The 10 Greatest PGA Championships

Golf’s oldest professional major, the PGA Championship, dates to 1916. Compelling storylines and dramatic finishes define the PGA, both during its match-play years (1916–57) and since. However, a few PGA Championships have proved to be truly memorable.

With apologies to the Gene Sarazen/Walter Hagen duel in 1923 and the Byron Nelson/Ben Hogan clash in 1940, here are the 10 greatest PGA Championships of the stroke-play era.

10. (2020) Due to the pandemic, August’s PGA Championship was the first major played that year—and it evolved into one for the ages. Amid the marine layer chill, San Francisco’s magnificent muni, TPC at Harding Park, proved a superb test. It was 23-year-old Collin Morikawa who broke the logjam of leaders on the 70th hole with the shot of the year, a low, perfectly fading driver that scurried onto the green, eight feet from the cup on this short par four. When he rolled in the eagle putt, the PGA had the unforgettable moment it deserved.

9. (2001) Trailing Phil Mickelson by one on Saturday at Atlanta Athletic Club, David Toms knocked a 5-wood over the lake that guarded the right-front of the green at the brutal 243-yard par-three 15th. The ball took two bounces, hit the stick, and dropped in for an ace. Toms threw his arms skyward, but there was one better thrust to come, on the 72nd hole, when Toms laid up with his second, wedged to 12 feet, then rolled in the par putt for a one-shot win.

8. (1997) Davis Love III had come close but hadn’t yet won a major when the PGA arrived at fabled Winged Foot West. This major meant the world to Love, because his late father had been a legendary PGA professional. Love wouldn’t let this one get away. Outdueling Justin Leonard with a final-round 66, Love poured in a final birdie putt just as a huge rainbow broke through on the horizon. Here’s to you, dad.

7. (2009) Tiger Woods never loses majors when he has a final round lead. He was a perfect 14-for-14 prior to the ’09 PGA at Minnesota’s Hazeltine National. Somebody forgot to tell South Korea’s Y.E. Yang, however. Yang erased a two-shot deficit after eight holes, then chipped in for eagle at the 14th to grab the lead. After striking a superior hybrid onto the 72nd green, Yang had done the unthinkable: beating Tiger Woods and becoming the first Asian male to win a major.

6. (1961) Diminutive 45-year-old Jerry Barber stood just 5-foot-5, but he proved that a man with a hot flat stick could compete with any age or size. Seemingly beaten by Don January at Chicago’s Olympia Fields, Barber dropped a 20-foot birdie putt at the 16th, a 40-foot par putt at 17, and a 60-footer for birdie at 18 to force a playoff.  Barber prevailed, shaving January by one, 67–68.

5. (1999) Golf’s golden child, Tiger Woods, had already wowed the world, but coming into Medinah, had only captured one major, the 1997 Masters. That all changed in a tension-charged duel with Sergio Garcia, the 19-year-old Spaniard. Garcia’s hit-and-pray 6-iron next to an oak at the 16th came off miraculously, even as his eyes were closed, but Woods would close him out at the 72nd hole.

4. (1986) Four shots back to Greg Norman with eight holes to play, Bob Tway caught him on the 14th. They arrived at the short par-four 18th tied, though advantage was to Norman when Tway bunkered his approach. First to play, Tway popped his sand shot over a steep lip—and holed it. He jumped up and down like a kid in a sandbox. When Norman couldn’t match the birdie, Tway was the winner.

3. (2021) Phil Mickelson caught lightning in a bottle. There was wind, there were waves, and Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course was playing firm and fast. One of the best setups in years meant par was a good score. None of this favored Phil. Not helping either was his age, 50, nor his current form—he hadn’t sniffed a top-10 all year. No matter. Improbably, Lefty’s instincts took over. With Mr. Major, Brooks Koepka, briefly grabbing the lead and Louis Oosthuizen chasing all day long, Mickelson had every opportunity to choke, but he didn’t. He made massive memories by holing a sand shot for birdie at the 5th; pounded a 366-yard drive, longest of the week, at 16, where he also made birdie; and emerged from a mob scene of fans at 18 to become golf’s oldest major champion.

2. (1991) After leapfrogging from ninth alternate to next in line, John Daly motored 7.5 hours from Memphis to Crooked Stick in Indianapolis. When Nick Price withdrew, Daly snagged both Price’s spot and his caddie, Jeff “Squeaky” Medlin, and was soon smashing the ball—down the middle—with his anatomically impossible backswing. Other players were flabbergasted at his power. Daly hammered out a three-shot triumph and golf had a new folk hero.

1. (2000) In a thrilling Valhalla duel with journeyman (and former junior rival) Bob May, Tiger Woods kept his hands on the Wanamaker Trophy that he had won the year before at Medinah. After May canned a brilliant 15-foot putt at the 72nd hole, Woods was forced to sink a six-foot putt to make the playoff, then edged May by one in a three-hole playoff to win the crown.

What is your favorite memory from the history of the PGA Championship?

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