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.
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|
|1997||Davis Love III||2||1|
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.
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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