5 greatest PGA Championships

Associated Press Published: August 7, 2012
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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Being the last of the four majors does not mean the PGA Championship lacks excitement.

Think back to a year ago, when Keegan Bradley was five shots behind when he walked off the 15th green at Atlanta Athletic Club and wound up the winner. Tiger Woods went 21 holes with Bob May at Valhalla in what felt like match play for the entire round. And the PGA Championship had its share of match-play moments, considering that was the format until television dictated a change to stroke play in 1959.

In the last 20 years, the PGA Championship has delivered surprises like Bradley, Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel, along with stars like Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.

With a history that dates to 1916 — the PGA Championship was played one year before World War I intervened — here are the best five:

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FOUR IN A ROW FOR THE HAIG

Walter Hagen's 1-up victory over Joe Turnesa in 1927 PGA Championship at Cedar Crest in Dallas made him the only player to win the same major four straight years. Young Tom Morris won the British Open four straight times in five years. There was no championship in 1871.

This was Hagen at the peak of his game, particularly when it came to match play.

He was on the verge of being eliminated in the semifinals when Al Espinosa was 1 up on the 36th hole. Hagen sailed the green and chipped to a foot for a conceded par. Espinosa rolled his 25-foot birdie putt to within 3 feet of the cup. Hagen had conceded every putt from that distance during the match, but as Turnesa looked to him for a concession, Hagen turned to the gallery. Espinosa missed the putt, and three-putted the first extra hole to lose.

In the championship match, Hagen stopped conceding short putts on the back nine, and Turnesa missed short putts on the last six holes. That included the 36th hole when he had a chance to extend the match, only to see his putt hang on the lip of the cup.

Also notable about this PGA — Hagen needed a cap to keep the sun out of his eyes, so he borrowed one from a 15-year-old in the gallery named Byron Nelson.

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JACK SETS THE MARK

The 1973 PGA Championship at Canterbury was like so many other majors that Jack Nicklaus won. With a 68 in the third round, Nicklaus took a one-shot lead over Mason Rudolph and Don Iverson, and then wore them down in the final round with a 69 for a four-shot victory.

There was not much drama, only history. This is the major where Nicklaus set the standard in the biggest events.

Bobby Jones held the record of 13 majors — four U.S. Opens, five U.S. Amateurs, three British Opens and one British Amateur. Nicklaus wasn't even aware of the record until he won the 1970 British Open and a reporter mentioned he was at 10 majors. Two years later, he reached 13 majors with his U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach.

The record was broken at Canterbury, no matter which way it is counted.

It was the 14th major of his career, including two U.S. Amateur titles. And it was the 12th professional major, one more than Walter Hagen.

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VALIDATION FOR THE SQUIRE

Gene Sarazen was the defending champion in the 1923 PGA Championship. A year earlier, he had become the youngest winner of the PGA at age 20, though in today's terminology, that would have carried an asterisk — Walter Hagen didn't play because he had prior engagements.

In 1923 at Pelham Golf Club, Hagen crushed everyone in his path — he won his opening match 10 and 9, and beat George McLean in the semifinals, 12 and 11 — to set up a championship match against Sarazen that lived up to its hype.

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