| August 11–14, 1977|
| PGA of America|
| Pebble Beach, California|
Pebble Beach Golf Links
The 1977 PGA Championship was the 59th PGA Championship, played August 11–14 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California. Lanny Wadkins, 27, won his only major championship in a sudden-death playoff over Gene Littler. It was the first playoff at the PGA Championship in ten years and was the first-ever sudden-death playoff in a stroke-play major championship. The last was 36 years earlier at the 1941 PGA Championship, when the 36-hole final match went to two extra holes.
Prior to the start of the championship, the irons of several top players were deemed to have non-conforming groove dimensions, most notably those of Tom Watson. He had won the Masters and British Open earlier that year, and was attempting to become the first to win three majors in the same year since Ben Hogan in 1953. Others with non-conforming irons included major winners Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Gary Player, and Tom Weiskopf. The rule limiting groove width to .035 inches (0.89 mm) had been around for decades. Watson shot an opening round of 68 (−4) with an old set of borrowed irons, and finished at 286 (−2), four strokes back in a tie for sixth. He won eight majors but never a PGA Championship; his only win in the U.S. Open came here at Pebble Beach in 1982.
Four-time champion Jack Nicklaus finished one stroke out of the playoff at 283 (−5). He won the previous major at this course, the U.S. Open in 1972, and was runner-up to Watson at the next in 1982.
This was the second major championship at Pebble Beach, which had hosted the U.S. Open in 1972. The U.S. Open returned in 1982, 1992, 2000, and 2010. It was only the second PGA Championship in California and the first as a stroke-play competition; the previous was in December 1929 in Los Angeles at Hillcrest. The 1962 event was originally awarded to Brentwood in L.A., but was moved to Philadelphia at Aronimink.
The fairways at Pebble Beach were extremely dry, due to an extended drought, in its third year in northern California.
1977 PGA Championship Wikipedia
Thursday, August 11, 1977
Friday, August 12, 1977
Saturday, August 13, 1977
Sunday, August 14, 1977
Littler, 47, was the leader in each of the first three rounds and entered Sunday at 206 (−10), with a four-shot lead over Jack Nicklaus. One-under on the front nine, Littler staggered on the back with a five-over 41. After the turn, he made five bogeys in six holes, then rallied with pars on the three finishing holes to make the playoff with a 76 (+4). Wadkins started the round six strokes back and shot a 70, which included a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to get to six-under for the championship. As the clubhouse leader, he waited for the final pairing of Nicklaus and Littler. Tied for the lead with two holes remaining, Nicklaus bogeyed the par-3 17th to miss the playoff by a stroke. He had famously birdied the same hole in the final round of the 1972 U.S. Open, which he won by three strokes.
The sudden-death playoff began on the par-4 first hole, where Wadkins missed the green, chipped from the heavy rough to 20 feet (6 m) and saved par to tie. At the second hole, both reached the green of the par-5 in two shots, narrowly missed eagle putts, and tapped in for birdies. At the third hole, both missed the green in the heavy rough. Littler's difficult chip left him 20 feet (6 m) for a par four, while Wadkins got his chip to within five feet (1.5 m). After Littler missed to the right, Wadkins rolled his in for the win.
The championship had gone without a playoff since 1967. The seventh and last sudden-death playoff was in 1996; the format was changed to a three-hole aggregate, first used in 2000.Sudden-death playoff played on holes 1, 2, and 3.