PGA Championship - Preview Day 2
Credit: Getty Images

Golf is absolutely a sport where momentum plays a role in one’s success.

So why is winning the week before a major not usually a harbinger of
another trophy?

In the game’s history, only about two handfuls of golfers have ever gone
back-to-back, including, most recently, Rory McIlroy at the 2014 PGA
Championship (he won the World Golf Championships event the week

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson did it in back-to-back years – with Woods
winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship in
consecutive weeks in 2007 while Mickelson won the BellSouth Classic and
then the Masters in 2006.

Prior to those two global icons pulling the feat, however, the previous golfer to go back-to-back with a major victory was Sandy Lyle – nearly 20 years earlier.

“Different things work for different people,” said former world. No. 1 Jon
Rahm – who is still searching for his first major victory – at the WGC FedEx
St. Jude Invitational in 2020, the event prior to last year’s PGA Championship.

Jack Nicklaus, the winner of 18 majors including five PGA Championships,
rarely played prior to a major, same with Woods. Mickelson, meanwhile,
was usually found teeing it up on the PGA Tour prior to a major (he’s won five majors, including the PGA Championship in 2005).

One of the problems that golfers who win the week prior to the PGA
Championship may have to deal with is the hype machine running in
overdrive – recency bias plays a role, certainly.

“Expectations are higher. Hype is a little bit higher,” said McIlroy in a pre-
Championship press conference in 2014. “I was sort of flying a bit under
the radar in 2012, if you can say that. So, it’s a little bit different this year.”

That didn’t seem to faze McIlroy in 2014, as he went on to win his second-
career PGA Championship.

The Northern Irishman did not tee it up at last week’s AT&T Bryon Nelson
but did win his last start – the Wells Fargo Championship – and is back at
the Ocean Course looking for a repeat performance from 2012 when he
won by eight shots.

Since McIlroy won back-to-back in 2014 there’s been a mixed bag of what
PGA Championship winners have done in the week prior.

Collin Morikawa, last year’s winner, finished tied for 20th the week before
his maiden major triumph.

Brooks Koepka, who won the two previous PGA Championships (in both
2018 and 2019) had the best results of the bunch. He finished 4th in 2019
at the AT&T Byron Nelson and then 5th in 2018 at the WGC-Bridgestone.

Justin Thomas, the 2017 champion, finished tied for 28th the week prior to
his first major championship title.

Jimmy Walker, who won his first major at the PGA Championship in 2016,
finished tied for 14th at the RBC Canadian Open that year – sandwiched
between two majors (as the schedule was impacted by the Olympics that
year and the PGA Tour’s calendar went U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone,
Open Championship, RBC Canadian Open, and PGA Championship).

Finally, Jason Day won his first major at the 2015 PGA Championship in
the midst of some of the best golf in modern memory but did not win the
week prior to Whistling Straits. Day did, however, go 1-T12-1-1-T12-1 in a
six-week stretch, winning the RBC Canadian Open, The Barclays, and the
BMW Championship along with the PGA Championship.

This year K.H. Lee earned the final spot in the field this week at the Ocean
Course after his first PGA Tour win at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson and
now he’s the guy looking to go back-to-back.

His win came by three shots, and Lee will be making his PGA
Championship debut this week.

Winning in your PGA Championship debut? Not as rare – just ask last
year’s winner Collin Morikawa – but going back-to-back has proven to be a
little trickier.

“It’s something you find over time,” said Rahm, in 2020. “I’ll let you know if I ever get on a streak of winning multiple majors. That will mean I’ve found
the secret.”

Latest News