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5 best to make PGA Championship their 1st major
Question of the Day
He had four wins, including the Bay Hill Invitational in 1987 and a five-shot win at Hilton Head in 1989. He was No. 13 in the world ranking when he came to the 1989 PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes just outside Chicago. Stewart, dressed in Chicago Bears colors through an NFL apparel deal, was six shots behind going into the final round and closed with a 67. Still, it looked like he would be runner-up at best, as he was at Royal St. George’s in 1985 when he finished one behind Sandy Lyle in the British Open.
The man in charge was Mike “Radar” Reid, known for his accurate driving. Reid instead produced one of the great collapses in PGA Championship history. He made bogey on the 16th, double bogey on the 17th and missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th to force a playoff.
Stewart went on to win the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine, and another U.S. Open in 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2 before his death that fall in a freak plane accident.
3. DAVIS LOVE III
Tom Kite was the first player of his generation to be labeled the “best without a major” until he broke through at the 1992 U.S. Open. Most of the attention shifted to Corey Pavin, who won the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock. And while there were others who fit the mold _ such as Paul Azinger and Nick Price _ next in line was Davis Love III.
He was a premier power player of his generation, the son of a popular teaching pro. Love already had 10 wins on the PGA Tour, including The Players Championship. He was runner-up at the 1995 Masters by one shot to Ben Crenshaw, and his best chance at a major was the 1996 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, where he three-putted from 20 feet on the last hole and wound up one shot behind Steve Jones.
The 1997 PGA Championship was at Winged Foot, the end of a major year for youth _ Tiger Woods at the Masters, Ernie Els with his second U.S. Open, Justin Leonard at the British Open.
Love opened with a 66 and had another 66 in the third round to share the 54-hole lead with Leonard. Love was in control for much of the final round and finally pulled away at the end. He made birdie on the last hole for a five-shot win, commemorated by that beautiful rainbow over Winged Foot.
It was the only major Love won, though he is a lock for the Hall of Fame with his 20 PGA Tour victories.
2. LARRY NELSON
Larry Nelson didn’t get hooked on golf until he was in the Army serving in Vietnam. He didn’t qualify for the PGA Tour until he was 27. So while he won his first major at age 33, it was an astounding rise to the elite in golf.
Nelson won twice in 1979 to finish second to Tom Watson on the money list. The 1981 PGA Championship was held at Atlanta Athletic Club, not far from his home. Nelson seized control with a 66 in the third round that gave him a four-shot lead going into the final day. Given his experience outside of golf, he didn’t flinch. Nelson closed with a 71 for a four-shot win over Fuzzy Zoeller.
Nelson never got enough attention, and probably not enough credit. He just kept winning. He added the U.S. Open at Oakmont two years later, than captured another PGA Championship in 1987, beating Lanny Wadkins in a playoff.
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