History

1978: Never count a golfer out

Champion: John Mahaffey, Houston, Texas
Site: Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa.
Date: Aug. 3-6
Purse: $300,240
Par: 36-35 - 71 (6,989 yards)
Field: 150 Cut at 148 (70 players advanced)

Oakmont Country Club, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is one of only three courses to host the PGA Championship three times (1922, '51 and '78). The course also is the site where John Mahaffey became the best comeback winner in PGA Championship history. Trailing Tom Watson seven strokes with 14 holes to play, Mahaffey knocked home birdie putts of 35 feet at the sixth and 12 feet at the eighth hole. Watson, meanwhile, bogeyed the sixth and seventh. Watson came back in a flourish by sinking a three-foot eagle putt on the ninth green to give himself a five-stroke edge over Mahaffey and four ahead of Jerry Pate.

Watson's roller-coaster round continued with a double bogey at the 10th hole. The trio was tied after a combination of Mahaffey birdies on the 10th and 11th holes and a Pate birdie and Watson bogey on the 13th hole. Mahaffey took the lead temporarily with a birdie on the 14th, lost it on the 16th, and Pate took turns at the top with a birdie at the 17th. Pate missed a four-foot winning par putt on the 18th green forcing the first three-player playoff in the Championship's history. All three players parred the first extra hole. Pate missed his birdie putt by inches. The drama finally ended on the second hole when Pate missed the green, Watson missed a 30-foot birdie attempt and Mahaffey made his 12-foot birdie putt for the Championship. Mahaffey's clutch play spoiled Watson's holes of completing a modern Grand Slam of the four major championships. For Mahaffey, victory meant a comeback of his career and life. He bounced back from blowing the lead in two U.S. Open Championships, and from injuries to his hands in the 1976 PGA Championship. He had won only $9,847 in 1978 prior to the PGA Championship before a plucky overtime performance erased some bad memories.

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