The Five Greatest Shots in PGA Championship History

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2009

When thinking back to the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, two things immediately come to mind—Rich Beem’s goofy little dance and Tiger Woods’ 210-yard 3-iron from the fairway bunker on the 18th hole.

The PGA Championship returns to Hazeltine National Golf Club this week for the first time since 2002.

Like any major championship, we are bound to see some incredible shots, and who knows, someone in the field this week may just hit a shot that will go down as one of the greatest shots in major championship history.

The possibility is always present any time the top players in the world gather for a major championship.  

But, as of now, here are the top five greatest shots in PGA Championship history.


5. Tiger Woods 3-iron out of the fairway bunker at the 2002 PGA Championship

It’s not often that you see a guy hit a 3-iron from a downhill lie out of a fairway bunker that flies 210 yards, hooks around a large tree and lands eight feet from the hole.

It’s less often that you see a player follow up a miraculous shot like that by sinking his eight-foot birdie putt.

And it’s less often still that you hear the No. 1 player in the world continually refer to that shot as the best he’s ever hit in his life.

But, there’s one very good reason why you may have never heard about Tiger Woods' incredible bunker shot at Hazeltine.

Similar to Endy Chavez’s catch in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS, unless the shot ultimately leads to victory, it’s just another clip that occasionally pops up on highlight reels.

If Woods had won the 2002 PGA Championship, his bunker shot might have gone down as one of the greatest golf shots of all time.

But, at the end of the day, victory is what really matters, and back in 2002, Rich Beem was the one walking out of Hazeltine with the Wanamaker Trophy in hand and not Tiger Woods.


4. Gary Player’s second shot on the 16th hole of the 1972 PGA Championship

After bogey’s at the 14th and 15th, Gary Player had lost his lead to Jim Jamieson with just three holes left to play at the 1972 PGA Championship.

The taste of victory in Jameison’s mouth must have become even more pronounced as he watched Player slice his tee shot into the gallery on the 16th.  

Player had to stand up on a gallery member’s chair just to get a glimpse of the green, after which he stepped down, pulled a 9-iron out of his bag and calmly hit his ball over water and several large trees before it landed on the green and came to rest less than four feet from the hole.

Player’s tap-in for birdie was more like a large pin sticking into Jamieson and completely deflating any hope he had of winning the 1972 PGA Championship.


3. Jack Nicklaus on the 16th hole of the 1975 PGA Championship

Jack Nicklaus arrived at the long par-five 16th at Firestone Country Club holding a comfortable lead over playing partner Bruce Crampton.

Nicklaus certainly wasn’t one to squander away leads down the stretch at major championships, but on this day, Crampton must have thought that Nicklaus was finally letting one get away.

Nicklaus pulled his tee shot into a hazard, took a drop, and then sent his third shot across the fairway, where it came to rest in the rough behind a few very large trees.

At this point, Crampton would have been thinking that Nicklaus was looking at a bogey at best with a double bogey being the more likely outcome.

Perhaps Jack was letting him back into the tournament.

Well, perhaps not.

Nicklaus took out a 9-iron, somehow got the ball up and over what appeared to be the tallest tree on earth, cleared the lake and landed 30-feet from the hole.

OK, not what Crampton had expected but Nicklaus was still left with a 30-foot putt just to save par, which would have still given Crampton a couple of strokes back with two holes left to play.

But, when Jack Nicklaus is standing over a must-make putt, the outcome is as predictable as the sun setting each and every evening.

Nicklaus, of course, holed the 30-footer for par and went on to win his fourth PGA Championship.

“Jack’s the closest thing we have to a machine” Crampton said after the 1975 PGA Championship.

Maybe no single sentence has ever described Jack Nicklaus in a more accurate way.


2. Shaun Micheel’s 7-iron on the 72nd hole of the 2003 PGA Championship

Shaun Micheel held a one-stroke lead over Chad Campbell as he stepped onto the tee box on the 72nd hole of the 2003 PGA Championship.

Micheel found the rough with his drive and was left with 175 yards to the hole.

No one would have been the slightest bit surprised if he chunked, sliced, ducked, hooked or even whiffed his approach shot.

Heck, guys like Shaun Micheel simply don’t handle major championship pressure of this magnitude.

But, on that day he did.

Micheel striped a 7-iron to within two inches of the hole.

Several minutes later Jack Fleck...oh, wait, sorry about that, Shaun Micheel tapped in for one of the most improbable major championship wins of all time, which was ultimately secured by one of the greatest pressure golf shots of all time.


1. Bob Tway’s bunker shot in the 1986 PGA Championship sends a dagger right through the heart of Greg Norman.

Like every major championship in 1986, Greg Norman held the 54-hole lead at the PGA Championship.

Norman had a chance to win the 1986 Masters with a par on the 72nd hole, but sliced his approach shot with a 4-iron into the gallery lining the right side of the green and wound up recording the bogey that gave 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus his 18th and final major championship.

Norman was in position to win the 1986 US Open, but his 75 in the final round left the door Open for Raymond Floyd.

Norman did manage to win his first major championship at the British Open, which was played at Turnberry, and he was now looking for his second consecutive major title at the 1986 PGA Championship.

Greg Norman and Bob Tway arrived at the 72nd hole all tied up.

After Tway found the bunker with his approach shot while Norman’s ball was sitting on the fringe, it was looking as if Tway would need to pull a rabbit out of his hat just to get up and down to force a playoff.

But, Tway decided to pull a rhino out of his hat instead.

Tway’s bunker shot landed about a foot onto the putting surface and slowly began rolling towards the hole before it eventually disappeared into the cup along with Norman’s hopes of winning back-to-back major championships.

Norman still had a chance to tie Tway by sinking his 25-foot putt, but after a player throws a shot like that at you, it’s difficult not to believe that the golf God’s are on the other player’s side on that day and there’s nothing at all you can do about it.

Norman missed his putt and Tway’s bunker shot on the 72nd hole of the 1986 PGA Championship will live on as one of the greatest golf shots of all time.


Will a shot hit this week at the 91st playing of the PGA Championship make it onto next year’s list?

We shall see.


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