After the first round of the 2017 PGA Championship, Kevin Kisner and Thorbjørn Olesen sat atop the leaderboard at 4-under. Five players were just a shot back, and seven more lurked two strokes behind.
None of them were Justin Thomas.
In his first round, Thomas shot a 2-over 73 — finishing six shots behind the leaders. Three days later, he would win the Wanamaker Trophy, collecting the first major win of his career.
To do so, he survived the worst first round by a PGA Championship winner since 1989.
Here’s how that performance stacks up in the history of the PGA Championship:
Of the 60 golfers to win the PGA Championship, only 15 have shot over par in Round 1.
|Year||Champion||Round 1 score||Round 2 score||Round 3 score||Round 4 score||FINAL|
The worst belongs to John Mahaffey, who in 1978 shot a 4-over at Oakmont Country Club, putting him eight shots behind leader Tom Watson. Mahaffey would go on to shoot 12-under in his final 54 holes — the fifth-best final 54 in the major’s history.
The best-ever final 54 belongs to Jason Day, whose 4-under on Thursday was his worst round of the tournament. Over the next three days, he strung together a 67-66-67 (16-under) on the Par-72 Straits Course at Whistling Straits.
Tiger Woods’ third PGA Championship win, in 2006, was fueled by a 15-under performance from Friday to Sunday at Medinah Country Club.
|Year||Champion||Round 1 score||Round 2 score||Round 3 score||Round 4 score||FINAL||Final 54||RANK|
Thomas’ final 54 is tied for the 11th best in the history of the championship at 10-under, thanks to a 66-69-68 on a Par-71.
But while Thomas’ turnaround was certainly one to remember, it isn’t the most impressive. Statistically speaking, that probably belongs to Padraig Harrington.
In 2008, at Oakland Hills, Harrington was 5-over heading into the weekend, six shots off the lead. His 8-under weekend gave him a 2-stroke win, and the honor of the PGA Champion with the worst-ever first 36 holes.
|Year||Champion||Round 1 score||Round 2 score||Round 3 score||Round 4 score||FINAL||First 36||RANK|
So next time your favorite player fails to see a negative scorecard until the weekend, don’t worry. We’re saying there’s a chance.
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