LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – If history is any indication, the PGA Championship won’t be decided on the 72nd hole Sunday.
Not at Valhalla.
Mark Brooks won the 1996 PGA Championship in a sudden-death playoff over Kenny Perry. Far more memorable was Tiger Woods becoming the first player since Ben Hogan to win three straight majors in a year, but only after a three-hole playoff to beat journeyman Bob May at Valhalla in 2000.
The PGA Championship has a history of playoffs. It was the first major to adopt the sudden-death format in 1977. It’s the last major that had three successive years of being decided in a playoff. And remember, it was the last major that required a playoff. The PGA Championship was match play until 1958, so while there were championship matches that went extra holes, the term “playoff” really only applies to two players who emerge from a larger field and are tied after regulation.
Here’s a look at the five best playoffs in the PGA Championship:
5. ELKINGTON AND MONTY
Ernie Els had control of the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera until conservative play took him out of the picture. Steve Elkington, with a brilliant weekend, closed with a 64 and looked to be the sure winner until Colin Montgomerie put on a memorable charge.
Monty birdied the last three holes in regulation to close with a 65 and join Elkington at 267, at the time a PGA Championship record.
Only one of them got the trophy. Elkington made a 25-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole in sudden death to capture his only major championship.
4. MAHAFFEY’S COMEBACK
John Mahaffey still holds the PGA Championship record for the largest comeback by a winner. He rallied from seven shots behind on the last day at Oakmont in 1978.
But he had to go overtime.
Tom Watson, who never won a PGA in his quest for the career Grand Slam, never had a better chance than this one. But he closed with a 73 and went to a sudden-death playoff with Mahaffey, who shot a 66, and Jerry Pate, who closed with a 68.
All three made par on the first extra hole, and Mahaffey won with a birdie on the second playoff hole for his only major.
3. OLD MAN BARBER
The first playoff in PGA Championship history after changing to stroke play was one of the most remarkable finishes. Jerry Barber came through in the clutch in regulation and in the 18-hole playoff in 1961 at Olympia Fields.
Don January had a four-shot lead with three holes remaining until Barber made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th and a 40-foot par putt on the 17th hole. Two shots behind playing the last, January made bogey, and Barber rolled in a 60-foot birdie to close with a 70 and forced an 18-hole playoff.
It effectively turned into sudden-death when they were tied with one hole to play. Barber hit a 3-iron out of a fairway bunker to 18 feet for par. January went bunker to bunker and missed his 15-foot par putt. Barber, at age 45, is the oldest player to win a major for the first time.
2. A REAL ZINGER
Greg Norman had another 54-hole lead in a major in the 1993 PGA Championship at Inverness. This is the Ohio course where seven years earlier, Bob Tway holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to deny Norman the PGA.
This was a tougher fight. Norman closed with a 69 and was forced into a sudden-death playoff with Paul Azinger, who shot a 68. Nick Faldo finished one shot behind. Vijay Singh, in his rookie year on the PGA Tour, was two shots behind, followed by Tom Watson.
Norman had a birdie putt to win on the second extra hole, and he still had 4 feet remaining to extend the playoff. The ball rimmed around the edge and stayed out to give the Shark more heartache in the majors. It was the crowning moment for Azinger in his best year on tour.
A few months later, Azinger was diagnosed with cancer.
1. TIGER DENIES MAY
Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 shots and the British Open by eight shots in 2000, and it looked like he would easily add the PGA Championship at Valhalla to become the first player since Ben Hogan to win three straight majors in one year. Only it wasn’t that easy.
Bob May was one shot behind going into the final round and matched Woods shot-for-shot in a thriller on the back nine as both players shot 31. May knocked in an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 66. Woods had to make a 6-foot birdie for a 67 to force a playoff. Woods still calls this the biggest putt he ever made.
In the first three-hole playoff in PGA history, Woods made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to take the lead. Both made pars on the 17th, and May nearly holed a long birdie putt on the 18th. Woods got up-and-down from the bunker, knocking in a 2-foot par putt for the win.
Woods won the Masters the following April to become the only player to sweep the four professional majors.
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