History

1977: A bad luck hole for Littler

Champion: Lanny Wadkins, Dallas, Texas
Site: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.
Date: Aug. 11-14
Purse: $250,750
Par: 36-36 - 72 (6,804 yards)
Field: 138 Cut at 151 (71 players advanced)

Gene Littler, who recovered from cancer surgery in the 1970s, had been out of action for six weeks before the 59th PGA Championship because of a back ailment. But he strung together rounds of 67-69-70, grabbing a four stroke lead on Nicklaus and Lanny Wadkins after 63 holes, but his game soon collapsed. He bogeyed the 10th, three-putted at the 12th and bogeyed the next three holes. Wadkins birdied the 18th for his only birdie of the day, and a share of the lead. Littler managed to par the final three holes to force a playoff, while Nicklaus saw his chances end with a bogey on the 17th hole.

Littler and Wadkins went to the first tee for the first sudden-death playoff in major championship history. Wadkins was forced to make a 20-foot par to halve the hole. "I was stunned he made that one," Littler said later. "He couldn't make it again with 40 balls." Each player birdied the second hole, and headed to the third tee. Littler had a stroke of bad luck on the hole, which had cost him in a playoff in the 1949 California State Amateur Championship, missing a par putt. Twenty-eight years later, the hole bit Littler again. Earlier in the final round, Littler's second shot bounced out of bounds. In the playoff, Littler left his iron approach short of the green. He pitched to 12 feet, while Wadkins faced a six-foot par putt. Littler missed on his attempt, and Wadkins canned his putt and his first major championship.

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