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Oak Hill Country Club (East Course) (Par 70/7,134 yards) Rochester, New York


PGA CHAMPIONSHIP Victories Most


Walter Hagen Jack Nicklaus


5


Rory McIlroy won the 2012 PGA Championship at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, SC.


THE FIRST PGA CHAMPIONSHIP was played in 1916, and for 39 years, it was a match-play competition, as were the U.S. and British Amateurs, which were considered major championships at that time. World Golf Hall of Fame member “Long Jim” Barnes won the first two PGA Championships (the tournament was canceled in 1917 and 1918 because of World War I), but it really wasn’t until 1921 that the championship truly captured the public’s attention, thanks to the incomparable Walter Hagen, who combined a brilliant game with a legendary sense of showmanship previously unseen in golf.


Hagen won five PGA Championships between 1921 and 1927, including four in a row from 1924 to 1927 and helped put both the game of golf and the PGA of America in the nation’s headlines and newsreels. It also helped that Hagen’s friend and nemesis, Gene Sarazen, won twice in that stretch. “The Squire” didn’t have to give anyone shots in the in the showmanship department, often giving different quotes to sportswriters for both the morning and afternoon editions. Another popular player of that time


148 PGA TOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE 2013


was Paul Runyan, who made up for his diminutive size with a skillful if unorthodox short game and an unrivaled competitive zeal. Runyan, who was also known as an influential teacher, beat Craig Wood, 1-up, in 1934 and then demolished Sam Snead, 8 and 7, in 1938 in the most lopsided final in the Championship’s history. He always took pains to point out that the Sam Snead he trounced was not the Sam Snead who would go on to become one of the game’s greatest legends—but “Little Poison” always took a special pleasure in the victory.


SNEAD, NELSON, HOGAN DOMINATE THEIR ERA


In the 1940s, Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan—the Great American Triumvirate—dominated both golf and the PGA Championship. In an oddity of history, all three men were born in 1912, just one year before Francis Ouimet became the first native-born American to win the U.S. Open. Nelson, who achieved the earliest success, won in 1940 and ’45 and lost 1-up, three times in the final. Hogan won in 1946 and ’48, but the effects of his 1949 automobile


accident caused him to virtually limit himself to 72-hole medal competitions—and even those were excruciatingly punishing. The possibility of 36 holes a day in match play was too much even for the gallant Hogan. Snead won in 1942, 1949 and 1951 and lost in the final twice. His 1942 victory over Jim Turnesa at Atlantic City (NJ) Country Club came on the eve of his enlistment in the Navy. In fact, only a last-minute reprieve from the Navy for a week’s extension of his enlistment allowed him to enter the Championship. Lionel Hebert won the PGA Championship in 1957, the last time it was contested at match play. His brother, Jay, a decorated Marine Corps veteran in World War II, won


“It means an awful lot to look at the


names on that trophy, and to put my name alongside them


is very special.” – Rory McIlroy


in 1960, and today the Heberts remain the only brothers to win the Championship.


A MAJOR FORMAT CHANGE IN 1958


The PGA of America’s controversial decision to switch from match to medal play in 1958 led many people to question the PGA’s thinking but upon reflection, the increasing influence of television was a large factor. Match play is great for television if the final features two of the game’s heroes, but the reality—and beauty—of match play is that it is unpredictable and the best players do not always survive to reach the final, which is usually reflected in the ratings.


That said, the players who have won the title since the switch are the type that would likely have won in either format: Jack Nicklaus won five times and other multiple winners include Gary Player, Raymond Floyd, Dave Stockton, Lee Trevino, Larry Nelson, Nick Price, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods, who won his fourth title in 2007. Regrettably, neither Arnold Palmer nor Tom Watson managed to win the PGA


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