The Making of the PGA Championship

1 of 11 John Biever/SI
Major Improvement For much of its 89 years, the PGA Championship has been like the youngest child in a family: a runty afterthought, a little scrappy and even a tad rough and tumble (back in 1947, at Plum Hollow Country club in Detroit, winner Jim Ferrier paid two cops $50 apiece to ensure that no spectators would kick or steal his ball). But while the PGA may lack the pageantry of the Masters, the cachet of the U.S. Open, or the tradition of the British Open, it has quietly carved out its own niche, one defined by some of the most colorful, curious and climactic moments in major championship history. Here are some of those moments — both grand and grisly — and a look at why the PGA might now be the most thrilling major of all.
2 of 11 Scott Olson/Reuters
1999 — STUMPED! Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Ill. Winner: Tiger Woods Tiger Woods triumphed, but this PGA is remembered for one of the wildest recovery shots in major history. On the 16th hole in the final round, the drive of 19-year-old Sergio Garcia landed 189 yards from the green in exposed roots behind a massive tree. Instead of chipping safely to the fairway, he shut his eyes at impact and slashed the ball out with a banana slice. Hot damn! The ball rocketed onto the green about 60 feet from the hole as the young Spaniard bounded up the fairway. Woods took the title but Garcia's shot stole the thunder.
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1997 — RAINBOW WARRIOR Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, N.Y. Winner: Davis Love III Like a feel-good Hollywood moment, Davis Love III—with his caddie, brother Mark, beside him—watched his winning putt roll smoothly into the cup, then he pulled off his visor and made a sweeping tip to a teary-eyed gallery. Above them: a vivid rainbow. "I didn't want to look earlier," said Love, remembering his late father, Davis Love Jr., a top teaching professional who died in a plane crash in 1988.
4 of 11 Phil Sheldon
1993 — HEARTBREAK, AGAIN Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio Winner: Paul Azinger Majorless Paul Azinger landed a playoff with Greg Norman, who'd been a hard-luck runner-up at Inverness back in 1986. It played out like a slow torture scene. After missing a birdie opportunity at the famous ninth hole, Norman looked to the 10th for salvation, stinging a wedge 20 feet above the cup as Azinger pitched to within eight. Norman left his birdie attempt four feet above and Azinger missed his, too, but tapped in for par. The sinking Shark analyzed his par putt, but the ball grazed the rim and spun out, earning him the dubious record as the second player in history to lose playoffs in all four majors . (Craig Wood was the first.)
5 of 11 Bettmann/Corbis
1991 — THE DALY SHOW Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel, Ind. Winner: John Daly Then—unknown John Daly, with his mullet and trucker's mustache, was the ninth alternate in the field the day he heard he'd moved up to first alternate. Daly packed his clubs and drove seven hours from Memphis to Indianapolis, just in case. When Nick Price dropped out, Daly was in. Then he dazzled: Averaging 303 yards per drive, he attracted Double-D-sized galleries, whipping up the crowd with his wild fist pumps. He was on cruise control during his final-round 71. "All four days, I didn't think. I just hit it," J.D. said. "Squeaky just said, 'Kill,' and I killed it. I just hit it so good this week, I had no fear out there."
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1990 — THE CREEK CRACKS Shoal Creek Country Club, Birmingham, Ala. Winner: Wayne Grady In 1990, Shoal Creek was an all-white club whose founder, Hall Thompson, declared that his club wouldn't allow black members. Black organizations threatened to picket and tournament sponsors withdrew $2 million in commercials from ABC and ESPN. Shoal Creek's response? It gave African-American insurance executive Louis J. Willie an honorary membership that week and waived the $35,000 initiation fee. Augusta National followed suit, adding an African-American member later that year.
7 of 11 Phil Sheldon
1987 — MISS PGA PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Winner: Larry Nelson Florida in August, a jillion degrees, and the Bermuda rough was so high that were it not for the scorching heat, players might've thought they were hacking out of fescue on an Irish links. Champ Larry Nelson looked like he'd just emerged from a sauna on the final green, but the hottest image of all: pranksters at PGA National sent well endowed blonde Danielle Cromb in a string bikini to perch atop the floating scoreboard. PGA authorities weren't laughing. Newly appointed executive director of the PGA of America, Jim Awtrey, reportedly told his flack, "Get a boat, get a blanket and get her out of there."
8 of 11 Phil Sheldon
1986 — A TALE OF TWO 9-IRONS Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio Winner: Bob Tway After dumping a 9-iron approach into a greenside bunker at the 72nd hole, Bob Tway holed out from the sand to steal the title from Greg Norman. Rejoice much? Tway jumped up and down in the bunker like a pogo stick on a trampoline, a post-shot reaction that ranks among golf's all-time greats. A round earlier, Ben Crenshaw had knocked a 9-iron stiff on the 18th green, then flipped the club in the air in celebration. Only trouble was that he forgot to duck when the club came down. The result: Several stitches in his skull, an injury that ranks among golf's all-time lows.
9 of 11 Martin Mills/Getty Images
1972 — WE HAVE LIFTOFF! Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Winner: Gary Player After making back-to-back bogeys and slicing his tee shot on the 16th in the final round, Gary Player couldn't see the flagstick. Blind shot? Not quite. Player grabbed a chair from the gallery and climbed atop to line up his shot. Then he hit one of the best recovery shots in major history: a 9-iron that just cleared the trees and a lake and rolled to within four feet of the hole. Player sank the birdie putt and clinched his second PGA with pars on the final two holes.
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1963 — TOO HOT TO HANDLE Dallas Athletic Club, Dallas, Texas Winner: Jack Nicklaus The Golden Bear touched down in sweltering Dallas dog-tired from his British Open voyage, but like a true champion he rallied and brought home the win, defeating Dave Ragan by two strokes. But winning his first of five PGA titles proved too hot to handle: the blazing Texas sun made the Wanamaker Trophy so burning to the touch that Nicklaus needed a towel to hold it.
11 of 11 Robert Beck/SI
2000 — THE DUEL Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Ky. Winner: Tiger Woods The most dramatic final round in a major, period. Tiger Woods and Bob May reached the 18th hole tied, with May sinking an 18-foot birdie putt and Woods dropping a six-footer. Woods then birdied the first hole of the three hole playoff and matched May with par saves on the final two holes. "The fireworks started on the back nine," Woods said at the time. "I think it's got to go down as one of the best duels in the game... Both of us shoot 31 on the back nine on Sunday afternoon with no bogeys."