Despite a brave challenge from European Tour Member Tim Clark, Germany’s Alex Cejka and Texan Chad Campbell, unheralded American Shaun Micheel claimed victory in the 85th US PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club to end a remarkable year in the realm of the Major Championships.
Not since 1969 when George Archer won the Masters Tournament, Orville Moody claimed the US Open Championship, Tony Jacklin took the Open Golf Championship and Ray Floyd triumphed in the US PGA Championship, have all Major Champions in a single year been debut Major winners.
But Mickeel, 169th in the Official World Golf Ranking at the start of the week in Rochester, New York, followed in the footsteps of Mike Weir (Masters Tournament), Jim Furyk (US Open Championship) and Ben Curtis (Open Golf Championship) to provide a fitting end to a remarkable 2003 season.
Tied with Campbell at the start of the final day, three shots clear of the field, Mikeel kept his composure in the pressure cooker atmosphere to eventually win by two shots from his fellow countryman, carding a 70 for a four under par total of 276 to Campbell’s 72 for 278.
Clark, winner of the 2002 South African Open on The European Tour, took third on one under par 279 after his closing 69 while a similar score was enough to give Cejka, a four time European Tour winner, fourth on 280, two ahead of Ernie Els and Jay Haas who closed with 71 and 69 respectively to share fifth.
Going into the final round, many observers believed the main challenge to the two leaders would come from third placed Weir, looking to become the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1975 to win the Masters Tournament and the US PGA Championship in the same season, or fifth placed Els, already a three time Major winner.
But Weir got off to the worst possible start with five straight bogeys and although the Canadian left-hander battled bravely, he had left himself too much to do and a double bogey six at the 17th consigned him to a share of seventh place on 284.
Els, looking to complete the third leg of a career Grand Slam after earlier victories in the US Open Championship and the Open Golf Championship, started well with a birdie at the fourth but could not quite maintain the momentum.
In the end it came down to Micheel who withstood the pressure superbly and came out on top after a rollercoaster final few holes to thrill the 45,000 spectators and his watching wife Stephanie who is expecting their first child in November.
A birdie at the 14th, which gave him a three shot lead, looked to be the crucial moment but he three putted the next hole for bogey as Campbell holed from 40 feet for birdie to reduce his lead to one.
Micheel, who joined Jim Barnes (1916), Tom Creavy (1931), Bob Hamilton (1944), Doug Ford (1955), Bob Tway (1986) and John Daly (1991) as the only players to win the event at their first attempt, then looked to have the upper hand again as he holed from 18 feet for birdie at the 16th, only to give the shot back once again with a bogey at the 17th after driving into the punishing Oak Hill rough.
It meant Micheel had only a one shot cushion coming down the final hole but he made sure of the Wanamaker Trophy with the shot of the day, a superb seven iron approach to within a foot of the hole, for a tap-in birdie three, and glory.
“I was lucky at the 18th because I had a perfect lie and the perfect yardage,” he said. “I was just trying to make sure I got it somewhere on the green and again I suppose I got lucky where it finished.
“When I birdied the 14th I thought I was in control but then I three putted the 15th and Chad, who played great and pushed me all day, birdied to make things interesting again and made sure that I was sweating a little coming down the stretch.
“But I am so proud to be the US PGA Champion. I didn’t think I could do it when I came here on Tuesday as I wasn’t driving the ball all that well, so thank goodness for my putter which has been great all week.”
Third placed Clark produced his best performance in a Major Championship, eclipsing the tie for 13th place he achieved in this year’s Masters Tournament at Augusta National.
The diminutive South African made his intentions clear right from the off with birdies at the opening two holes and although he dropped three shots in a row from the tenth, he battled back bravely with birdies at the 13th and 16th for a 69 to secure third.
Cekja, whose biggest win to date came in the 1995 Volvo Masters, also produced a fine last round 69, but having started five shots adrift of the leading duo, always left himself that little bit much to do to claim his first Major title.
Further down the leaderboard, the other European Tour Members to complete all four rounds were led by Niclas Fasth, the Ryder Cup player crowning a closing 68 with a monstrous 50 foot putt for birdie three on the 18th for a five over par total of 285 and a share of tenth place.
Following the Swede were Luke Donald and Adam Scott (both 288), Padraig Harrington and Peter Lonard (both 290), Vijay Singh (291), Angel Cabrera (293), Trevor Immelman (294), Jose Coceres, Gary Evans and José Maria Olazábal (all 295), Bernhard Langer (297), Ian Poulter and Eduardo Romero (both 298), Paul Casey (299), and Michael Campbell (304).
A footnote to the Championship was the performance of World Number One Tiger Woods, who closed with a 73 for a 12 over par total of 292.
It gave the 27 year old American a share of 39th place, his worst showing in a Major Championship since he turned professional in 1996, his previous worst being twice tied for 29th place in the US PGA Championship, firstly at Winged Foot in 1997 and secondly at the Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001.