By Roger Graves, Special to PGA.com
One year later, shaun micheel’s personal version of Glory’s Last Shot during the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club already commands a prominent position in golf’s archives featuring “Fantastic Finishes in a Major Championship.”
Micheel’s magical 7-iron from 175 yards on the 72nd hole -- a shot that rocketed through the Sunday twilight, up the hill and over dale, took a couple of spinning skips and rolled to within inches of the cup for a kick-in birdie that clinched Micheel’s first major triumph -- has already been enshrined in the “Greatest Pressure Shots” Hall of Fame.
Just moments after Micheel’s majestic 7-iron, it was summarily anointed the Shot of the Year in global golf. A couple of PGA Tour travelers quickly labeled it the Shot of the Decade, and the greatest shot witnessed under pressure since William Tell shot the apple off the top of his son’s head with a single arrow. It was The Shot Heard ’round the World, or at least The Shot Heard ’round upstate New York after reverberating through the greenery, scenery and oaks that define storied Oak Hill Country Club in suburban Rochester, N.Y.
It was a Shot for the Ages, the Mother of All Shots, a Shot to End All Shots. It was, without doubt, the shot of the 85th PGA Championship, and the shot of 2004. The timeliness of Micheel’s magical stroke has already made it the leader in the clubhouse for most memorable shot on the final hole of a PGA Championship. But was it the greatest shot ever executed in a PGA Championship? In a major championship? Certainly, such judgments are highly subjective. The 85-year history of the PGA Championship is fraught with memorable moments. But how many are absolutely unforgettable?
Can Micheel’s magical 7-iron compete with David Toms’ 243-yard hole-in-one with a 5-wood in Atlanta? Can it top Tiger Woods’ dramatic putt on the 72nd hole at Valhalla to force a playoff? For sheer dramatics, can it overshadow Bob Tway’s miraculous hole-out from a greenside bunker to win the 1986 PGA Championship at Inverness? Can it trump Steve Elkington’s 25-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole at Riviera to win the 1995 PGA Championship? On the unforgettable meter, where does Davis Love III’s “somewhere-over-the-rainbow” birdiefest at Winged Foot weigh into the legend and lore of the PGA Championship? Can it upstage Sergio Garcia’s tree shot at Medinah, or Gary Player’s recovery from behind a weeping willow at Oakland Hills to win the 1972 PGA title?
We’ll let you be the judge and submit the following tableaus for “Hall of Fame” consideration:
2001 — 83rd PGA Championship
The Atlanta Athletic Club, Duluth, Ga.
In his dramatic bid to capture his first major championship, David Toms executed two brilliant shots that will forever be etched in PGA Championship lore. First, Toms put himself in position to win the 83rd PGA Championship in the third round when he arrived at the 243-yard, par-3 15th hole trailing Phil Mickelson by a shot. Toms selected a 5-wood, launched his shot high into the late-afternoon shadows, and squinted to see how it finished. The ball bounded onto the front of the green, took one large bounce and rolled hard toward the hole, striking the flagstick and diving in for a hole-in-one. The crowd roared deliriously as Toms celebrated the longest ace ever recorded by a major champion.
Toms’ incredible “1” on the treacherous 15th hole on Saturday proved to be the winning margin 24 hours later over Mickelson, but not before the Louisiana native perfectly executed a white-knuckle finish on the 72nd hole. Toms came to the 490-yard, par-4, 18th hole at The Atlanta Athletic Club nursing a one-shot advantage over Mickelson, but he hit his drive into the right rough and faced a difficult decision. Would he lay up short of the massive lake that protects the 18th green, or would he go for the putting surface and risk making a big number? Toms elected to lay up 88 yards short of the water while Mickelson hit his second shot to the back of the green and faced a tricky 25-foot downhill birdie putt. With thousands of onlookers gathered around the final green, Toms expertly hit his lob wedge over the water to within 12 feet and, after Mickelson left his birdie attempt just short, drained the pressure-packed par putt to cement the one-shot victory.
Toms’ decision to lay up on the 72nd hole will never be forgotten when strategists relive PGA Championships from years of yore. “I said all week that I wouldn’t be afraid to lay up at 18 if I didn’t have what I thought was a good shot. I had a sidehill, downhill lie in the rough. That translates into a low hook with no spin on it, and that’s not what I needed in that situation,” said Toms after posing with the Wanamaker Trophy on the 18th green. “There was nothing good that could happen. I had to lay up. That was all I had.”
2000 — 82nd PGA Championship
Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Ky.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods and former junior-golf rival Bob May matched birdies and bogeys head-to-head for 21 pulsating holes before May buried a tricky 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to momentarily take a one-shot lead over Tiger. However, Woods answered with a pressure-packed, six-foot birdie of his own to force a three-hole playoff after the two adversaries both recorded 31s on the back nine and tied for the lowest score in relation to par (18-under 270) in PGA Championship history.
Unable to match their theatrics on the final hole of regulation, Woods won the playoff with a birdie on the first hole and back-to-back scrambling pars to become the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three major championships in a calendar year. Tiger also became the first player since Denny Shute in 1936 and 1937 to secure back-to-back PGA Championships.
“That’s got to go down as one of the best duels in the game and in major championships,” said Woods. “Both of us shot 31 on the back nine on Sunday afternoon with no bogeys. I played the last 12 holes 7-under. That’s not bad. Hats off to Bob. He played his heart out and would have probably won any other year. We kept feeding off each other. He’d make a birdie, so I’d make a birdie. Then I’d make a putt and he would answer with a putt. It was that way all day, one great shot after another.”
1999 — 81st PGA Championship
Medinah (Ill.) Country Club
Tiger Woods won the 81st PGA Championship by one shot over Garcia, but even Woods acknowledged that Sergio’s gutsy recovery shot on the 16th hole in Sunday’s final round was the shot of the tournament. On the par-4, 452-yard 16th, Garcia pushed his 3-wood tee ball into a collection of exposed roots behind a giant tree. Still facing 189 yards to the front edge of the green, Garcia perhaps endangered himself and gallery members when he bravely opened the face of his 6-iron and swung as hard as humanly possible, admittedly closing his eyes at impact in case his ball came ricocheting back toward him. Garcia’s ball rocketed past the huge tree in a high left-to-right trajectory and landed on the green 60 feet from the hole, as Sergio came sprinting up the fairway and completed an impromptu scissors-kick while jumping in the air to see where his ball had come to rest. Garcia two-putted for par on the 16th, but it was one of those “miracle pars” that kept him within a shot of Woods until the 18th hole.
1997 — 79th PGA Championship
Davis Love III
Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Davis Love III’s 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole was certainly a stroke of genius, but it was the unusual atmosphere surrounding his first major championship that made this an unforgettable moment in PGA Championship history. As Love walked up the hill toward the 18th green, he turned to his caddie and brother Mark to say, “ Just get me through this last five or 10 minutes.”
After carrying the label “Best Player to Never Win a Major” for numerous years, Love stroked in the 12-foot birdie on the final hole to cap a final-round 66 that carried him to a four-shot victory over playing partner Justin Leonard. As Love’s final putt found the hole, he pulled off his visor and waved it with great appreciation to the large gallery. Only then did Love look skyward to see a brilliant, colorful rainbow, which brought the new PGA Champion to tears as he remembered his late father, Davis Love Jr., a PGA Professional and Davis’ lifelong tutor who died in a plane crash in 1988. “I didn’t want to look (at the rainbow) earlier, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to contain my emotion if I did,” said Love.
1995 — 77th PGA Championship
Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Affable Australian Steve Elkington didn’t give himself much chance of winning entering the final round of the 77th PGA Championship. After all, he trailed Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie by six shots after 54 holes. But “Elk” fashioned a PGA Championship final-round record of 7-under-par 64 to catch Montgomerie and continued his magic with a 25-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to win his first major championship.
“That 25-foot birdie putt to win it in sudden death was a carryover from the entire day,” said Elkington. “I thought Monty might roll in his birdie right on top of me, but he didn’t. Sometimes, it’s just your day and this was my day.”
1988 — 70th PGA Championship
Oak Tree Golf Club, Edmond, Okla.
At 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, Jeff Sluman proved to be a little man carrying a big stick in the final round of the 70th PGA Championship. Sluman entered the closing round three strokes behind Paul Azinger, who opened with rounds of 67–66 and recorded a hole-in-one in the third round. But “Seattle Slew” turned the tide toward himself with a sand wedge at the 590-yard, par-5 fifth hole. Facing a slightly uphill approach from 115 yards, Sluman holed his sand-wedge shot for an eagle-3 that provided the impetus for a final-round 65 and his only major victory.
1986 — 68th PGA Championship
Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
With a single swing of his sand wedge, Bob Tway proved one man’s triumph is another man’s tragedy. Tway, who shot a third-round 64, began the closing round four shots to the rear of Australian Greg Norman but arrived at the 72nd hole of the 68th PGA Championship deadlocked with the Great White Shark.
Tway was in trouble when he drove his ball into heavy rough on the par-4 18th hole and deposited his 9-iron approach from a downhill lie in the right-front greenside bunker. Norman, meanwhile, had put his approach on the fringe of the green 25 feet from the cup. Facing a difficult bunker shot with the green sloping away from him, Tway swung mightily and floated his ball out of the sand about a foot onto the putting surface.
The ball rolled… and rolled… and rolled until it fell into the heart of the cup for a birdie 3. Tway leaped up and down in the bunker like a schoolboy, pumping his fists in delight.
Watching in disbelief, Norman couldn’t match Tway’s miraculous birdie and sent his chip shot 10 feet past the hole. Tway became the first player in modern history to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the final hole and became the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1986 with four victories.
1975 — 57th PGA Championship
Firestone County Club, Akron, Ohio
Jack Nicklaus had to conjure up some wizardry on the 16th hole in Sunday’s final round to hold off Bruce Crampton, whose second-round 63 remains a PGA Championship record. The Golden Bear, who entered the final round with a four-stroke lead, saw it virtually evaporate with three holes to play when he found trouble on the par-5, 625-yard 16th. Nicklaus arrived at the tee to discover that the markers had been moved forward 30 yards from where he had practiced. But his caddie, Angelo Argea, had already walked down the side of the fairway with Nicklaus’ bag.
So instead of hitting a 3-wood off the box, Nicklaus went with driver and drove it hard and left into a hazard, dropped under penalty and hit his third shot through the fairway into rough and trees. He faced a 137-yard approach to the pin, with a 30-foot tree directly in front of him and water just beyond. Nicklaus sized up the situation and lofted a 9-iron over the tree and onto the green, where he holed a 30-foot par putt to maintain a one-shot advantage over Crampton. The Houdini-like 9-iron elevated Nicklaus to his fourth PGA championship.
1972 — 54th PGA Championship
Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Gary Player, the globetrotting South African, was in deep trouble after bogeying the 14th and 15th holes in the final round of the 54th PGA Championship to fall into a tie with Jim Jamieson. When Player sliced his drive on the par-4 16th hole behind a weeping willow tree, he was ready to weep himself. But Player had driven his ball far enough right that the deep rough was beaten down by spectators. Still, he faced a 125-yard shot around trees and over a lake guarding the front-right of the green.
The gritty Player couldn’t see the flagstick, but stood on a gallery member’s chair to visualize the shot in his head. He then selected a 9-iron and struck “one of the most spectacular recovery shots in championship history,” according to renowned golf writer Herbert Warren Wind. Player’s approach barely cleared the trees and the lake, caught the front portion of the green, and didn’t stop rolling until it was four feet from the cup. He made the birdie putt while Jamieson missed a two-footer for par on the 18th to give Player his second PGA Championship.
1965 — 47th PGA Championship
Laurel Valley Golf Club, Ligonier, Pa.
Playing beside Jack Nicklaus in the final round of the 47th PGA Championship, Dave Marr almost let the big one get away. But the broadcaster-to-be authored what he called “a career shot” on the 72nd hole to outlast the Golden Bear and win the only major championship of his career.
Marr, who secured the final-round lead with a birdie at the par-5 11th hole while Nicklaus chipped poorly twice to bogey, came to the 18th hole on Sunday needing a par to cement his triumph. But a par looked unlikely after Marr drove into a bunker on the left side of the fairway and then hit a 7-iron near a huge pond. Now, needing to get up and down from 123 yards to win outright, Marr launched a 9-iron to within three feet of the hole and made the putt to save par and save the championship.
“Purest 9-iron I’ve ever hit under pressure,” said Marr after hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy skyward in 1965.
1961 — 43rd PGA Championship
Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club
The 5-foot-3 Jerry Barber strung together one of the greatest clutch-putting exhibitions in major championship history on the final three holes of regulation to qualify for an 18-hole playoff opposite Don January, which the 45-year-old Barber won the following day by one stroke with a 67. In the press tent following the fourth round, Barber prefaced his remarks about his fabulous finish by saying, “Gentlemen, the next three holes you will not believe.”
Down by two shots with three holes to play, Barber’s Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not finish began when he hit a 4-wood approach on the 458-yard, par-4 16th hole to within 20 feet and made the birdie putt. Then, after topping his drive barely 100 yards at the par-4 17th hole, he hit a 4-wood 90 yards short of the green. Barber then left his wedge approach some 40 feet from the cup, but sank the curling putt to save par. Playing the par-4, 436- yard 18th hole at Olympia Fields in near darkness, Barber rifled a 3-iron 60 feet left of the flagstick, but somehow managed to drain the lengthy putt for birdie to tiptoe into a playoff the next day with the shell-shocked January.
Barber recorded nine one-putt greens in his fourth round to become the oldest PGA Champion in history until Julius Boros supplanted him in 1968 at age 48.
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