Jack Nicklaus won the 1971 PGA Championship on a rare occasion when it was played in February.
Today, Feb, 28, holds an unusual place in major championship history – on this day in 1971, Jack Nicklaus won the PGA Championship in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where the Honda Classic is being played right now.
That's not a typo – the event now known as "the season's final major" was actually the season's first major in 1971. It was played in February so that the original PGA National Golf Club could host it while also avoiding Florida's oppressive August heat.
In a quirk of scheduling, the 1970 PGA Championship was played in August as usual, meaning that both of these two PGA Championships were played between the 1970 British Open and the 1971 Masters. In 1972, the PGA Championship returned to its usual late-summer spot.
The 1971 PGA was played Feb. 25-28 at the original PGA National, which is now known as BallenIsles Country Club (the East Course hosted the PGA Championship), and is just east of the current PGA National there in Palm Beach Gardens.
The Golden Bear's triumph – by two shots over reigning Masters champ Billy Casper – was his second PGA Championship victory, and made him the first player ever to complete two modern-day career Grand Slams. He went on to complete a third career Grand Slam in 1978.
"The 1971 PGA Championship was uniquely special," he said. "I got to compete in a major on a course virtually in my backyard; it was the last time the PGA Championship was held in February, rather than in August, and most important, the victory came on Feb. 28, my wife Barbara’s birthday. Without her, I would have never been the golfer I was fortunate to become."
"Also, Gary Player stayed with us that week and we had a lot of fun," he added. "That was when Gary claimed to have switched plates with me at the table, in case Barbara put something in his food. Then he was convinced Barbara's prune cake got to him by week's end. It was just a week of good-natured jokes and a lot of fun."
I hadn't realized that today was Barbara's birthday, so that victory must stand out among the most special of her husband's record-setting major haul. So happy birthday, Barbara, and hat-tip to the Golden Bear for this most unusual major championship victory.