We look back at 20 of the most memorable moments in the history of the PGA Championship.
1 / 20
You play a golf event in August in South Florida, it’s going to be REALLY hot. On Sunday in Palm Beach Gardens, the high was a record 97 degrees. While players putted on greens largely stripped of grass by a fungus, spectators stripped down to beat the heat. And unbeknownst to PGA CEO Jim Awtrey, so did a model stationed at a floating scoreboard. Wearing golf attire when she was ferried out to her post, she ducked behind the scoreboard and re-emerged wearing only a string bikini. When a flabbergasted Awtrey saw her on TV, he immediately voted her off the island. Are we leaving anything out? Oh yes - Larry Nelson beat Lanny Wadkins on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
2 / 20
Shaun Micheel was in the driver’s seat going to the 17th hole at Oak Hill, holding a two-shot lead over playing partner Chad Campbell. But Micheel bogeyed the par 4, giving Campbell an opening. If Campbell could hit one tight on 18 and make birdie, he coud force a playoff or possibly end the tournament, if Micheel bogeyed. Instead, it was Micheel who hit one tight, his 7-iron from 174 yards coming to rest just inches from the cup. He made the birdie for his first – and still only – PGA Tour win.
3 / 20
Sam Snead was due to report for duty in the Navy in 1942, but just before he did, he took care of some unfinished business at Seaview Country Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After losing in the final of the PGA Championship in 1938 and 1940, Snead got over the hump by winning the ’42 final, 2 and 1, over Jim Turnesa, who at the time was a corporal in the Army. It was the first of Snead’s seven major championships, including three PGAs.
4 / 20
In the middle of the 18th fairway at Baltusrol’s Lower Course sits a plaque marking the spot from which Jack Nicklaus hit a 1-iron to the final green on his way to winning the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. Phil Mickelson walked up and tapped his fairway wood on the marker before hitting his second shot on the par-5 hole in the 2005 PGA. He came up just short of the green, but was able to get up and down for birdie and a one-shot win over Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn.
5 / 20
In retrospect it’s hard to believe, but there was a time when Ben Hogan wore the mantle of “best player never to have won a major.” At age 34, Hogan had amassed 30 wins, including a tour-leading nine in 1946. Win No. 10 finally got him off the schneid for his first major, as he routed Jimmy Demaret, 10 and 9, in the semifinals and then dispatched Ed “Porky” Oliver, 6 and 4, in the final at Portland (Oregon) Golf Club. Hogan went on to win eight more majors.
6 / 20
Because of a lengthy rain delay, it was questionable whether the tournament was going to be able to conclude on Sunday. No one wanted any part of coming back on Monday, however, so at the 18th hole, the final pairing of Rory McIlroy and Bernd Weisberger teed off with the pairing ahead of them, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, still in the fairway. With the final hole effectively being played by a foursome, Mickelson narrowly missed an eagle chip that might have tied him for the lead, and McIlroy made a final par for a one-shot win.
7 / 20
Brooks Koepka led by seven shots entering the final round at Bethpage Black. No player had ever blown an advantage that great in major history, but Koepka saw his lead dwindle to one shot late on the back nine. Koepka managed to avert crisis, however, and held on to defeat Dustin Johnson by two shots, becoming the first player to own back-to-back victories in two different majors (the PGA Championship and U.S. Open) simultaneously.
8 / 20
Like Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson never achieved a career Grand Slam because he never won a PGA Championship. In 1978, 10 years after Palmer narrowly missed winning at Pecan Valley, Watson almost got it done in Oakmont. Watson led by five after 54 holes, but he could manage only a 2-over 73 on Sunday. That opened the door for John Mahaffey, who shot 66, making up seven shots on Watson and getting into a three-man sudden-death playoff, which also included Jerry Pate. Mahaffey won with a birdie on the second extra hole.
9 / 20
Pity the poor layup shot. It gets no respect. Arnie always went for it – always – and we made him the most beloved golfer of all time. Fictional golfer Roy McAvoy went for it in the movie “Tin Cup” – with disastrous results – but he was the hero and got the girl. Chip Beck laid up in the 1993 Masters and got crushed in the media for it. So it clearly takes guts to lay up. With a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson on the 72nd hole, David Toms faced a long second shot over water on the par-4 hole. Instead, he laid up, then hit a wedge shot to 12 feet and made the par- and tournament-saving putt. Course management 1, ego 0.
10 / 20
Lee Trevino got some assistance from Arnold Palmer to beat Jack Nicklaus by one shot at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, North Carolina. Actually, the assistance came from a Wilson Arnold Palmer model putter that Trevino found in the attic of the house he was renting that week. It was the fourth and final time that Nicklaus would finish runner-up to Trevino in a major.
11 / 20
The only major that Arnold Palmer never won was the PGA. Had the final hole at Pecan Valley in Texas played out differently, that statement might not be true. Palmer trailed Julius Boros by one shot when he smashed a 230-yard fairway wood to within 8 feet of the cup on 18. A birdie would force Boros, playing a group behind, to make a birdie of his own to win. More likely was a playoff if Boros made par, or a Palmer win if Boros bogeyed, which wasn’t a far-fetched scenario. Palmer missed, to the disbelief of his fans, but Boros’ 3-wood approach came up some 50 feet short of the flag. Boros then pitched to within 3 feet and made the putt to become, at 48, the oldest winner of a major.
12 / 20
Walter Hagen was a dominant figure in professional golf in the early part of the 20th century. He won the PGA Championship five times, a record equaled only by Jack Nicklaus. Hagen’s 1927 win was his fourth in a row and fifth overall. He defeated Joe Turnesa, 1 up, in the final at Cedar Crest Country Club in Dallas.
13 / 20
When Shoal Creek founder Hall Thompson told an interviewer that the Alabama club would not be pressured into admitting black members, the you-know-what hit the fan. Some sponsors pulled advertising from the upcoming PGA Championship, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference threatened a protest. The PGA of America and Shoal Creek came to an agreement not to move the tournament: The club would grant honorary membership to black local businessman Louis J. Willie, who would become a full member after the normal waiting period. The tournament was played as scheduled, with Australian Wayne Grady beating Fred Couples by three shots for his only major.
14 / 20
Give Greg Norman credit. First, he had to return to Inverness, where Bob Tway had beaten him in 1986 with a hole-out from a bunker on the 72nd green. Second, after Tway did it, holing out to beat Norman practically became a cottage industry, with Larry Mize, David Frost and Robert Gamez contributing to Norman’s frustration. But the Great White Shark kept going forward, like a, well, great white shark. Only this time, instead of someone else’s hole-out beating him, it was his own lip-outs - on the final hole of regulation and the first two holes of the sudden-death playoff with Paul Azinger. Azinger claimed the only major of his career.
15 / 20
Remember when Tiger Woods was invincible? When he was 14-0 in majors when holding the 54-hole lead. That era was about to end when he and Y.A. Yang stepped to the first tee on Sunday at Hazeltine National. Woods held a two-shot lead after 54 holes, but when Yang eagled the short par-4 14th, the Korean went up by one. Yang’s lead was still one going to 18, where he birdied and Woods bogeyed for the final three-shot margin. Yang became the first Korean male to win a major.
16 / 20
Davis Love III was in his 12th season on the PGA Tour in 1997. With 10 wins, he was widely considered the best player never to have won a major. He changed that narrative once and for all at Winged Foot, not just winning, but running away with the championship. Justin Leonard finished second, five shots back. Love putted out on the 72nd hole under the glow of a rainbow. Those sentimentally inclined took that as a sign that Love’s late father, Davis Love Jr., was approvingly looking down on the proceedings.
17 / 20
In 1986 Greg Norman achieved the Saturday Slam, taking a lead into the final round of all four majors. At the Masters, his Sunday was undone by Jack Nicklaus. At the U.S. Open, it was Raymond Floyd. At The Open, Norman finally slammed the door on his first major, winning by five shots at Turnberry. In the PGA at Inverness, Norman started the final round four shots clear of Bob Tway, but with Norman making only one birdie all day, they went to the 18th hole tied. Tway found a greenside bunker with his approach, while Norman was in the fringe. Tway’s bunker shot landed on the green and rolled smack into the cup. Do we even need to add that Norman failed to hole his chip shot?
18 / 20
Sergio Garcia was only 19 and a rookie pro when he introduced the term “scissor-kick” into the golfing lexicon. Trailing Tiger Woods by one shot at Medinah’s par-4 16th hole, El Nino hit a drive that snuggled up against a tree. Just like his Spanish forebear, Seve Ballesteros, Garcia rejected the idea of playing safe with a chip-out. Instead, he lashed at the ball with a 6-iron, the clubface open and his eyes closed. As the shot took off, banking left-to-right toward the green, Garcia ran after it, jumping up with the aforementioned scissor-kick to get a better view. The shot has lasted as the most famous of Garcia’s career, but Woods wound up winning.
19 / 20
How improbable was it that John Daly even made it to the first tee at Crooked Stick? He was the NINTH alternate, getting into the field only when Nick Price withdrew because of the pending birth of his first child. Daly, a PGA Tour rookie, didn’t get to the course – which he had never seen - in time to play a practice round. With Price’s caddie, Jeff “Squeaky” Medlin, on his bag, the freakishly long Daly simply overpowered the 7,295-yard course, beating Bruce Lietzke by three shots.
20 / 20
We’ve long debated who has been Tiger Woods’ biggest rival. Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh all had their moments, but for one event, it’s hard to beat Bob May. May, Woods’ fellow former Southern California junior star, hadn’t made much of an impression on the PGA Tour. But at Valhalla he set a PGA Championship scoring record in relation to par, 18 under. Problem was, Woods also finished at 18 under. May made a 15-foot, double-breaking birdie putt on 18, but Woods drained his 5-footer for birdie to force a three-hole aggregate playoff. Woods birdied the first extra hole, striding after the ball and pointing it into the cup, and that was the difference.
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