It’s nearly impossible to narrow the list of best shots in nearly 100 years of the PGA Championship history down to five, but these five make the cut.
1972: Player’s 9-iron over the trees
Trailing Jim Jamieson with three holes to go at the 1972 PGA Championship, South African Gary Player needed a jolt. But not all jolts are positive.
Player sliced his 16th tee shot at Oakland Hill Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, into the gallery, putting him in a world of trouble … but setting up one of the best shots in the history of the sport.
Player had to stand on a spectator’s chair – yes, this happened before some of the most popular golf movies – just to get a look at the green. Seeing everything he needed to see, apparently, Player took a 9-iron out and struck a beauty.
He rocketed the ball over water and numerous trees before it landed just a few feet away from the hole. He sunk the putt, and it propelled him into the next two holes, where he wrangled the title away from Jamieson.
1986: Tway’s bunker shot
This one’s in the debate over the greatest shot of all time, considering the degree of difficulty, the stakes and the player. Hardly anyone knew who Bob Tway was going into the 1986 PGA Championship at Inverness in Toledo, Ohio. Everyone knew who Greg Norman was. Norman was leading after three rounds, per usual, when Tway came charging back on Sunday.
On the 18th, Tway lined up a shot from the bunker, hoping just to get up and down.
Norman had a chance to tie things up with a 25-foot putt, but he missed. It’s hard to see anyone topping a shot like that, ever. Maybe this is the year?
1999: Garcia’s blind 6-iron
Brash 19-year-old Spaniard Sergio Garcia may have come up short of Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, but it quickly became clear that he had a flair for the dramatic.
Much to the commentators’ disdain, Garcia opted to take a shot – perhaps “whack” is a more accurate term – at his ball lying at the root of an oak tree near the 16th fairway at Medinah (Illinois) Country Club. The shot didn’t look pretty when it came off his club – the announcers thought it was headed for the rough – but somehow, Garcia’s ball rolled on to the green. Replays show that his eyes were closed as he made contact.
The shot ended up on the green, and his reaction to the flyer was perfect. Immediately after whacking it, Garcia sprinted after his shot like a young kid rushes toward a birthday present, scissors-kicking into the air to get a look at it.
The swing proved to be one of the best recovery shots ever. Garcia lost to Woods that day, and he’d suffer a long, major-less drought — which would finally end at the 2017 Masters.
2002: Tiger’s 3-iron out of the bunker
When Tiger Woods says this is his greatest shot of all time, you know it’s special.
It was, in many ways, typical Tiger. A 3-iron from a downhill lie out of a bunker on the 18th hole that went 210 yards, zoomed over a large tree and landed eight feet from the cup. That was what Woods did in the second round at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minnesota. He has described it as the best-feeling shot he’s ever hit.
There’s a difference between best and most important, of course. Woods has hit many more crucial shots in his career. He didn’t even win the tournament in 2002.
But here, he did something that no human should be able to do. And for that reason, this beauty is absolutely deserving.
2003: Micheel’s 7-iron
Like a 12th-seed in the NCAA Tournament, few knew who Shaun Micheel was going into the 2003 PGA Championship. But for a short while he would become a household name.
Before his victory at Oak Hill in Rochester, New York, Micheel looked like he was on the brink of collapse. Chad Campbell wouldn’t relent. Tied with Campbell going into the 18th, Micheel needed something to happen. His drive headed toward the left rough, but it kicked right, settling on to the left side of the fairway, 174 yards away. And then: Money. His 7-iron landed two inches from the hole.
Ranked 169th in the world, Micheel was an unlikely hero that day. But he was a hero nonetheless. He tapped in for birdie for the win.