PGA Championship History - Through 2010

The PGA Championship, the annual culmination of golf’s four major Championships, celebrates its 93rd edition in 2011, with its third visit to Georgia. Since its inception in 1916, the PGA Championship has evolved into one of the world’s premier sporting events. Each summer, one of the nation’s most outstanding golf facilities hosts golf’s best professionals, as they compete for the Wanamaker Trophy. Winning that Trophy is an experience that has been savored by only 64 individuals.

Overall, 71 courses in 25 states have served as sites for 92 PGA Championships. Since 1994, the PGA Championship has featured the most players in the Top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings, and perennially has boasted the strongest field in golf. The 2002 Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., established an all-time record for world-ranked participants, with 98 of the Top 100. The PGA Championship was born in the mind of department store owner Rodman Wanamaker, who saw the merchandising possibilities in a professional golfers’ organization. Wanamaker invited some prominent golfers and other leading industry representatives to a luncheon at the Taplow Club in the Hotel Martinique in New York City. On Jan. 17, 1916, a group of 35 individuals, including the legendary Walter Hagen, convened for an exploratory meeting, which resulted in the formation of The PGA of America.

During the meeting, Wanamaker hinted the newly formed organization needed an annual all-professional tournament, and offered to put up $2,500 and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund. Wanamaker believed that the Championship should be conducted similar to the British News of the World Tournament. That championship, a 36-hole elimination match-play tournament, was the PGA Championship of Great Britain. Both the British Open and the U.S. Open were played at medal play over 72 holes. Wanamaker’s offer was informally accepted, and seven months later, the first PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y. British-born professional Jim Barnes and Jock Hutchison, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland, played in the final match of the inaugural PGA Championship. Barnes emerged a 1-up victor.

The PGA Championship was put on hold for two years because of World War I. It was resumed in 1919, at the Engineers Country Club in Roslyn, N.Y. Barnes was again the Champion, turning back Fred McLeod, 6 and 5. The following year, Hutchison avenged his defeat, becoming the last internationally born winner for a decade. He defeated Douglas Edgar, 1-up.

With the “Roaring Twenties” in full stride, the next nine PGA Championships were won by three different players: Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Leo Diegel. In 1921, Hagen, one of The PGA’s original founders, captured his first PGA Championship to begin an era of domination, which left many observers believing that he owned the event. Hagen went on to win five PGA Championships, making the finals six times, and winning four Championships in a row between 1924-1927. During the streak, the “Haig” won 22 consecutive matches before Leo Diegel won the title in 1928.

From Hagen to Sarazen

Gene Sarazen, 1922 PGA Champion

In 1922, Sarazen, at the age of 20, became the youngest PGA Champion, beating Emmett French, 4 and 3, in the finals. The following year evolved into one of the most exciting finals in the history of the PGA Championship, as Sarazen successfully defended his title by defeating Hagen on the 38th hole in the Championship’s first extra-hole final. Sarazen won the match by hitting a miraculous approach shot from the rough to within two feet of the hole. Nicknamed “The Squire,” Sarazen owns one of the most remarkable records in PGA Championship history. He qualified for match play 28 times, participated in 82 matches and had 57 victories and 25 defeats. When the Championship switched from match play, he competed in four more Championships before retiring after a 1972 appearance. Not only was he the youngest champion, he became the oldest participant (70) when he played in the 1972 PGA Championship. In 1933, Sarazen won his third and last PGA, beating Willie Goggin, 5 and 4. After Sarazen’s win in 1933, Paul Runyan followed in 1934 with a 1-up decision over his former employer, Craig Wood, in a 38-hole finale. Denny Shute won consecutive PGA Championships in 1936-37, a feat that lasted until 2000. Shute avenged his 1931 disappointment, defeating Jimmy Thomson, 3 and 2, in 1936 and returned the following year to edge Harold “Jug” McSpaden on the 37th hole. In 1938, Runyan’s second title, an 8-and-7 conquest of Sam Snead, was the most one-sided victory in PGA match-play history. Henry Picard triumphed in 1939, edging Byron Nelson with a birdie on the 37th hole.

Lord Byron and Hogan Dominate

Ben Hogan, 1948, with Wanamaker Trophy

Nelson’s disappointment lasted only a year. He bounced back to begin one of the most amazing periods in golf history. Nelson won the 1940 PGA Championship with a 1-up victory over Sam Snead. In 1941, Nelson made it to the finals for a third straight time, falling to Vic Ghezzi in an overtime match.

With the outbreak of World War II, the match-play field was reduced to 32 players. Even with the change, Snead called the 1942 PGA Championship, his first of seven major triumphs, his biggest thrill in golf. He defeated Jim Turnesa, 2 and 1, in the finale. It was Snead’s third appearance in the finals and he finished the match by holing a 60-foot chip shot for birdie on the 35th hole.

Golf took a back seat to the War in 1943 and the PGA Championship was canceled. When the event resumed in 1944, underdog Bob Hamilton, 28, upset Byron Nelson, 1-up. Nelson had appeared in four finals and won only once. The following year, Nelson handled Sam Byrd in the finals, 4 and 3, while continuing one of sport’s most remarkable winning streaks—11 consecutive tournament victories. The Championship was No. 9 on Nelson’s memorable list.

The PGA Championship in 1946 was Ben Hogan’s first triumph in one of golf’s four majors. Then, in 1948, Hogan cruised past Mike Turnesa, 7 and 6, to win his second Championship and become the first player since Sarazen in 1922 to win the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in the same year.

For the week, Hogan went 35-under par for the 213 holes he played. However, he said he didn’t think he would play in the PGA Championship again. The grind of 10 rounds in five days was too much. But Hogan reconsidered the following month after winning the U.S. Open. The 1949 automobile accident that left Hogan’s legs battered and unable to go 36 holes forced him to skip the PGA Championship until it switched to a stroke-play format in 1958.

Hogan had an impressive PGA record, qualifying seven times for the match-play portion, and winning 81 percent of his matches (22 of 27). He played in three stroke-play Championships, tying for ninth in 1964 and tying for 15th in 1965.

In 1949, The PGA Championship was played in “Snead Country,” Richmond, Va. Snead didn’t disappoint his fans, defeating Johnny Palmer, 3 and 2, for the Championship. Snead also won the 1951 Championship, streaking past Walter Burkemo, 7 and 6, the second-most decisive victory in PGA Championship match-play history. Snead was the only PGA Champion in the 1950s to win other major championships.

The 1950s was a challenging decade, with the passing of the Hagen, Sarazen, Snead and Hogan eras. After Snead’s 1951 triumph, 19 different Champions were crowned between 1952 and 1970.

In 1952, Jim Turnesa ended a 26-year-old family jinx by beating Chick Harbert, 1-up, to win the PGA Championship. Turnesa was a member of a family with seven golfing brothers, four having been runners-up in major championships.

From Match Play to Stroke Play

Jerry Barber with runner-up Don January 1961 PGA Championship

With Lionel Hebert’s 3-and-1 victory over Dow Finsterwald in 1957, a chapter in PGA Championship history was closed. Discussion to change the format began in 1952 when PGA President Horton Smith released a plan that called for a combination of medal play and match play. In that plan, the original field would compete in a 72-hole stroke-play tournament, and the low seven qualifiers plus the defending champion would qualify for match play. The plan was never carried out.

Finsterwald won the inaugural stroke-play Championship that was televised to millions, firing a 3-under-par 67 the first day and sharing the 36-hole lead with Jay Hebert at 139. Snead grabbed the 54-hole lead with 207, but with a final-round front nine of 31, Finsterwald finished with a 67 and 276 total, and a two-stroke victory over Billy Casper.

The following year, Bob Rosburg recorded a final-round 66 at windswept Minneapolis (Minn.) Golf Club, to finish a stroke ahead of Jerry Barber and Doug Sanders. In 1960, there were only 13 sub-par rounds in the entire Championship at the rebuilt Firestone Country Club. Jay Hebert was able to sneak in with a final-round 70 for a one-stroke victory, marking the first time that American brothers had scored victories in the same major championship. Club professional Jim Ferrier finished one stroke behind, making him the highest finisher of any club professional in stroke-play history.

Jerry Barber, then 45, mounted a comeback to win the 1961 PGA Championship. Four strokes behind Don January with three holes to play, Barber sank putts of 20 feet for a birdie at 16; a 40-footer for par at 17; and a 60-foot birdie at the 18th hole to tie January. In an 18-hole playoff the next day, Barber fell behind by two strokes on two different occasions, but came home with a 67 for a one-stroke victory.

Arnie’s Missing Major

Arnie's Missing Major Arnold Palmer During the 72nd PGA Championship

In 1962, South African Gary Player became the fifth foreign-born player to win the PGA Championship, with a 278, edging Bob Goalby by one stroke at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa. Jack Nicklaus won his first of five titles in 1963, at the Dallas Athletic Club, overcoming 100-degree heat and Bruce Crampton, who had a three-stroke lead going into the final round. Crampton faded to a final-round 74 and Nicklaus charged to victory with a 68. In 1964, Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer took a back seat to Bobby Nichols, who opened with a 64 and became the first wire-to-wire winner in the Championship’s medal-play history. Nichols needed only 119 putts in 72 holes for a 271 that remained a Championship record until 1994.

Palmer also set a record with rounds of 68-68-69-69, making him the first player to post four rounds in the 60s in a major championship. This seemed to set a disappointing pattern for Palmer in the Championship. Just like Snead’s U.S. Open “jinx,” Palmer is considered by most golf historians as one of the best players never to have won a PGA Championship. Along with his runner-up finish in 1964, he finished second in 1968 and 1970. Palmer competed in his 37th consecutive and final PGA Championship in 1994 at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla.

In 1968, Julius Boros, then 48, survived sweltering Texas heat and a last-hole charge by Palmer to become the oldest Champion, at Pecan Valley Country Club in San Antonio.

Nicklaus Leaves his Mark

Jack Nicklaus, 5-time PGA Champion

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.

Nicklaus tied Hagen for the most PGA Championships in 1980, winning his fifth crown by a record seven-stroke margin. Nicklaus made one more serious challenge in 1983, losing by one stroke to Hal Sutton. Since then, he has finished no higher than a share of 16th place in 1986. Nicklaus competed in 37 PGA Championships, finishing a record 14 times in the top five and has the best record in the stroke-play portion of the PGA Championship.

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.

Hal Sutton withstood a late Nicklaus charge in 1983 to win at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Sutton opened with a 65, added a 66 for a 36-hole record 131 total, then slipped to a 72. Yet, Sutton still maintained his lead. Nicklaus came home with a final-round 66, and Sutton responded by parring the final hole with a superb 1-iron to within 15 feet of the flagstick. Sutton became the fourth and final PGA Champion to lead wire-to-wire without sharing a lead in any round.

Trevino won his sixth major championship in 1984, defeating Player and Wadkins. For the 48-year-old Player, the Championship marked the last regular event in which he would be in contention.

A New Generation of Champions

76th PGA Champion, Nick Price with Wanamaker Trophy

The 1986 PGA Championship will be remembered most for the “shot heard ‘round the world,” as Bob Tway holed his greenside bunker shot on the 18th hole to edge Australian Greg Norman. The momentous shot overshadowed the fact that Norman was the only player in history to have the third-round lead in each of the four major championships in the same year.

Payne Stewart won his first major championship in 1989 at Kemper Lakes in Hawthorn Woods, Ill. In 1991, rookie John Daly, the longest driver on the PGA Tour, completed a storybook finish at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind. Without the benefit of a practice round, Daly, the ninth alternate, didn’t get into the Championship until Nick Price withdrew the night before. Daly went on to finish with a 276 total in a performance that ranks as one of golf’s greatest surprise triumphs.

In 1992, Price was back in the field and overcame memories of two runner-up finishes in the British Open and recorded a three-stroke victory. A year later, Paul Azinger won the 75th edition of the PGA Championship at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Catching fire on the final nine holes, Azinger caught Norman and forced a sudden-death playoff. Norman missed a birdie putt on the first extra hole and his three-putt bogey on the par-4 10th allowed Azinger to earn his first major championship.

Price was at his career best at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., in 1994. A month after winning the British Open, Price earned the world No. 1 player ranking with a then-record 72-hole performance of 269, to break Bobby Nichols’ 1964 Championship record by two strokes. Price’s record lasted only a year as Australian Steve Elkington posted a final-round 64 at Riviera Country Club for a 17-under-par 267 total to match Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie. Elkington went on to defeat Montgomerie in a one-hole playoff, making a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th green.

The PGA Championship marked its first visit to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. in 1996, with its 14th overall playoff. Mark Brooks twice birdied the 18th hole nearly 20 minutes apart, including a four-foot birdie putt in sudden death, to defeat Kentucky-born Kenny Perry. In 1997, Davis Love III turned in a memorable performance at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., finishing with an 11-under-par 269 for the lowest winning total in any major championship held at the legendary course. The 80th PGA Championship, conducted for the first time in 54 years in the state of Washington at Sahalee Country Club, went to Fiji’s Vijay Singh, regarded as the hardest-working Tour professional of his era.

Tiger Woods Ushers in a New Era

Tiger Woods Ushers in a New Era Tiger Woods, 4-time PGA Champion

In 1999, 23-year-old Tiger Woods became the fifth youngest winner in PGA Championship history when he outlasted Spain’s 19-year-old Sergio Garcia by one stroke at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club.

Woods, already a winner of the U.S. Open and British Open during the summer, made the PGA Championship’s return to Valhalla Golf Club in 2000 perhaps the most thrilling climax in major championship history. In the process, Woods became the first back-to-back PGA Champion since Denny Shute in 1936-37.

Woods and journeyman Tour professional Bob May, whose glossy record Woods had emulated as a youth in the Southern California junior ranks, engaged in a stirring final-round duel. The players were deadlocked after making memorable 18th hole birdie putts, and entered the first three-hole aggregate score playoff in PGA Championship history. Woods began with a birdie on the par-4 16th hole, then saved par on the final two holes with brilliant recovery shots to edge May by a stroke.

In 2001 at The Atlanta Athletic Club, unheralded David Toms conquered the strongest field in golf history by finishing with a 15-under-par 265 to set a major championship record for 72 holes. Toms elected to lay up for par on the 72nd hole, sinking a 12-foot winning putt to preserve a one-stroke triumph over Phil Mickelson.

Rich Beem’s stunning back-nine charge to a 4-under-par 68 elevated him past Tiger Woods to the title in the 85th PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. Beem took command with an eagle on the par-5 11th hole. Although Woods staged a brilliant rally with birdies on the final four holes, Beem left no doubt when he ran home a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole. Beem three-putted the 72nd hole that produced the final one-stroke victory margin.

The 85th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club will be remembered for Shaun Micheel’s putting the final touches on “Glory’s Last Shot.” Born in 1969, the last year that all four majors were won by first-time winners, Micheel’s destiny was etched in his impressive final round at Oak Hill. Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Micheel hit a 7-iron approach on the 18th hole to within two inches of the cup.

Vijay Singh captured his second PGA Championship in 2004, but not before outlasting Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco in a three-hole cumulative score playoff at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. Playing on the longest layout (7,536 yards) in major Championship history, Singh struggled to a 76 in the final round, but good enough to land in a playoff. After DiMarco and Leonard each failed in their bids to win on the 18th green, Singh birdied the first playoff hole from five feet to grab the lead for good, then finished with two pars to once again hoist the Wanamaker Trophy.

In 2005, Phil Mickelson separated himself from a long list of solo major winners by hitting a flop shot from the deep rough on the 18th hole to within two feet and tapped in for a winning birdie. Mickelson returned a day after heavy rain postponed play at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., and defeated Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and 1995 Champion Steve Elkington by one stroke.

Tiger Woods marked his return to Medinah Country Club in 2006, capturing his third PGA Championship and his 12th career major championship. Woods didn’t need any dramatics to hold off the world-class field, but rather crafted a steady closing 4-under-par 68 for a five-stroke victory over 2003 Champion Shaun Micheel. One year later, Woods marked his 13th major championship at Southern Hills Country Club, winning a fourth PGA Championship during the hottest recorded week of weather in PGA Championship history.

In 2008, the PGA Championship featured the year's strongest field, despite the absence of Tiger Woods (who was sidelined while recovering from knee surgery). Just three weeks after successfully defending his British Open Championship title, Padraig Harrington became the first European in the modern era to win the British Open and PGA Championship in succession, and the first to win the PGA Championship since Scotland's Tommy Armour in 1930. Harrington's winning 72-hole total of 3-under-par 277 was good for a two-stoke margin over Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis.

In 2009, Yong-Eun Yang, a 37-year-old South Korean, chased down golf’s all-time leading front-runner, Tiger Woods, posting a 2-under-par 70 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. He become the first male Asian player to win one of golf’s four major championships. In 2010, Martin Kaymer defeated Bubba Watson in a three-hole aggregate score playoff, making a par ont the 10th hole (first extra hole), and finishing with a birdie at 17 and a bogey at 18. Watson finished birdie-par-double bogey.

Exhibit Tour