Francesco Molinari pulled away late to win The Open Championship in July. The next logical question: now what? Molinari is on fire, winning two of his last three tournaments and placing second at the one he didn't win. Molinari has two top ten finishes at the PGA Championship, including a second place finish last year at Quail Hollow.
Does Open Championship success have any bearing on PGA Championship success? At first glance, it would seem so. The PGA Championship generally takes place three weeks after The Open, as it does in 2017 – though over the years, two or four-week gaps have been common.
We’re inclined to think that momentum means something. While the Open and the PGA Championship don’t occur on back-to-back weekends, there’s not much time in between. A hot, talented golfer should be able to carry his dominance from one major into the next, the thinking goes. Right?
The answer is … sometimes. Other times, not. We took a look at every Open winner from the past 40 years and tracked how they performed in the PGA Championship.
Here’s what we found.
Those winners are: Nick Price (1994), Tiger Woods (2000, 2006), Padraig Harrington (2008) and Rory McIlroy (2014).
Success in both events is a recent trend. Before Price in 1994, no player had won both tournaments since Walter Hagen in 1924. Including Price’s triumph, five of the last 23 Open winners also have won that year's PGA Championship. It should be noted: Every player listed above has won a major other than the two we’re discussing here. So these guys weren’t underdogs.
While it's rare, an underdog can play out of his mind for a weekend and win a tournament. But that doesn't seem likely to happen twice in the span of a month.
Obviously, Spieth is no accidental champion. He’s a prime candidate to repeat.
Nick Faldo did it in 1992. Justin Leonard did it in 1997. Greg Norman is responsible for the others – once in 1986, and again in 1993.
We’ll never forget how Norman lost in ’86:
Remember, in 1986, Norman led all four majors going into Sunday. The Open Championship was his only victory. And the PGA Championship had to have been one of his most gut-wrenching defeats ever (along with this one a year later).
Norman found himself in familiar territory in 1993, when he once again aimed to do something that hadn’t been done since Hagen in 1924. Again, he fell short, this time to Paul Azinger. Given the context, it makes Price’s 1994 win all the more special. He accomplished something that A) hadn’t been done in 70 years, and B) was almost done the previous two years. Talk about pressure.
Besides the four golfers above who did it, Tom Watson did it three times. (1977, 1980, 1982). The others were Seve Ballesteros (1979), David Duval (2001), Woods (2005) and Henrik Stenson (2016). Again: all fairly prominent names. You rarely see a no-namer catch fire for both majors before fading off into obscurity.
The names: Jack Nicklaus (1978), Ballesteros (1988), Ian Baker-Finch (1991), John Daly (1995), Ben Curtis (2003), Louis Oosthuizen (2010), Darren Clarke (2011) and Zach Johnson (2015). Small sample size, sure, but three of the past seven Open champions have failed to make it to Saturday of the PGA Championship. While Spieth missing the cut at Quail Hollow would be shocking, it wouldn’t be unprecedented.
Excluding Open winners, those who posted top-10 finishes have gone on to win the PGA Championship EIGHT times. They are: Nicklaus (1980), Payne Stewart (1989), Steve Elkington (1995), Mark Brooks (1996), Davis Love III (1997), Woods (1999), Martin Kaymer (2010) and Jason Day (2015). Someone might point this out to Matt Kuchar.
Jimmy Walker, last year’s victor, was one of them.
Historically, Spieth has fared better in the Open than the PGA Championship, though he took second in the latter in 2015. Before Sunday's win at Royal Birkdale, Spieth’s average finish in the Open was 29th. In the PGA Championship, it’s 41st. That includes two missed cuts in 2013 and 2014. He was only 20 years old in that first one.
All things considered, is there a correlation between Open Championship success and PGA Championship success? The answer is yes, but take it with a grain of salt.
Playing well in the Open guarantees you nothing at the PGA Championship – Johnson, Clarke and Oosthuizen serve as recent examples – but you’re more likely to dominate the PGA Championship with a momentum boost from the Open.
At the end of the day, good golf is good golf. A little confidence based on prior success can go a long way.
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