One and done for PGA winner?
There’s a good chance whoever wins this week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island may never win another major. Of the men’s marquee tournaments, the PGA of America’s most prized asset produces more one-time only major champions than the other three blue chip events.
Recent winners Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker, Jason Day, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley (pictured) all have time to do what Y.E. Yang, Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem, David Toms, Davis Love III, Mark Brooks, Steve Elkington, Paul Azinger, Wayne Grady, Jeff Sluman, Bob Tway, Hal Sutton, John Mahaffey, Lanny Wadkins, Don January, Al Geiberger, Bobby Nichols, Jerry Barber, Jay Herbert, Bob Rosburg and Dow Finsterwald never did: win another major.
There are some real head scratchers in the above list. Who on earth would have thought Lanny Wadkins, one of the toughest players ever to swing a golf club, would only win one of the tournaments that really mattered? Yet this 21-time PGA Tour winner lifted the Wanamaker Trophy in the 1977 PGA Championship and never won another major.
Sutton, the 1983 PGA champion, was once hailed as the next Jack Nicklaus. Yet he ended his career 17 majors short of the Golden Bear’s total, while winning another 13 PGA Tour titles.
Azinger? How on earth did this gritty competitor only win one major trophy, the 1993 PGA? Ditto for Love? He counts the 1997 PGA Championship as his only tilt at major glory.
Bradley burst on the scene exactly 10 years ago when he won the 2011 PGA at the Atlanta Athletic Club in a playoff with Dufner, who went on to win the 2013 PGA. In 31 majors since then, he’s had just two top 10s, third in the 2012 PGA, and fourth in the 2014 U.S. Open.
Perhaps Day is the biggest mystery of recent winners. His 20-under-par 268 in winning the 2015 PGA set a major championship record for lowest winning total against par, since matched by Henrik Stenson in the 2016 Open Championship and Dustin Johnson in last year’s Masters. How the Australian has only won that major almost defies belief; he has 15 other top 10s in the majors, including four runner-up finishes.
The records show that since 1958 when the PGA Championship joined the other three majors and became a stroke play event, it has more players, 27, who made the PGA their single major victory. The Open Championship and U.S. Open have 19 apiece, while the number is 17 for the Masters.
As Alun Evans notes in his excellent book The Golf Majors 2021, since 1958 a maiden PGA champion who doesn’t win another major happens every 2.2 years. That’s pretty frequent. The figures are 3.2 years for the Open and U.S. Open, and 3.6 years for the Masters.
What does all of the above mean? Whoever wins this year’s PGA to make it his first major title better enjoy the experience, because they may be one and done in the major club.
#JustSaying: “When I go to war, I want Lanny (Wadkins) by my side,” 1989 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Ray Floyd