More from PGA

Get the Gear

Top News
Where Justin Thomas' PGA Champ comeback ranks

Where Justin Thomas' 2017 PGA Championship comeback ranks in history

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
1978 John Mahaffey 4 -4 -3 -5 -8
1974 Lee Trevino 3 -4 -2 -1 -4
1989 Payne Stewart 2 -6 -3 -5 -12
2017 Justin Thomas 2 -5 -2 -3 -8
1962 Gary Player 2 -3 -1 Even -2
1960 Jay Hebert 2 -3 2 Even 1
1986 Bob Tway 1 -1 -7 -1 -8
2008 Pádraig Harrington 1 4 -4 -4 -3
2009 Yang Yong-eun 1 -2 -5 -2 -8
1959 Bob Rosburg 1 2 -2 -4 -3
1973 Jack Nicklaus 1 -3 -3 -2 -7
2011 Keegan Bradley 1 -6 -1 -2 -8
2007 Tiger Woods 1 -7 -1 -1 -8
1972 Gary Player 1 1 -3 2 1
1968 Julius Boros 1 1 Even -1 1

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
2015 Jason Day -4 -5 -6 -5 -20 -16 1
2006 Tiger Woods -3 -4 -7 -4 -18 -15 2
1989 Payne Stewart 2 -6 -3 -5 -12 -14 3
1995 Steve Elkington -3 -4 -3 -7 -17 -14 3
1978 John Mahaffey 4 -4 -3 -5 -8 -12 5
1984 Lee Trevino -3 -4 -5 -3 -15 -12 5
2000 Tiger Woods -6 -5 -2 -5 -18 -12 5
2010 Martin Kaymer Even -4 -5 -2 -11 -11 8
2001 David Toms -4 -5 -5 -1 -15 -11 8
2014 Rory McIlroy -5 -4 -4 -3 -16 -11 8
2017 Justin Thomas 2 -5 -2 -3 -8 -10 11
2002 Rich Beem Even -6 Even -4 -10 -10 11
1988 Jeff Sluman -2 -1 -3 -6 -12 -10 11
1993 Paul Azinger -2 -5 -2 -3 -12 -10 11

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
2008 Pádraig Harrington 1 4 -4 -4 -3 5 1
1959 Bob Rosburg 1 2 -2 -4 -3 3 2
1972 Gary Player 1 1 -3 2 1 2 3
1968 Julius Boros 1 1 Even -1 1 2 3
1976 Dave Stockton Even 2 -1 Even 1 2 3
1978 John Mahaffey 4 -4 -3 -5 -8 0 6
1986 Bob Tway 1 -1 -7 -1 -8 0 6
1963 Jack Nicklaus -2 2 -2 -3 -5 0 6
1970 Dave Stockton Even Even -4 3 -1 0 6
1966 Al Geiberger -2 2 -2 2 0 0 6
2017 Justin Thomas 2 -5 -2 -3 -8 -3 T23

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.