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5 meltdowns in the PGA Championship
Question of the Day
But it should have never come to that.
Gene Littler, with one of the sweetest swings in golf, built a four-shot lead over Jack Nicklaus going into the final round and was headed for a wire-to-wire win until he reached the back nine. Littler made bogey on five of the next six holes, allowing Nicklaus to catch him on the 15th hole. Nicklaus, however, fell back with a bogey on the 17th, where five years earlier he had knocked down the flag with that famous 1-iron.
Lanny Watkins started the final round six shots behind, and despite a pair of eagles on the front nine, was still five behind when he made the turn. Littler closed with a 76, and Watkins made a birdie on the 18th for a 70 that was good enough for a tie at 282.
Watkins won with a 6-foot par on the third extra hole. The win eventually gave him a footnote in PGA history as the only man to win and lose the PGA Championship in a sudden-death playoff. Larry Nelson beat him 10 years later.
3. SHARK BITE
In the year of the “Saturday Slam,” Greg Norman was the 54-hole leader in all four majors. He was at his best in the final major, the 1986 PGA Championship at Inverness Club in Ohio, leading from an opening 65 and taking a four-shot lead into the final round.
The Shark began a slow bleed, however, and he started dropping shots around the turn on a difficult Sunday at Inverness, when only 12 of the 72 players managed par or better. Norman played cleaner shots in the final hour, though Bob Tway scrambled beautifully for pars. They came to the 18th hole tied for the lead, and Norman again appeared to have the advantage when his approach settled in the first cut, while Tway hit into a bunker.
What happened next is a regular fixture on highlight reels for the PGA Championship, and all the bad luck that befell Norman. Peering over the lip of the bunker, Tway blasted out and pumped his arms over his head in shock and celebration when it dropped for birdie. Norman had to chip in to force a playoff, though the energy was gone. He wound up with a bogey, a 5-over 76, and another chapter of devastating losses in the majors.
2. DUFNER SHOWS A PULSE
Jason Dufner looked to be as cool as ever for someone who had never won on the PGA Tour. He calmly built a lead in the final round of the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, and he must have thought he had this one in the bag from the 15th tee.
He arrived in time to see Keegan Bradley, playing in his first major championship, go from the bunker to the water and miss a putt for a triple bogey. Bradley headed to the 16th tee five shots behind with only three holes left. It looked hopeless.
Dufner then hit his tee shot in the water, the first sign of trouble for him all day. It appeared to be short-lived, however, when Dufner managed to escape with bogey. Ahead of him, however, Bradley hit his best drive of the final round to set up a birdie. The lead was three shots. On the par-3 17th, Bradley rammed in a 35-foot birdie putt, while behind him Dufner missed the green from the fairway to drop another shot. The lead was down to one.
Dufner cleared the water on the 17th, but then ran his long birdie attempt some 10 feet past the hole and three-putted for bogey. Just like that, they were tied.
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