1987: Larry Nelson wins the PGA Championship in a playoff over Lanny Wadkins


Larry Nelson wins his 2nd PGA Championship in 87′

On this day, In 1987 Larry Nelson won his second PGA Championship of his career, this time at PGA National Golf Club Champions Course. He won it in a sudden death playoff, when he sunk a six foot putt on the first hole to edge competitor Lanny Wadkins for the Wanamaker trophy.  After hot and windy conditions Nelson finished with a final score of 287…one under par.

Leading the tournament in the first round was a different Wadkins,  it was Bobby Wadkins, younger brother of Lanny who opened up with a -4 under par, 68.  Coming in at three under (69) was David Edwards and Fred Funk.  Tied for fourth, carding 70’s was a worthy list of contenders which included: 1969 & 1982 Champion Raymond Floyd, Bernhard Langer, Larry Nelson, Curtis Strange, & Lanny Wadkins.

Of all those men, it was Floyd and Lanny Wadkins who leaped to the top.  They each matched their first round scored of 70 to have a 140 total after 36 holes.  Climbing the leaderboard with a fantastic 69 was the eventual 1988 winner Jeff Sluman.  Behind him was the Spaniard Seve Ballesteros & Nelson just two off the lead.

The third round simply produced wonderful scores for the wrong people.  The leader Ray Floyd shot one over in the third round sinking him to T-3 while Bobby Wadkins shot a 71 also dropping him.  Mark McCumber took the reigns on top of the leaderboard after shooting a 69…Although it was shared with D.A. Weibring who shot the low round of the day with a 67.

The final day of the 66th annual PGA Championship was a tough one.  Temperatures at one point during the final round reached 104 FÂş.  With scored ranging all over the board it was Nelson & Lanny Wadkins who both got in a -1 par for the sudden death playoff.  The playoff, contested between the two, started on the Champions Courses’ Par 4 10th hole.  Both players found the fairway off the tee.  Then Wadkins hit an 8-iron just right of the green and Nelson hit the same number club just left of the green. Each in wiry rough, needing to get up and down for the title.  Both chips found the green with Nelson being away he went first.  Nelson buried his 6 footer while Wadkins burned the edge on a 5 footer.  The title was Nelsons, who collected $150,000 in prize money as well.

“Since the 1983 Open I felt that my career has not been uphill but downhill…I was 36 then and thinking about doing other things. I really felt the need to go out in the business world.  But I wasn’t going to quit playing until I won again, and this is the best victory of them all for me!”

-Larry Nelson

Josh Morris

Josh Morris is the Editor of Golf History Today. A proud USGA Volunteer and golf enthusiast. In his free time he enjoys being a weekend caddie as well as playing as much as he can.

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