Ranking the Most Dramatic Performances in PGA Championship History
As the last major of the year, The PGA Championship may seem like an afterthought, but it has actually created some pretty powerful golf.
We have seen masterful wire-to-wire wins and stunningly dramatic down-to-the-wire finishes, near-hole-outs and fantastic failures since the tournament’s inception in 1916.
In terms of historical impact and popularity, the PGA Championship may not compare to the Masters, the British Open and the U.S. Open.
But as you can see by the following list of winning performances, it is not lacking in drama and suspense.
6. Bobby Nichols, 1964, Columbus Country Club
It was Bobby Nichols' only major title, but it was more notable for who he beat and how.
It was the heyday of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, the dominant players of their era. When they stepped on the course, no other competitor seemed to have a chance.
Then Nichols put together rounds of 64-71-69-67 for the first-ever wire-to-wire victory in the championship’s medal play history.
Trailing him throughout were the dangerous duo of Nicklaus and Palmer, who, despite stellar performances of their own, were unable to beat the surging Nichols. Palmer actually set a record in a major with four rounds in the 60s, but it was only good enough for a second-place tie with Nicklaus.
5. Tiger Woods, 2007 Southern Hills
The heat was on at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and it was coming from both the atmosphere and Tiger Woods himself.
The temperature was in the triple digits, which put fans into the medical tents and the players off their game. On Sunday there were only five scores under par, including Tiger’s 68, which led to a two-shot victory.
As close as that may sound, Tiger’s fourth PGA Championship title was really won on Day 2 when scorched the field with a 63.
At that point in his career, the 31-year-old Tiger was steamrolling through tournaments and history.
As Arron Oberholser (via Sports Illustrated) noted at the time, "He knows he's going to win. The scary thing is that maybe he knows you know he's going to win."
In hindsight, Tiger’s emphatic win is one of those dramatic events that may be just a sad memory.
4. Shaun Micheel, 2003, Oak Hill Country Club
If there is drama in one shot, this is it.
You cannot watch Shaun Micheel’s 175-yard seven-iron from out of the rough on the final hole without amazement.
Prior to that he had led Chad Campbell by one stroke in a battle of wanna-be’s.
But, Micheel’s shot led to a simple tap in for not only his first major title, but his first PGA victory.
3. Paul Azinger, 1993, Inverness Club
Any time someone comes from behind, it is dramatic.
In this case, Paul Azinger had a score to settle…with himself. He had lost his bid for a major title at the 1987 British Open when he gave up the lead to eventual winner Nick Faldo.
At Inverness, he entered Sunday a stroke behind Greg Norman. He then rallied to birdie four of the last seven holes and tie Norman.
When the ever snake-bit Norman missed a four-footer on the second playoff hole, Azinger had won the sudden-death playoff.
2. Lanny Wadkins, 1977, Pebble Beach
Lanny Wadkins outdueled Gene Littler in the first-ever sudden-death playoff in PGA Championship. Prior to that, 18-hole next-day playoffs were utilized in major tournaments.
To do so, he also had to beat a surging Jack Nicklaus.
Littler actually had a pretty dominant lead going into the final day. He led Nicklaus by four strokes and Wadkins by six.
Included in Wadkins win were two eagles on the front nine. But it was Littler’s five bogies in six holes that led to the playoff.
Nickalus had also led for a while, but he bogeyed the 17th hole, which dropped him out of a tie for first.
1. Tiger Woods, 2000, Valhalla
Tiger’s battle with Bob May is considered one of the most dramatic tournaments of all time, let alone in PGA Championship history.
This is the event where Tiger follows his birdie putt, almost chasing it into the hole, while pointing his finger.
You also had the classic David vs. Goliath thing going on. Here was the supremely dominant Tiger who had already won the U.S. Open and British Open playing against May, a 31-year-old who no PGA wins.
But May matched Tiger throughout the final day as both posted remarkable 31s on the back nine and went into a playoff tied at 18-under par. Woods had to make birdies on the final two holes to force the playoff.