- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 8, 2012

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) - The PGA Championship has delivered its share of unlikely winners over the years, particularly one stretch in the 1990s when eight of its 10 champions that decade won their first major.

Go back to 1990, and the PGA Championship produced the most players who won only one major in their careers.

A year ago at Atlanta Athletic Club, Keegan Bradley was tied for the lead through 36 holes, and Brendan Steele had a share of the 54-hole lead. This was remarkable because both of these PGA Tour rookies were competing in their first major. Even more surprising was when Bradley made triple bogey on the par-3 15th hole and was trailing by five shots with three holes remaining. He wound up winning in a playoff over Jason Dufner.

Surprise winners can mean different things to different people, but here are five big ones to consider over the years:



Craig Wood was an impressive figure in golf, known as the “Blond Bomber” because of his good looks and his ability to smash the ball a long way. He met his match in a man that seemed half his size, Paul Runyan, who went by the nickname “Little Poison.”

This was the 1934 PGA Championship at Park Club of Buffalo, and it might have been a surprise on paper.

Wood knocked out Denny Shute, 2 and 1, in the semifinals. That put him up against Runyan, a former pupil and an assistant pro under Wood.

Wood built a 1-up lead in the morning round, and he regained the lead in the afternoon with an eagle on the 29th hole. Runyan won back-to-back holes to take the lead, only for Wood to square the match by nearly holing his approach on the 35th hole. With the title on the line, both made birdie putts on the 36th hole to force overtime. Runyan beat him on the 38th hole by making an 8-foot par putt.

It was the first of two PGA Championship titles for Runyan, and it set the tone for Wood’s career in other ways. He went on to lose the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in playoffs, too. Greg Norman, another blond bomber of sorts, lost all four majors in a playoff in stroke play.



Rich Beem had all but given up on a career in golf in 1995 when he walked away from the Dakotas Tour and took a job selling stereos and cell phones in Seattle. He eventually decided to give golf another try, and it’s a good thing.

He won the 1999 Kemper Open, and two weeks before the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, he won the International. Still, no one gave him much of a chance. He started the final round at Hazeltine three shots behind Justin Leonard, who was going for his second major. Still in the mix was Tiger Woods, who won the first two majors of the year and was trying to become the first player to win the “American Slam” _ the three U.S. majors in one year.

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