The PGA Championship (often called the USPGA Championship in the UK) is the second youngest (though still over 100 years old) of the four major championships in men’s golf. It is a tournament with a rich and varied history which has visited many of the best golf courses in America, occupied different slots on the golfing calendar and even been played with different formats, as it was a match play tournament from its inception in 1916 through to 1957.
In modern times, the PGA Championship has had a bit of a branding problem as the PGA of America seek to differentiate their flagship tournament from the other majors. The latest change to try and upgrade its profile was a move to May in 2019, making it the second major of the calendar year. Whether that will work or not remains to be seen but you can’t go too far wrong hosting the best golfers in the world at such a rich variety of golf courses in the quest for the Wanamaker Trophy.
|2020||TPC Harding Park||Collin Morikawa|
|2019||Bethpage Black Course||Brooks Koepka|
|2018||Bellerive Country Club||Brooks Koepka|
|2017||Quail Hollow Club||Justin Thomas|
2020: Collin Morikawa
Winning a maiden major championship is always special. But some maiden wins are more special than others. Collin Morikawa’s 2020 PGA Championship victory was right at the top end of the specialness scale. Not only did he join Jack Nicklaus and Rory McIlroy as first time PGA Championship winners at the age of 23, not only did his success come in his home state of California, but he secured his victory with a shot that has already gone down in golfing history.
This was the biggest tournament since the resumption of golf and a whole host of players found themselves in contention on Sunday. At one point there were a remarkable seven players tied for the lead. That set the stage perfectly for Morikawa to steal the show (and the almost $2m winner’s cheque).
The repeated nervous looks up at the green of the 295 yard, par four 16th hole hinted that Morikawa knew this was a massive moment. With his heart pumping he took a deep breath and produced an incredible controlled drive which faded perfectly, pitched just before the green and tracked a course away from a bunker which was perilously close and towards the hole leaving a relatively easy eagle putt which he would convert en route to a stunning 64. That incredible final round saw him home for a two-shot victory, ahead of Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson who tied second.
2019: Brooks Koepka
The PGA Championship is a tournament that has struggled for its identity at times. That is to be expected as there is no set criteria that courses must fit in order to host the major, as there is with the Open Championship and U.S. Open. After a comparatively easy course in 2018, the PGA of America had very different ideas for the 2019 PGA Championship which took place at the infamous Bethpage Black.
Brooks Koepka initially made a mockery of suggestions that this would be the most difficult PGA Championship for many years with a stunning first two rounds of 63 and 65. Even he was eventually caught out on Sunday but such was the quality of his earlier play that Koepka was able to successfully defend his PGA Championship title despite a final round of +4.
Dustin Johnson was the only real threat to Koepka on the final day. Johnson did incredibly well to go round in -1 but that was only enough to reduce the gap to Koepka, not overtake him, so Koepka became the first player since Rory McIlroy to make it to four major championships and also defended the title he had won 12 months earlier.
2018: Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka arrived at Bellerive Country Club riding the crest of a wave after making a successful defence of his U.S. Open title earlier in the season. That achievement made him hugely popular among golf fans but he was cast in the role of party pooper during his 2018 PGA Championship win as he was the only man to finish above Tiger Woods, who came within two strokes of winning his first major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open.
For all that the galleries at Bellerive Country Club and the millions of fans watching on TV would have loved Woods to win another major, there was no argument that Koepka was fully deserving of the victory. His opening round of 69 was solid but from then on Koepka’s golf was nothing short of spectacular.
It was to Woods’ great credit that he was able to make things interesting on Sunday. He rolled back the years by shooting 64, putting himself three shots clear of third placed Adam Scott. That was truly peak Tiger. Koepka was a further two shots better off though and lifted his second major championship of the season and the third of his career.
2017: Justin Thomas
Quail Hollow Club is always one of the most popular stop offs of the PGA Tour season but the Ohio course saw a much stronger field than is normally assembled for the Wells Fargo Championship when it hosted the 2017 PGA Championship. A number of players with previous strong form at Quail Hollow featured prominently in the betting for the final major of the year but none of them could hang with Justin Thomas who won his fourth major.
Thomas arrived at Quail Hollow in rude health having already picked up three PGA Tour wins in the 2016/17 season. He had to warm to his task though as he was two shots the wrong side of par after his opening round. Thomas quickly put the wrongs of Thursday right on Friday with a round of 66 which he followed with a 69 on Saturday to move right into contention.
Still, Thomas went into Sunday two shots behind the leader Kevin Kisner and one behind both Hideki Matsuyama and Chris Stroud. While those three all went backwards on Sunday, Thomas used his experience and kept his cool. He gained ground with a closing 68 which saw him finish two strokes ahead of Louis Oosthuizen, Francesco Molinari and Patrick Reed.