The 5 best little-known moments in PGA Championship history
Many special memories define each of the anniversary PGAs over the past 50 years. Some, however, are more obscure than others. Here’s what to take away from the 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 and 2003 PGA Championships.
1963: Jack Nicklaus wins his first PGA at the steamy Dallas Athletic Club, and refuses to hoist the trophy. As Nicklaus recalled in 1969, “I don’t believe we had one afternoon where the temperature stayed below 110 degrees. Away from the course, I didn’t leave my hotel room except for meals.”
Needing only a bogey 5 to clinch the title at the 72nd hole, Nicklaus one-putted for par to win by two. He remembered, “The PGA trophy had been toasting in the sun in front of the clubhouse the whole day. It was so hot that if you touched it you would have blistered your fingers. I left it alone during the presentation ceremonies. The moment they were over, I made a beeline for the clubhouse with the security officer assigned to me. A couple of steps from the door, the poor fellow collapsed from heat exhaustion.”
1973: Jack Nicklaus breaks Bobby Jones’ record for most major victories -- or did he? The lasting image of this PGA at Canterbury was Jack’s favorite photo -- of 4-year-old son Gary leaping into his arms after he holed out on 18 after the second round. Few recall Nicklaus’s drama-free, four-shot win over Bruce Crampton. Instead, the event was embraced as the one where Jack achieved 14 majors -- one more than his idol, Bobby Jones.
A closer look at Nicklaus’ feat, however, muddies the picture. Jones’ record was compiled when the U.S. and British Amateurs were considered majors, alongside the U.S. and British Opens. Nicklaus’ 1973 total: four Masters, three U.S. Opens, two British Opens and three PGA Championships. Oops, that adds up to 12. However, Nicklaus captured two U.S. Amateurs, in 1959 and 1961, just about the time that their status as majors was fading -- but still in the gray zone. Sometime over the next few years, Jack’s U.S. Ams were dropped from his major total -- though Jack’s not so sure they should have been. Either way, most now agree that Tiger is chasing 18, not 20.
1983: Sure, this was Hal Sutton’s year. He won the Players Championship and looked to be a lock at Riviera, after taking a 5-shot lead over, yes, Jack Nicklaus, with six holes to play. Sutton proceeded to bogey 13, 14 and 15, while Nicklaus birdied 14 and 16 to pull within one. Sutton, however, steadied himself and Jack failed to birdie the par-5 17th, allowing Sutton to hang on by one after parring the rugged 18th.
What you didn’t know was that Nicklaus didn’t lose it on Sunday; rather he felt that a double-bogey at 18 on the first day, leading to a 73 cost him the event. What motivated Jack to get right back into the tournament, courtesy of a second-round 65? A famous sportswriter, Jim Murray, wrote an obituary of “Jack Nicklaus, golfer” in Friday’s L.A. Times, following Jack’s mediocre first round. “I still believe it was this colorful write-off that inspired me to shoot 65 the next day,” Jack wrote in 1997. “Like my closing 66, it wasn’t quite good enough, but Jim’s witty and heartfelt resurrection of me in Monday’s edition of the paper was some consolation.” So the “Nicklaus is done” story that appeared in an Atlanta newspaper before the 1986 Masters wasn’t the first time that Jack had been spurred to action.
1993: Greg Norman was inches away from two straight majors—and revenge from his stunning 1986 Inverness loss to Bob Tway, but that’s not what we’ll remember. Paul Azinger and Norman waged an exhausting duel, with Zinger birdieing four of the last seven holes for a back nine 30. Norman edged the cup at the 72nd, then power-lipped it at the third playoff hole to lose in his usual cruel fashion.
The most memorable image? Zinger lifting the massive PGA Championship trophy, with some difficulty. As it turns out, Zinger’s apparent fatigue turned out to be cancer in his right shoulder blade. He would sit out the next 12 months. The most memorable image that never appeared? As recounted by authors John Companiotte and Catherine Lewis, “Darrell Kestner, a club professional from Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, New York, made headlines Saturday with an improbable double eagle. His wife, Margie, was asked by the PGA of America to carry a video camera around the course to provide amateur footage for a film they were producing. After nine holes, Kestner became worried that the battery would die and asked Margie to turn off the camera. An hour later, he regretted his decision. On the 13th hole, his second shot landed in the hole, making it the first ‘albatross’ in PGA Championship history.”
2003: We’ve seen dozens of replays of Shaun Micheel’s incredible 175-yard 7-iron at the 72nd hole -- and we never tire of it. The shot was so pure. It skipped three times and skidded, stopping quickly two inches from the hole. His clinching birdie is remembered as one of golf’s great finishes.
Yet, Micheel’s perfect iron might not have been his finest tournament moment. As told in the book, The PGA Championship: The Season’s Final Major, “While on a trip with fellow professional Doug Barron to a TC Jordan Tour event on June 30, 1993, Micheel was sitting in a New Bern, North Carolina, hotel parking lot when he witnessed a 1990 Pontiac Grand Am fly over an embankment and splash into the Neuse River. Not a strong swimmer, he stripped to his boxer shorts, jumped on a concrete wall, and leaped into five feet of water. Micheel rescued Julia O’Neil Gibbs, 76, and Harold Mann, 68, with assistance from two male bystanders who pulled the elderly couple to safety. Micheel may be the only PGA Champion to have been awarded the Sons of Confederate Veterans Award for Bravery.”