In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Tiger Woods survives a charge from 19-year-old Sergio Garcia of Spain to win the PGA Championship at Medinah County Club in suburban Chicago. It was the second career major title for Tiger, after winning the 1997 Masters. Garcia, however, stole the show nearly overcoming a five-stroke deficit on the back nine. With the win, Tiger Woods began a stretch of winning five of the next six major titles.
As the 20th Century was coming to a close, golf was more popular than ever thanks to a group of young professionals led by Tiger Woods who burst upon the scene and won the PGA Championship in 1997, after turning professional and winning three straight U.S. Amateur titles. After winning the Masters, Tiger Woods was showing signs of greatness, though he had yet to hit his stride. He had five Top-Ten finishes at majors but had yet to put together four complete rounds to claim a second title. Heading into the PGA Championship, Tiger Woods at the age of 23 was having a great season as he was on the way to winning Player of the Year for the second time in three years as he was on the way to winning eight tournaments while making every cut.
Sergio Garcia was the new kid on the block, having just turned professional before the PGA Championship as he competed in the Masters and was the low amateur, finishing 37th. At 19, Garcia was the latest in the line of swashbuckling Spaniards in the tradition of Seve Ballesteros.
Sergio Garcia got everyone’s attention early at Medinah, recording a six-under-par 66, to hold a two-stroke lead over Jay Haas, J.P. Hayes and Mike Weir. Tiger Woods meanwhile had an up and down first round shooting a 70 as he was in a crowd of golfer at -2. The second round brought in the storm clouds, as Tiger Woods shot a 67 in the rain, and sat at -6, in third place behind Haas who had a 67 on Friday and sat -9, while Weir was at eight-under after 68. Lee Westwood was in fourth at the midway point at -6, after a 68, while Sergio Garcia struggled and was in a tie for fifth at -5, after shooting a disappointing 73 in the second round.
Sergio Garcia got back on track in the third round, shooting a four-under-par 68 to go into Sunday tied for third with Stewart Cink at -9. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods moved to the top of the leaderboard with a 68 and sat in a tie with Mike Weir at -11 after a nice 69 in the third round. Saturday was not so nice for Jay Haas the 36-hole leader as he dropped to -6 after a 75.
Sunday at Medinah was all about Tiger Woods in the early going, as he looked to be poised to cruise to the Wannamaker Trophy, building a five-stroke lead after the 11th hole. Mike Weir playing with Tiger had a nightmare final round, shooting 80 as he finished tied for tenth at -3. Jay Haas recovered from a rough third round and finished tied for third at -8, with Stewart Cink who had a 73 on the last day. Only Sergio Garcia and Nick Price remained at -10 in contention with Tiger Woods on the back nine. Price would face finishing at -7, while Garcia nearly completed a historic comeback.
It started on the 12th, as Tiger Woods gave back a stroke to go from -15 to -14. Sergio Garcia, now the last golfer at -10 saw his opening and began taking bold shots to make things interesting, to say the least. On the Par-3 13th hole Sergio hit a brilliant shot to get a birdie, while Tiger recorded a double-bogey five, cutting his lead to one stroke. While Tiger began to lose his edge, Sergio Garcia was making crazy shots to keep the deficit at one stroke. After a bogey on 15, to fall back to two strokes, Sergio made a shot behind a tree to the green running it down with a hop and skip to keep the pressure on Woods, who in a similar situation bogeyed on the 16, dropping the lead to one stroke once again.
Tiger Woods would make great par saves on the last two holes and would finish an eleven under par 277, while Sergio fell just short at 278. The championship would start a stretch of five major titles in six tournaments, as he followed up with the Tiger slam in 2000, winning the US Open, British Open and repeating at the PGA while returning in 2001 to win the Masters. Sergio Garcia meanwhile has had a somewhat disappointing career, marked by late-round meltdowns as he did not win his first major title until the 2017 Masters. To date, it is his only major title. Tiger Woods on the other hand has won 15, second only to Jack Nicklaus.