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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.

Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.

“On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”

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Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”

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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

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JT advances to quarters, closing in on No. 1 ranking

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Justin Thomas continued his impressive run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finds himself another step closer to overtaking Dustin Johnson in the World Golf Ranking.

Thomas rolled past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the first knockout stage and will face Kyle Stanley in the Elite Eight. He must advance to Sunday’s championship match to overtake Johnson as the new world No. 1.

“It wasn't anything crazy or special. Just played solid golf tee to green. And it was forcing him to make a lot of putts,” said Thomas, who has played 61 holes this week, won 24, lost six and hasn’t trailed in four matches.

Stanley, who needed a playoff victory over Paul Casey on Friday to advance to the weekend, defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1.

Bubba Watson also continued his solid play, rallying from an early deficit to beat Brian Harman, 2 and 1. He will play Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who defeated Charles Howell III, closing with back-to-back birdies for a 1-up victory.

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But as impressive as Thomas has been, Sweden’s Alex Noren has quietly continued to impress, going undefeated in pool play and closing out Patrick Reed on the 15th hole for a 5-and-3 victory.

“He's such a tough competitor,” said Noren, who will face Australian Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals. “I managed to hole a few birdie putts. When we both had good chances, he just missed and I managed to make those.”

Former Match Play champion Ian Poulter also advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen. He will play Kevin Kisner, who converted a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole to defeat Matt Kuchar, 1 up.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”