PGA Championship 2011: The 15 Best Performances in Tournament History

Mike LynchContributor IIIAugust 10, 2011

PGA Championship 2011: The 15 Best Performances in Tournament History

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    Coming up with a ranking of the best performances is difficult for any golf tournament.  You have to compare scores that were made on much different courses with much different equipment.

    The PGA Championship is unique in the fact that it was a match play event until 1958.  This adds another wrench in trying to compare great performances.  How do you compare Jack Nicklaus winning by seven strokes to Sam Snead winning by seven holes in a final round match?

    The tournaments difficulty has varied greatly over the years, even in recent ones.  The par total also changes more so then the other three majors adding greater variety to scores.

    The main factor in the ratings was some example of dominating the tournament.  Other factors included the competition and course difficulty.

    Here are the 15 performances that made the cut, along with a few honorable mentions.



Honorable Mentions

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    Tiger Woods and Bob May in 2000.

    Both finished with a total score of 270, five clear of third place.  Woods would defeat May by one shot in a three hole playoff.

    Steve Elkington and Colin Montgomerie in 1995.

    Elkington won in a playoff after both set the 72 hole aggregate record with 267.

    The reason these two fail to crack the top 15 is the easiness of the golf course and a failure to triumph in 72 holes.  None of the players managed to really separate themselves from the field at some point.  The 2000 and 1995 tournaments had the most rounds under par of any PGA Championship.  

    Julius Boros in 1968

    At age 48, Boros set the record for oldest winner of a major championship.  While it's a remarkable feat, 15 players finished within four strokes of Boros.

15. Padraig Harrington, 2008

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    Following years of being a low scoring event, the so called "monster" in Michigan fought back.  The PGA Championship played very tough at Oakland Hills.  Harrington won by two strokes at three under par.  He won his second major of 2008 and third in two years.  He had previously won the 2007 and 2008 British Opens.  

    Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis tied for second place.  Harrington was five over par after 36 holes, but he played the weekend at eight under par.  He shot consecutive 66's, remarkable considering only 19 rounds were under par on the weekend. 

14. Hal Sutton 1983

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    Hal Sutton finished with a 10 under par 274 to win at Riviera Country Club.  His final margin of victory was only one stroke.  However he was 11 under par after the first 36 holes and had the lead after every round.

    His mark of 131 going into Saturday is a record that still stands.  He beat the field average by 15 strokes in the first two rounds.  It took 10 years before Vijay Singh matched 131 at 11 under par.  Only two other players afterwards have managed to hit that mark.

    Jack Nicklaus finished in second place, shooting a 66 in the final round.  Peter Jacobsen was third with a final round 65.  Sutton only needed to avoid a blow up on the weekend to win.

13. John Daly, 1991

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    Pete Dye had set up Crooked Stick to make sure long hitters could face threats.  He didn't know about John Daly.

    The infamous golfer was the ninth alternate for the field. By a miracle, he managed to get in the tournament.  Without a practice round he fired an opening round 69.  His 67 in the second round gave him the lead and was nearly 8 strokes better than the course average.   He ended up posting a three stroke victory, finishing at 12 under par.  

    He hit over the bunkers and around the doglegs.  He was playing a different game then everyone else that week.  Players were in awe of his distance and unbelievably long swing.  Daly played the bomb and gouge game that is so often to see now well before anyone else. 

12. David Toms, 2001

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    Toms holed a birdie putt on the 18th to win by one over Phil Mickelson.  At the Highlands Course he set the tournament record with his score of 265.

    He trailed by two after an opening round 66.  He followed with consecutive 65's to grab the lead on Friday and had a two stroke lead going into Sunday.  He was able to make an improbable ace on 248 yard par 3 in his third round

    Toms put on a clinic of hitting fairways and greens in the final round.  Mickelson tied him at points, but never was able to get the lead.

11. Paul Runyan, 1938.

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    Runyan defeated Sam Snead in the final by a record mark of 8 and 7 at Shawnee CC in White Plains New York.  It was his second PGA Championship.  Except for his third round match which went 37 holes, Runyan was dominant.  He won his quarter and semifinal matches by scores of 4 and 3.

    His record finals win came at the expense of a golf legend.  While Snead was known to implode at times, it wasn't the case here.  Runyan built his lead on birdies, not mistakes by Snead.   

10. Ray Floyd, 1982

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    Floyd won wire to wire at Southern Hills in 1982.  He opened with a record tying 63 and never looked back.  After three rounds he held a record five stroke advantage over the field.  He finished three strokes clear of Lanny Wadkins.

    It was his second PGA championship coming 13 years after he last won.  His 4 stroke lead after Thursday tied a record and still stands.  He is the only player who shot 63 in the tournament who won. 

9. Sam Snead, 1951

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    Snead was nearly bounced in the second round, needing three extra holes to beat Marty Furgol.  He blasted away the competion in the final two matches.  He defeated Charles Bassler 9 and 8 in the semifinals.  He beat Walter Burkemo 7 and 6 in the finals.

    Burkemo owned a career record of 27 wins to six losses in PGA matches.  Only Byron Nelson topped this mark in the tournaments history.  Snead blitzed him out of the gate by getting two birdies and an eagle on the opening six holes.  He never looked back and tied for the second biggest finals win in history.

8. Lee Trevino, 1982

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    Trevino won his second PGA Championship with a 15 under par 273.  He finished four strokes ahead of major champions Gary Player and Lanny Wadkins.

    Trevino entered the weekend at Shoal Creek tied with Player and Wadkins. He shot 67-69 to play eight under par.  He also broke 70 in every single round and set the PGA record for strokes under par.

7. Walter Hagen, 1926

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    Hagen won four consecutive PGA championships from 1924-27.  He owns the PGA record of winning 22 consecutive matches at this tournament.  In 1926 he defeated future PGA champion Leo Diegel 5 and 3 to win at Salisbury Golf Club.  

    His closest match was a 3 and 2 victory in the first round.  Hagen was simply dominant through the entire tournament.  He won two matches by 6 and 5 scores and one by 7 and 6.

    The reason that this tournament isn't ranked higher is because of amateur golf at the time.  Bobby Jones for instance never played in this tournament and he was the top player in the world. 

6. Tiger Woods, 2006

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    Woods cleared the field by five strokes at Medinah, finishing 18 under par at 270.  Luke Donald entered the final round tied with Woods, but shot a 74.  

    The course played difficult on Sunday with most players failing to shoot par.  Woods fired a four under 68 to put the tournament out of reach.  This followed a 65 on Saturday to catch Donald who had shot 66.

    I consider this more impressive than 2000 because this was a much harder course.  In 2000 a vast majority of players who made the cut shot under par on Saturday and Sunday.  In 2006 the majority were over par on the weekend.  Tiger Woods was 13 under par for the final 36.  Finally, no other golfer was close to him after 72 holes.

5. Bobby Nichols, 1964

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    Nichols fired an opening round 64 at Columbus CC and never trailed.  He finished at 271, three strokes ahead of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.  His final total score was the record until 1994.

    Nichols shot 71 in the second round, his only one over par.  In that second round only 10 out of 150 players shot par or better.

    In the final round, Nichols crushed any hope for Palmer or Nicklaus by shooting a 67.  In every round of the tournament, Nichols was at least four strokes better than the field average. 

4. Leo Diegel, 1928

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    Diegal won back to back PGA Championships in 1928 and 1929.  He needed only 154 holes to win in 1928 and matched that total in 1929.  This is the record mark for the tournament..

    In 1928 Diegal put an end to Walter Hagen's record 22 match winning streak.  He followed by thrashing Gene Sarazen in the semifinals 9 and 8.  He won the final match 6 and 5 over Al Espinosa.

    The 1928 tournament took place at Five Farms CC in Baltimore Maryland.  Deigel, like Hagen is lower on the list because of Bobby Jones and other to amateurs not playing.

3. Ben Hogan, 1946

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    Hogan defeated Ed Oliver 6 and 4 in the finals at Portland Golf Club.  He needed only 155 holes to claim the championship, one off the record.  His closest match was 2 and 1 over Charles Weisner in the opening round.

    He defeated close friend Jimmy Demeret by a whopping 10 and 9 in the semifinals.  He closed out Oliver by shooting eight under par over the final 14 holes of their match.

    Hogan won 22 of the 27 matches he played at the PGA championship.  His winning percentage is third all time.

2. Nick Price, 1994

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    Price tied for the lead after the first round and had it to himself in every other.  He won by six strokes with an 11 under par 269.  The win brought him to number one in the world and was his second straight major.

    At Southern Hills, he was able to crush his main rivals, beating Greg Norman and Nick Faldo by eight strokes.  Corey Pavin finished in second place.  A young Phil Mickelson finished in third, seven strokes back.

    Price's margin of victory is the second largest ever.  The fact that other top golfers of the day finished in the spots right behind him makes it more impressive.

1. Jack Nicklaus, 1980

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    The Golden Bear turned back the clock for this one.  At age 40, he won his 17th major by seven strokes over Andy Bean at Oak Hill.  He finished with a 274 and was the only player to finish under par.  Tom Watson finished in 10th place tie, 14 strokes behind Nicklaus.

    He grabbed the lead Saturday firing a 66.  In that round, only six players in the field shot under par.  Out of 444 rounds played in the tournament, only 43 of them were at par or better.  Nicklaus had three rounds under par and one at even.

    His seven stroke margin of victory is the PGA Championship record.  It would have been a fine way to end his major championship run.  As we all know, Nicklaus had a trick up his sleeve 6 years later at Augusta.