EVENTS

The key to win the PGA Championship is to be no worse than this spot by the weekend

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Planning on winning the PGA Championship? Don’t waste any time. If history is any indication, your fate will likely be sealed by moving day.

Since the PGA Championship moved to stroke play in 1958, 44 of the 62 champions (71 percent) were in the Top 5 after the first two rounds. Only one eventual champion sat outside of the Top 25 after 36 holes.

That one came in 2008 at Oakland Hills, when Padraig Harrington was 1-over Thursday and 4-over Friday, sitting tied for 26th place through the first two rounds — six shots off of J.B. Holmes, who had the only under-par score of the tournament.

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Harrington would put together a master comeback, shooting a 4-under 66 Saturday to vault up to a tie for fourth place, then following up with another 66 to finish at 3-under, two strokes ahead of the runners-up to capture his third major. Here is a look at every winner since the championship moved to stroke play and where he was after the second round.

Year Winner Place after Round 2 Shots off lead
2018 Brooks Koepka 3 2
2017 Justin Thomas T7 5
2016 Jimmy Walker T1 N/A
2015 Jason Day 2 2
2014 Rory McIlroy 1 N/A
2013 Jason Dufner 1 N/A
2012 Rory McIlroy T5 2
2011 Keegan Bradley T1 N/A
2010 Martin Kaymer T15 4
2009 Y.E. Yang T9 6
2008 Padraig Harrington T26 6
2007 Tiger Woods 1 N/A
2006 Tiger Woods T5 1
2005 Phil Mickelson 1 N/A
2004 Vijay Singh T1 N/A
2003 Shaun Micheel 1 N/A
2002 Rich Beem T1 N/A
2001 David Toms T1 N/A
2000 Tiger Woods 1 N/A
1999 Tiger Woods 3 2
1998 Vijay Singh 1 N/A
1997 Davis Love III 2 1
1996 Mark Brooks T3 4
1995 Steve Elkington T4 4
1994 Nick Price 1 N/A
1993 Paul Azinger T8 4
1992 Nick Price T7 4
1991 John Daly 1 N/A
1990 Wayne Grady 1 N/A
1989 Payne Stewart T14 7
1988 Jeff Sluman T12 6
1987 Larry Nelson T5 2
1986 Bob Tway T17 7
1985 Hubert Green T3 2
1984 Lee Trevino T1 N/A
1983 Hal Sutton 1 N/A
1982 Raymond Floyd 1 N/A
1981 Larry Nelson T2 1
1980 Jack Nicklaus 2 1
1979 David Graham T9 3
1978 John Mahaffey T6 6
1977 Lanny Wadkins T3 4
1976 Dave Stockton T20 7
1975 Jack Nicklaus T3 4
1974 Lee Trevino 6 4
1973 Jack Nicklaus T3 1
1972 Gary Player T7 3
1971 Jack Nicklaus 1 N/A
1970 Dave Stockton T1 N/A
1969 Raymond Floyd 1 N/A
1968 Julius Boros T9 4
1967 Don January T7 8
1966 Al Geiberger T2 1
1965 Dave Marr T2 2
1964 Bobby Nichols 1 N/A
1963 Jack Nicklaus T5 4
1962 Gary Player T2 1
1961 Jerry Barber 1 N/A
1960 Jay Hebert 1 N/A
1959 Bob Rosburg T18 9
1958 Dow Finsterwald T1 N/A

In the entire history of the PGA Championship, no champion has had a bigger turnaround between their first two rounds and their final two rounds than Padraig. After a +5 mark on the first 36 holes, he went -8 on the last 36 — a difference of 13 strokes. 

Of the 61 stroke-play winners in PGA Championship history, 28 have a positive margin between the first two and last two days, four were dead even, and 29 played worse.

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The absolute worst split is a tie between Hal Sutton in 1983 and Phil Mickelson in 2005, both of which were12 strokes worse in the final two rounds than they did in the first two.

In 2005, Mickelson had a three-stroke lead at 8-under after shooting 67 then 65 at Baltusrol. But a 72 Saturday dropped him into a tie for first with Davis Love III. A rain-delay Sunday that pushed the final round into Monday didn’t help, and Mickelson shot another 72 to finish 4-under, but it was enough, as Love fell to 2-under and Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington tied at 3-under.

But while Harrington’s win was the best turnaround, it was not the biggest 36-hole comeback. That belongs to Bob Rosburg. 

In 1959, Rosburg had a disappointing start to the tournament, shooting a 71 and 72 to sit at 3-over, a whopping nine strokes off of the leader, Jerry Barber. That put Rosburg in a tie for 20th place. On Saturday, Rosburg tied for the lowest round of the day, shooting a 68 and getting to 1-over. But he was still six strokes behind the leader heading into the final 18. And then there was Sunday. After only sinking five birdies in his first three rounds, Rosburg carded five in his first nine holes Sunday to put the pressure on Barber, who cracked, and went 3-over on the day to finish at 2-under — 1 stroke behind Rosburg, who would win the only major of his career. That 9-stroke deficit after 36 holes is still the largest comeback in PGA Championship history. 

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