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The Greatest PGA Champions in History

By: | Fri 21 May 2021 | Comments


Since it was first played in 1916, the PGA Championship has long been a marquee event and foundation behind professional golf in the United States, crowning many of the most revered names of their respective eras, all of whom secured their legacy within the Rodman Wanamaker Trophy.

For decades a match play event, the PGA switched to stroke play in 1958, with many a career having been defined by the championship in the years that have followed.

Anyone who wins the PGA has a treasured place in history, but claiming it more than once is something truly special. 

We take a look at those figures who have won the PGA Championship on multiple occasions - the Greatest in History.

Walter Hagen

PGA Champion: 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927

Dashing, confident and flamboyant, Walter Hagen was an extraordinary golfer, one who helped to push the status of professionals. Therefore, it was appropriate that he dominated the PGA Championship, winning four times consecutively throughout the 1920s. When you add in four Open Championships and the two US Opens (not to forget five prestigious Western Opens) it's easy to understand why Hagen became the first golfer to earn over a million dollars.

Jack Nicklaus

PGA Champion: 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980

Five-times a champion at the PGA, the most impressive was arguably the last for Jack Nicklaus, when the 40-year-old won by seven strokes at Oak Hill. Reflecting his unmatched consistency at the highest level, the Golden Bear also finished second four times in the PGA, and was also third on three occasions.

Tiger Woods

PGA Champion: 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007

After winning the Masters in 1997, it was over two years until Tiger clinched his second major, which came at Medinah and the PGA Championship, when he just edged out an exuberant, youthful Sergio Garcia. Woods successfully defended in 2000 - as part of his own Tiger Slam - when he battled with journeyman Bob May in a thrilling duel. Tiger later enjoyed slightly more comfortable triumphs in 2006 and 2007, making it four times he has lifted the Wanamaker. Woods has also been a three-time runner-up at the PGA, losing to Rich Beem, Y.E. Yang and Brooks Koepka.

Gene Sarazen

PGA Champion: 1922, 1923, 1933

Three-time winner, the highlight of which was surely his defeat of Walter Hagen in 1923, Sarazen was a regular contender and appeared in the PGA Championship for decades, making his final appearance as a 70-year-old, long beyond his peak but remaining highly respected in the game.

Sam Snead

PGA Champion: 1942, 1949, 1951

Competing in 38 PGA Championships, Sam Snead won three of them during the match play era, but he remained a contender for decades, including finishing in a tie for third in 1974 at the age of 62. A winner of 82 PGA Tour events, arguably no one played better golf for longer than Slammin' Sammy.

Jim Barnes

PGA Champion: 1916, 1919

Englishman Jim Barnes enjoyed a wonderful career in the United States, including winning the first two PGA Championships, defeating two of the Scottish greats of his time, Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod in finals. Barnes later won both the US Open and Open Championship.

Leo Diegel

PGA Champion: 1928, 1929

Ending the success of Walter Hagen, Leo Diegel twice overcame the great man in match play on his path to securing a pair of PGA Championships in consecutive years, the second of which saw him defeat past US Open champion Johnny Farrell. Diegel was an early Ryder Cup stalwart but drifted away from the game during his 30s.

Denny Shute

PGA Champion: 1936, 1937

From Ohio, Shute won consecutive PGA Championships in 1936 and 1937. It wasn't until Tiger Woods came along that someone matched that achievement. Several years earlier, Shute had the distinction of winning the Open Championship at St Andrews, defeating Craig Wood in a 36-hole playoff.

Paul Runyan

PGA Champion: 1934, 1938

29-times a winner on the PGA Tour, Runyan beat major champions Craig Wood and Sam Snead to claim his two PGA Championships, with his remarkable short game on top form. He deployed those skills into teaching, becoming a hugely influential coach around the greens for even the best players.

Byron Nelson

PGA Champion: 1940, 1945

Retiring from regular competitive golf at just 34, Byron Nelson nonetheless made a legendary impact, including at the PGA Championship, which he won in 1940 and 1945, first beating fellow great Sam Snead in the final. Stepping away from the game, Nelson didn't compete in the PGA after 1946, but he left behind 52 PGA Tour titles. Astonishing.

Ben Hogan

PGA Champion: 1946, 1948

Defeating Ed Oliver 6 & 4, Hogan's PGA Championship triumph in 1946 (aged 34) is now officially considered his first major, which he followed up two years later for a second title. In 1949, when driving home to Fort Worth from Phoenix, Hogan survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus, leaving him severely injured. It was an accident that he remarkably came back from to achieve further success at the Masters, US Open, and famously the Open Championship in 1953.

Gary Player

PGA Champion: 1962, 1972

Twice a PGA champion, Gary Player finished one shot ahead of a charging Bob Goalby in 1962, before surviving the fierce challenge of Oakland Hills a decade later to lift the Wanamaker Trophy for a second time. Player also finished runner-up twice, including to fellow veteran Lee Trevino in 1984, with the South African then approaching his 49th birthday.

Dave Stockton

PGA Champion: 1970, 1976

From California and considered to be one of the finest putters of his era, Stockton first won the PGA Championship in 1970, finishing two ahead of Bob Murphy and Arnold Palmer. Six years later, he repeated that success, this time at Congressional, finishing one shot clear of former champions Raymond Floyd and Don January. Stockton later captained the United States to victory in the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island.

Raymond Floyd

PGA Champion: 1969, 1982

The formidable Raymond Floyd won major championships in three decades, the first of which came at the PGA in 1969, when he survived a final round of 74 to finish one ahead of Gary Player. 13 years later, Floyd was slightly more comfortable at Southern Hills, successfully defending a big lead to lift the Wanamaker for a second time.

Lee Trevino

PGA Champion: 1974, 1984

Already twice a winner of both the US Open and Open, Lee Trevino enjoyed two later career highlights at the PGA Championship, first finishing one shot ahead of frequent rival Jack Nicklaus in 1974. And then a decade later, the 44-year-old Texan shot all four rounds in the 60s to win at Shoal Creek, capping an extraordinary career.

Larry Nelson

PGA Champion: 1981, 1987

Veteran of the Vietnam War, Larry Nelson didn't take up golf until he returned from that conflict, but he made up for lost time. In 1981 at Atlantic Athletic Club, the adopted Georgia boy won his first by four strokes, and it was six years later when he defeated fellow champion Lanny Wadkins to claim a second PGA, this time at PGA National in Florida.

Nick Price

PGA Champion: 1992, 1994

One of the great ball strikers of his era, Nick Price finally made his major breakthrough at the PGA Championship in 1992, winning by two shots. And he didn't have to wait too long for another. In 1994, just weeks after clinching the Open at Turnberry, Price was at his brilliant best at Southern Hills, convincingly winning a second PGA.

Vijay Singh

PGA Champion: 1998, 2004

In 1998, the Big Fijian duelled with Steve Stricker, ultimately winning his first major by two shots. Six years later, the PGA Championship headed to Whistling Straits, where 41-year-old Singh defeated Chris DiMarco and former Open champion Justin Leonard in a playoff to win his second PGA and third major title.

Rory McIlroy

PGA Champion: 2012, 2014

Reminiscent of his runaway US Open victory in 2011, McIlroy was imperious at Kiawah Island in 2012, winning the PGA Championship by a staggering eight shots. Two years later at Valhalla, it was more closely fought, as the Northern Irishman battled a packed leaderboard, ultimately finishing one ahead of former champion Phil Mickelson to win his second PGA.

Brooks Koepka

PGA Champion: 2018, 2019

Underlining his love for the biggest stage, Koepka backed up his two quickfire US Opens by holding off a charging Tiger Woods to win the 100th PGA at Bellerive in 2018. The following May, and defending his title, the American threatened to run away with the Wanamaker at Bethpage Black, but despite a few wobbles, he secured his place as a double champion.

Phil Mickelson

PGA Champion: 2005, 2021

Despite many chances and narrow losses, it wasn't until the 2004 Masters that Phil Mickelson became a major champion, but he certainly made up for lost time. A year later, it was the PGA at Baltusrol, where the left-hander first lifted the Wanamaker Trophy. However, few could have forseen that approaching two decades later - at nearly 51 - he would become the oldest winner in history and claim the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.


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