1970-1979 PGA Championships
With his impressive victory in February 1971 at PGA National Golf Club (now BallenIsles Country Club) in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Nicklaus became the first professional to win the modern Grand Slam of golf for a second time. It also was the start of a 13-year run in which Nicklaus would win four PGA Championships, finish runner-up twice and place nine times in the top four. Nicklaus’ 1973 Championship victory gave him 14 major championships, surpassing Bobby Jones’ mark set 43 years earlier. Nicklaus’ final-round 69 in the 1973 PGA Championship gave him a four-stroke win over runner-up Bruce Crampton, the victim of another Nicklaus triumph in 1975.
Wedged in the middle of Nicklaus’ torrid streak was Player’s second PGA Championship title in 1972.
In 1974, Lee Trevino slogged his way to victory in a week of steady rain to defeat Nicklaus by one stroke. Despite an opening round of 73, Trevino found an old putter in the attic of the house he was renting and fired rounds of 66-68-69 for the victory.
During a three-year stretch (1972-74), an ageless Sam Snead was in contention. In 1972, at age 60, Snead finished tied for fourth, three strokes behind Player. The following year Snead tied for ninth, and thanks to a final-round 68, he tied for third in 1974. Snead capped his PGA Championship career in 1981, 44 years after his first PGA Championship match in 1937. Even though he never won the Championship in stroke play, Snead finished third three times in 21 appearances. He made the cut 17 times and in his 74 rounds, boasted a stroke average of 72.26.
After the 1976 Championship, PGA officials abandoned the 18-hole playoff format to become the first major championship to implement a sudden-death playoff. It was quickly put to the test, with the next three Championships decided in extra holes.
In 1977, the PGA Championship visited California for the first time in nearly 50 years, and Lanny Wadkins defeated Gene Littler on the third playoff hole at Pebble Beach.
In 1978, the PGA Championship went to Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club for a third time, and John Mahaffey scored the greatest come-from-behind victory in PGA stroke-play history. Mahaffey’s opening-round 75 put him in 47th place, eight strokes behind leader Tom Watson. Despite middle rounds of 67 and 68, Mahaffey still trailed Watson by seven strokes heading into the final round. However, Watson finished with a 73, while Mahaffey holed a series of putts for a 66 and soon after won with a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole.