PGA Championship highlights: From Tiger Woods at Valhalla to Justin Thomas at Southern Hills, this major delivers drama
The Masters has Amen Corner, the green jacket and azaleas. The U.S. Open bills itself as the toughest and most democratic golf tournament in the world. The British Open is the oldest of golf’s four majors and the only one played on links courses.
And then there’s the PGA Championship. It’s the only one of golf’s majors with a field comprised only of professionals, including 20 club professionals, but it gets knocked by some fans and pundits for lacking a persona. Its format has changed, going from match play to stroke play in 1958, and its date has changed, recently moving from August, when it was “Glory’s Last Shot,” to May.
But one thing has been a constant at the PGA Championship for decades, it delivers drama and amazing finishes that often involve the biggest stars in the game. Here are the iconic moments and great finishes at PGA Championships since 2000.
2000: Tiger Woods, Valhalla Golf Club
At this point, Tiger Woods had already won the 1997 Masters, and three other majors, but none was more dramatic than his playoff victory over Bob May in Kentucky. After May holed a long birdie putt from the collar of the 18th green to reach 18 under par, Woods holed a 5-footer for birdie to force the playoff. He’d played his final 12 holes in 7 under par. The most memorable moment, however, came on the 16th green in the three-hole aggregate playoff when Woods chased his birdie putt to the hole, pointing at the ball as it dropped in to give him the lead.
2001: David Toms, Atlanta Athletic Club
David Toms dueled Phil Mickelson throughout the final round in Atlanta, eventually defeating Mickelson by a shot to claim the only major championship of his career. Toms putted brilliantly all week, but the shot everyone remembers is his hole-in-one, hit with a 5-wood on Saturday.
2002: Rich Beem, Hazeltine National
Coming off a dramatic win at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage over Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods was a heavy favorite to win in Minnesota. But on Sunday night, there was a name above his on the leaderboard: Rich Beem. Six years before holding off Woods by one shot at Hazeltine, Beem had been selling car stereos and cellular phones, and he kept a sales card from that job in his pocket. “Don’t ever forget where you came from, and that’s where I came from,” he said.
2003: Shaun Micheel, Oak Hill Country Club
A moment after Shaun Micheel hit his 7-iron from 174 yards away from the hole on the 18th hole at Oak Hill, someone called out, “Be right!” It was, and the ball finished inches away from the cup, giving Micheel a two-shot win over Chad Campbell.
2004: Vijay Singh, Whistling Straits
Vijay Singh hoists the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2004 PGA Championship. Photo by USA TODAY Sports
Justin Leonard had a two-shot lead at Whistling Straits with three holes to play, then missed a 5-footer for par on 16 and a 10-footer to win the championship on 18, allowing Chris DiMarco and Vijay Singh to match his score and force a three-hole aggregate playoff. Singh delivered a haymaker to his competitors with his tee shot on the 10th hole, the first of the playoff, and nearly drove the green on the par 4. His chip-and-putt birdie gave him the lead, and then a 3-iron on the par 3 17th hole (the second hole of the playoff) stopped 6 feet from the cup, sealing the deal and giving Singh his third career major and second PGA Championship.
2005: Phil Mickelson, Baltusrol Golf Club
Phil Mickelson broke through in major championships by winning the 2004 Masters, then collected his second at Baltusrol. Thunderstorms struck Sunday evening, forcing the tournament to end on Monday. Mickelson had the overnight lead and on 18 Monday morning, after tapping a plaque that commemorates Jack Nicklaus’s famous 1-iron shot hit during the 1867 U.S. Open, he hit a fairway wood shot on the par 5 that landed short of the green and in the rough. A flop shot and putt later, Mickelson had a one-shot win over Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington.
2006: Tiger Woods, Medinah Country Club
Aug 20, 2006; Medinah, IL, USA; Tiger Woods hits his approach shot on the 6th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship at the Medinah Country Club (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)
The Chicago crowd was torn between cheering for Tiger Woods and one of their own, England’s Luke Donald, who had been a star at Northwestern University. Woods, coming off a British Open win at Royal Liverpool a month before, shot 69-68-65 before playing the final round in 68 shots for a five-stroke win.
2007: Tiger Woods, Southern Hills
In scorching conditions, Tiger Woods nearly made history at Southern Hills, but his putt for a 62 in the second round, which would have broken the record for the lowest score ever in a major championship, somehow stayed out of the 18th hole. “I guess a 62-and-a-half is all right,” Tiger joked afterward. Woods wound up holding off Woody Austin on Sunday to claim his fourth-career PGA Championship.
2008: Padraig Harrington, Oakland Hills
Coming to Oakland Hills, a course that Ben Hogan famously called a monster, Padraig Harrington was flying high thanks to a playoff win at the previous month’s British Open. Harrington had won in a playoff at Carnoustie over Sergio Garcia, and he was tied with the Spaniard at the start of the fourth round, four shots behind Ben Curtis. Four back-nine birdies and some clutch par saves wound up giving Harrington his third career major and a two-shot win over Garcia and Curtis.
2009: Y. E. Yang, Hazeltine National
Y.E. Yang became the first Asian-born player to win a major championship by defeating Tiger Woods at Hazeltine, thanks in part to an incredible hybrid shot on the final hole. It was also the first time that Tiger had lost a major championship when holding at least a share of the lead after 54 holes.
2010: Martin Kaymer, Whistling Straits
Martin Kaymer won his first major championship with a one-shot victory over Bubba Watson in a playoff, but the wildest part of the finish took place in regulation on 18. Dustin Johnson was penalized two strokes for grounding his club in a sandy area on the 72nd hole, knocking him out of the playoff with Kaymer and Watson.
2011: Keegan Bradley, Atlanta Athletic Club
Keegan Bradley won his first major championship in his first appearance in a major, defeating Jason Dufner in a playoff. Bradley started the day three shots behind the leader, Brendan Steele, and appeared out of the tournament when he made a triple-bogey on the par-3 15th hole, but he roared back thanks to clutch putting to shoot 64, force a three-hole aggregate playoff with Dufner and then won it. The victory was also the first for a player using a belly putter in a major championship.
2012: Rory McIlroy, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort
Like Tiger Woods at Medinah in 2006, this one was never really in doubt. Rory McIlroy rebounded from a second-round 75 to shoot 67-66 over the weekend to dominate the field and finished a record-breaking eight shots clear of the tournament’s runner-up, David Lynn.
2013: Jason Dufner, Oak Hill Country Club
Jim Furyk entered the final round at Oak Hill with a one-shot lead over Jason Dufner, even though Dufner had shot a 63 in the second round. The former Auburn standout hit one amazing approach shot after another en route to a final-round 68 and a two-shot win.
2014: Rory McIlroy, Valhalla Golf Club
Rory McIlroy won his second PGA Championship and fourth career major by holding off Rickie Fowler and a charging Phil Mickelson to win by one stroke. The shot of the tournament was McIlroy’s 3-wood from 283 yards out to set up a dramatic eagle on the 10th hole on Sunday. The players had to race to finish before darkness.
2015: Jason Day, Whistling Straits
Jason Day claimed his first major championship with a win in Wisconsin, finishing three shots clear of Jordan Spieth. Interestingly, Day almost withdrew from the tournament after suffering from vertigo during the second round. Day wound up finishing the tournament at 20 under par, becoming the first player to end at major at 20 under or better.
2016: Jimmy Walker, Baltusrol Golf Club
Defending champion Jason Day made a Sunday charge at a soggy Baltusrol, which included an amazing eagle on the 18th hole after hitting 2-iron from 258 yards out. But Jimmy Walker responded moments later on 17 by holing a clutch birdie putt to retain a one-shot lead. A par on the last hole gave the Texan his first major.
2017: Justin Thomas, Quail Hollow Country Club
The PGA Championship shifted from August to May in 2017. Kevin Kisner started the final round with a two-shot lead, but Justin Thomas came back to win, aided by a putt on the 10th that hung on the edge of the cup for 12 seconds before falling into the hole. The win gave Thomas his first major victory.
2018: Brooks Koepka, Bellerive Country Club
Tiger Woods shot a Sunday 64 to whip St. Louis, Missouri, crowds at Bellerive into a frenzy, but a poor tee shot on the par-5 17th doomed Tiger’s chances at a fifth PGA Championship win. Brooks Koepka held off Woods and Adam Scott on Sunday to win his first Wannamaker trophy.
2019: Brooks Koepka, Bethpage Black
This tournament felt like it was over after Brooks Koepka shot 64-65 on Thursday and Friday to take the lead. But Dustin Johnson made the defending champion work for it on Sunday by shooting a 1-under 69 as Koepka struggled. A 74 in the final round wound up being good enough for Koepka to win his second straight PGA Championship.
2020: Collin Morikawa, TPC Harding Park
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the PGA Championship to be played in August instead of May, and no spectators were allowed on the grounds at TPC Harding Park. So, when Collin Morikawa hit the defining shot of the tournament, there were no roars or cheers, but it set up an eagle on the par 4 that helped to seal his first major victory.
2021: Phil Mickelson, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort
Almost 16 years after winning the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, Phil Mickelson, who was days away from turning 52, summoned the magic one more time on one of the most challenging courses in the United States, the Ocean Course at Kiawah. Lefty battled Brooks Koepka on Sunday, and as they walked to the final hole, the crowd swallowed the players before parting to allow them to finish the hole.
2022: Justin Thomas, Southern Hills
Mito Periera stood on the 18th tee Sunday with a one-shot lead, but he chopped his tee shot into the creek on the right and made a costly double-bogey to create a playoff between Will Zalatoris and Justin Thomas, who shot 67 to tie Zalatoris. After both players made birdie on the first hole of the three-hole aggregate playoff, Thomas drove the green on 17 to set up a birdie and his second PGA Championship victory.