On this day in 1977 the 59th PGA Championship started 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 (âˆ’4) with an old set of borrowed irons, and finished at 286 (âˆ’2), four strokes back in a tie for sixth. He won eight majors but never a PGA Championship; his only win in the US Open came here at Pebble Beach in 1982.
Four-time champion Jack Nicklaus finished one stroke out of the playoff at 283 (âˆ’5). He won the previous major at this course, the US 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 US Open in 1972. The US Open returned in 1982, 1992, 2000, and 2010.
The fairways at Pebble Beach were extremely dry, due to an extended drought, in its third year in northern California.