Nick Price was in Total Control at the 1994 PGA Championship
Raymond Floyd, winner of the 1982 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, made an impactful statement before the first tee shot was struck in the 1994 PGA Championship.
“I think come Sunday night you’re going to have a world-class player that wins here,” Floyd said. “I think the golf course dictates that.”
He couldn’t have been more right.
Nick Price came into the 76th PGA Championship playing the best golf on the planet. He won the Open Championship the previous month, and had accumulated 15 wins worldwide over the past 24 months.
Some were calling him “scary good”, and he didn’t disappoint at Southern Hills.
In a dominating performance, Price ran away from the strongest field assembled for any professional tournament (all top 40 in the world were there) shooting 11 under par and winning by six strokes over Corey Pavin. He also joined a trio of past champions at Southern Hills by leading for all four rounds, just like Tommy Bolt, Hubert Green, and Raymond Floyd.
Price also came into the championship with a caddie almost as famous as he was. Jeff “Squeaky” Medlin had been carrying Nick’s bag since 1990 and earned his nickname from his high pitched voice. He gained his first national exposure, however, from carrying the bag of a different pro. When Price had to withdraw from the 1991 PGA Championship for the birth of his first child, Jeff went on to Crocked Stick Golf Club looking for a job. As luck would have it, he teamed up with the ninth alternate, a newcomer named John Daly. Daly arrived late Wednesday and never played a practice round. He relied on Jeff’s knowledge of the golf course and the two of them pulled off an improbable win for the ages. Sadly, in 1996, Jeff was diagnosed with leukemia and died in 1997.
The top of the leaderboard after the first round of the 76th PGA Championship was packed: six major champions were among the top 14. Price and Colin Montgomerie both shot 67. Phil Mickelson, Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples, and Ernie Els had 68’s.
What looked like a battle to the finish was dispelled somewhat during round two when Price took control with a five-under-par 65 that gave him a five-shot lead.
There were several low scores posted, just not by the other leaders. Corey Pavin, Ben Crenshaw and Jay Hass jumped into second. Haas had an amazing 66 that included a triple bogey on the ninth hole. The highlight of the day, however, belonged to Arnold Palmer.
There weren’t many dry eyes around the 18th green when 64-year-old Arnold Palmer strolled up the fairway to complete the final round of his 36th and last PGA Championship. Fans cheered his every step over the first two rounds of the tournament. While Arnold won 62 PGA Tour events and seven majors, he was never able to capture the elusive PGA crown. Some in the crowd were also at Southern Hills 24 years earlier for the 1970 PGA, when The King had one of his best chances to claim the title. In a close battle, he finished second, two strokes behind Dave Stockton. Arnold’s career at Southern Hills also included the 1958 U.S. Open, the 1977 U.S. Open, and the 1982 PGA.
“People have been so great,” Palmer said after his round. “If I can leave with the feeling that I have enhanced the game and people’s enjoyment of the game, that would make me feel like I have accomplished something.”
While Palmer had just completed his final round in a PGA Championship, another great, Jack Nicklaus, had completed his final round at Southern Hills.
Nicklaus first played at Southern Hills as a 13-year-old in the 1953 U.S. Junior Amateur, his first USGA event. He was back for the 1958 U.S. Open as an 18-year old amateur. After becoming a professional, he returned in 1970, 1977, 1982. Jack played here for the last time in the 1994 and missed the cut with rounds of 79 and 71.
“I’ve always had a hard time at Southern Hills,” Nicklaus said. “It’s a wonderful golf course. It’s a tough golf course. But, you know, there are some golf courses that you just never get the hang of. I guess there’s some other guys that didn’t come out with trophies, either.”
Price opened the door a crack on Saturday with a ho-hum-round of 70, saving par from all five bunkers he entered. Haas had 68 to close within three, overcoming a triple- bogey seven on the 15th. Mickelson’s 67 closed to within four, even with a double bogey on the 12th. Price later commented that he won the championship with his play on Saturday.
On Sunday, Greg Norman birdied the first two holes to get within three, but Price released the shark repellent with birdies on 3 and 4, and closed the deal with a birdie 2 on the 215-yard par 3 eighth. Nick Faldo tied for low round of the day with a 66, and finished fourth. Mickelson, with a 70, finished third.
Price, cruising over the final nine holes, finished with a 67 and a total of eleven-under- par, 269. At the time, this was the lowest-ever 72-hole score recorded in any U.S. major championship, taking him to World No. 1 over Greg Norman. Price’s win also marked the first time since 1934 that all four majors were won by international players.
“Basically, Nick beat the crud out of us,” runner up Corey Pavin said after the championship. “I felt like I won the B flight.”