,” Bratton said, “and Viktor was good.”

Still, Hovland never won outside of Norway – a common theme, until recently – and was lightly recruited through his senior year of high school, only receiving interest from Texas Tech, TCU, Tennessee and Bratton’s Oklahoma State program. Though many of his friends chose the pro route, Hovland was dead set on college. “I just didn’t think I was good enough for the pros,” he said.

During recruiting, Hovland would talk on the phone with Bratton for hours, about almost everything – TV shows, politics, philosophy. He devours podcasts. He’s an ardent movie critic. He extensively researches and then welcomes a debate on the day’s hottest topics.

Even without any tournament titles on Hovland’s résumé, Bratton was so smitten that he didn’t bother to bring in another recruit for the class of 2016. He was all-in, with no backup option, and Hovland visited the campus for the first time a week before signing day his senior year.

The gamble paid off.

Hovland closed out his freshman season with five consecutive top-10s and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors, but as a sophomore he truly became an elite player.

During his freshman year his swing was too shallow and he struggled to get the ball airborne. At OSU’s event at Southern Highlands in Las Vegas, Hovland bubbled with frustration when he couldn’t stop his shots on the firm greens.

“For the life of me I could hit a 3-wood off the deck,” he said. “It was disgusting to look at.”

He finally had enough last fall, when he flew to South Florida to see his swing coach, Denny Lucas, for three days over the Thanksgiving break. They worked to get Hovland more into his left side at impact and compress the ball. 

The difference was significant and immediate. He won his first college tournament in the spring, only once placed outside the top 25 in an event and became a first-team All-American. He also saved his best for the biggest stages, leading off the Cowboys in match play and going a perfect 3-0 as they cruised to the NCAA title.

“Prior to that he got a lot out of that because his mis-hits were so good, but his good shots are way better now,” Darr said. “His ball flight is higher, so he’s more versatile as a player. He can hit it farther and hit it both ways. I think you’re going to see he’s going to win a lot of tournaments moving forward.” 

This summer, Hovland reached the Round of 16 at the British Amateur and tied for second at the European Amateur before his resounding performance here at Pebble Beach. He’s the first player since Florida’s Bubba Dickerson (2001) to be part of a NCAA title team and win the U.S. Amateur in the same year.

“I always thought I had a pretty good vocabulary,” Hovland said, “but I’m at a loss for words. It’s really special. I just hope it’s the start of something great.” 

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After Further Review: Women's No. 1 ranking a precarious perch

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 20, 2018, 1:20 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On musical chairs at the top of the women's rankings ...

Women’s golf is a game of musical chairs these days. The Rolex Women’s World Rankings are a testament to the depth of the tour, with seven changes at No. 1 in the last 14 months. Ariya Jutanugarn looked as if she might be on her way to  dominating this season, but her latest run at No. 1 lasted three weeks. Sung Hyun Park’s victory Sunday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship helped her take back the top ranking. Park lasted a week at No. 1 the first time she got there late last fall. Jutanugarn lasted two weeks at No. 1 the first time she got there last summer. Sung Hyun Park, Jutanugarn, Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Lydia Ko have all taken turns at the top since June of 2017, and there’s no reason to believe anyone should get too comfortable on the game’s throne the rest of the year. - Randall Mell


On a promising day for U.S. Ryder Cup chances ...

This year’s Ryder Cup is still weeks away, but Sunday was a good day for the U.S. team.

Brandt Snedeker birdied two of his last four holes to win the Wyndham Championship and set the stage for a potential captain’s pick and his third start at the biennial matches.

If U.S. captain Jim Furyk can rest easier with his four picks coming into focus, he can also take solace in Webb Simpson’s play at the Wyndham. Simpson, who held on to the final automatic qualifying spot at the PGA Championship, closed with a 62 at Sedgefield Country Club to finish tied for second place.

And Furyk shot a final-round 63 to tie for fourth at the Wyndham, so a good day all the way around for the U.S. captain. - Rex Hoggard