No longer titled “Glory’s Last Shot,” the PGA Championship will now be contested as the season’s second major – sandwiched between the Masters (April) and U.S. Open (June), and part of four-consecutive months of majors.
Before we get into previews and player analysis, here are 10 historical facts and figures related to the PGA Championship.
1. THE WANAMAKER TROPHY
The winner of the PGA Championship receives a replica of the Wanamaker Trophy. The trophy is named in the honor of Rodman Wanamaker, who is credited with revolutionizing the department store concept in America.
A golf enthusiast, Wanamaker was a driving force behind the creation of the PGA of America and put up the money to hold the first PGA Championship. The massive trophy weighs an incredible 27 pounds.
2017 champion Justin Thomas noted that he kept his replica Wanamaker on a mantle in his Florida home – between his Player of the Year and FedExCup trophies. Nice mantle!
2. THE FORMAT
The first PGA Championship was played in 1916 and was contested using a match-play format up through the 1957 edition.
After several years of lesser-known players appearing in the finals, the PGA of America decided to alter the tournament to a stroke-play format, ensuring more big names in the mix on Sundays to satisfy the demands of its new TV broadcast partners, rather than just two players fighting it out in the final.
The last match-play championship had Lionel Hebert edging Dow Finsterwald.
3. WHEN THE TROPHY WAS LOST
The winner of the Wanamaker Trophy keeps the trophy for a year before returning it the next year, to be presented to the winner. Walter Hagen won four back-to-back PGA Championship from 1924-27. In 1926, on being asked why he didn’t bring the trophy to the awards presentation, he replied that he had no intention of losing it to anyone.
But in 1928, Leo Diegel beat Hagen in the quarter finals before going on to win the finals. When asked for the trophy, Hagen finally owned up that he’d lost it. Apparently, the previous year in Dallas, Hagen had handed over $5 and the trophy to a cab driver, asking for it be delivered to his hotel. The trophy never arrived.
In 1930, the trophy was finally found in Detroit, in the basement of L.A. Young & Company, the firm that manufactured the Walter Hagen line of clubs. Meanwhile, the PGA of America had a replica built which is what is presented today. The original trophy, the one Hagen lost, now resides in the PGA Historical Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
4. CHAMPIONS DINNER
Over the years, the Champions Dinner at The Masters has been well covered by the media. Most people don’t even know that there is a similar tradition at the PGA Championship.
In 2017, Jimmy Walker of Texas put together a steakhouse theme which included cowboy steaks, french fries, spicy mac-and-cheese, and Caesar salad, among other items.
Last year, Justin Thomas – to honor the host city, offered up a St. Louis barbecue wedge as the app, with filet mignon and Chilean sea bass as the main entree. Chocolate chip cookies and homemade vanilla ice cream were on the desert menu.
The defending Champion is also responsible for passing out gifts to all former champions in attendance.
5. CHAMPIONSHIP COURSES
The PGA Championship has been played all over the country, but is primarily contested in the central and eastern portions of the United States – and rarely on the west coast.
The state of New York has hosted the most championships with 12 (soon to be 13), although eight of those were prior to stroke-play in 1958. Southern Hills Country Club, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has hosted the PGA Championship four times – the most of any single course.
Going forward, however – with a new date in May, the PGA will be open to more golf courses across the country, including Florida, and the west coast.
6. LONE ASIAN WINNER
While Taiwan’s CT Pan and Korea’s Sung Kang are two of the three most recent PGA Tour winners, Y.E Yang remains the only Asian to win the PGA Championship.
Yang won the 2009 PGA Championship at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in dramatic fashion, edging past Tiger Woods in the final round. Starting the day two-strokes behind Woods, the South Korean Yang shot a 2-under 70 to win by three strokes. He became the first Asian-born player to win a men’s major championship, and still remains so.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama is the highest ranked Asian in the field at world No. 30 with Chinese Haotong Li next at No. 37. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (41), Si Woo Kim (53), and Pan (54) round out the top-5 ranked Asians in New York.
7. NICKLAUS’ LOVE FOR THE PGA
Not only has Jack Nicklaus won the PGA Championship five times, he has many other records at the championship.
- Most 2nd place finishes: 4
- Most Top 3 finishes: 12
- Most Top 5 finishes: 14
- Most Top 10 finishes: 15
- Most Top 25 finishes: 23
- Most Cuts made: 27 (Stroke Play only)
8. THREE BEST TO NEVER WIN A PGA
The list of winners of this major is quite extensive. But there are three golfers who stand out as never having won the PGA Championship: Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and Severiano “Seve” Ballesteros.
Both Palmer and Watson were a PGA Championship title short from completing the career Grand Slam, while Seve was never able to win the U.S. Open or the PGA.
Palmer had 62 wins in his career but the PGA Championship was not one of them. Palmer finished second three times: ’64, ’68 and ’70.
Winner of 39 titles in his career, Watson is another great who never won the PGA Championship. Watson lost in a playoff to John Mahaffey in 1978, and finished in the top 10, nine other times.
With 91 professional wins, Seve is often regarded as the greatest Continental European golfer of all time. He never got to win the US Open or the PGA Championship. His best finish at this championship came in 1984 when he finished in the fifth position, six strokes back of winner Lee Trevino.
9. LONG DRIVE COMPETITION
The PGA Championship Long Drive Competition was first held in 1952 at the Big Spring Country Club in Louisville. It was discontinued from 1965-73 before returning in 1974. It was again discontinued in 1984 and was revived four years ago at Valhallawhere Louis Oosthuzien won with a drive measuring 340 yards.
10. KEY STATISTIC TO WATCH
Twelve of the previous 14 winners of the PGA Championship had already won a tournament earlier in the year. Only Jimmy Walker (2016) and Y.E. Yang (2009) claimed the PGA Championship as their maiden victory of the season.
Of the top-10 ranked players entering New York, only Justin Thomas (5th) is winless on the year. It should be noted, however, with the PGA now contested in May instead of August, this is no longer a fair comparison.
This post originally appeared in 2016, but was updated to reflect a preview of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive and then the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage.