July 25, 2016
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Jason Day put on a driving show at the 2015 PGA Championship. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Professional golfers will tell you every club in the bag plays an important role during the week of a major championship.
But as we've seen over the years at the PGA Championship, there's usually one club in the bag that separates the winner from the rest of the field.
Here's a look back at the key club in the bag for the last five PGA champions.
2015: Jason Day, TaylorMade R15 460 (Mitsubishi Rayon KuroKage Silver TiNi 70X shaft), 10.5
Jason Day's prodigious length off the tee once again gave him a leg up on the competition during his maiden major win at the PGA Championship.
With Jordan Spieth applying pressure for most of the weekend, Day separated himself from the two-time major winner and the rest of the field with towering tee shots that left him mid and short irons into most of the holes at Whistling Straits.
"I think just having the confidence with my driver, knowing that I could get up there and hit the drives," Day said. "Hitting it 373 or 380 down there and having a wedge in my hand to a par-5 definitely helps. But setting up with confidence and belief in my swing to be able to hit drives over 300 yards down the middle in the middle of a major championship is a tough thing to do."
Even Spieth, who was vying for his third major at the PGA Championship, appreciated Day's impressive performance off the tee with his TaylorMade R15 460 driver that included a 382-yard drive on the 11th hole during the final round.
"He played like he'd won seven or eight majors," Spieth said. "He took it back. He wailed it. It was a stripe show."
Day averaged 306.9 yards for the week (T5) and hit 73.21 percent of the fairways (T5) at the year's final major. He also led the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green, picking up more than 16 shots on the field over 72 holes.
"Me and [caddie Colin Swatton] have been working so hard on the swing," Day said, "especially over the last few weeks, and the driving, it propelled me to win this week. If I didn't drive as long and as straight as I did, there's no chance I would have won this tournament just hitting it just average."
2014: Rory McIlroy, Nike VRS Covert 2.0 (Fujikura Rombax Pro 95 X shaft), 15 degrees
Sometimes you need a little bit of luck to win a major championship. For Rory McIlroy, the defining shot of his 2014 PGA Championship victory turned out to be one of the most fortunate shots in major championship history.
Three shots back and in need of a spark on the par-5 10th hole, McIlroy unleashed a 280-yard 3-wood that just got off the ground and rolled up the fairway to within seven feet of the hole for eagle. McIlroy would go on to make the putt and win his second Wanamaker Trophy.
"The ball flight was probably around 30 feet lower than I intended," McIlroy admitted. "And the line of the shot was probably around 15 yards left of where I intended. It was lucky, it really was. You need a little bit of luck in major championships to win and that was my lucky break. I didn't hit a very good shot there but it worked out well and I made eagle from it."
What very few people realized at the time was that McIlroy was using a 15-degree Nike VRS Covert 2.0 3-wood for the first time in competition. The Ulsterman swapped 3-woods the week prior at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but over the course of four days at Firestone, he never had a chance to use the club.
Following the victory, McIlroy made one minor tweak to the fairway wood head, flattening the lie angle slightly to fit his swing.
2013: Jason Dufner, Titleist 714 AP2 prototype irons (True Temper Project X PXi 6.5 shafts)
Equipment changes don't always produce immediate results, but in Jason Dufner's case, a new set of Titleist 714 AP2 prototype irons he put in play the week prior at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational — where he finished T4 — helped him set the course record at Oak Hill Country Club, and tie the record for lowest round in a major championship with a 7-under 63 during the second round.
Dufner was nearly flawless from tee-to-green, hitting the fairway with regularity and leaving himself 10-15 foot birdie putts on a number of holes. Dufner took advantage of soft conditions, holing out for eagle on the par-4 2nd hole before adding five birdies to the card to grab a two-shot lead after 36 holes.
Dufner went on to shoot 71-68 over the final 36 holes to win by two shots, becoming the first player to win a major with Titleist's 714 AP2 irons that were released midway through the season at Quicken Loans National.
2012: Rory McIlroy, Titleist Scotty Cameron Studio Select Newport GSS prototype
Rory McIlroy did the unthinkable at the 2012 PGA Championship, replicating his eight-shot win at the 2011 U.S. Open with another eight-shot rout 14 months later at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.
McIlroy, who became the sixth-youngest player to win two majors, put on a putting clinic, pouring in putts from all over, including a 25-footer on the 72nd hole that capped off one of the most dominant performances in major championship history.
The Ulsterman tamed the Ocean Course's diabolical greens with a Scotty Cameron Studio Select Newport GSS prototype putter — the same model he used to win the 2011 U.S. Open.
According to the Team Titleist blog, McIlroy received the custom putter in 2010 at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship and used it on occasion over the next year before going back to it in the run-up to the 2011 U.S. Open.
While the putter looks like a standard Titleist Studio Select Newport, McIlroy's putter had a few special features that made it very unique.
The German Stainless Steel (GSS) that was used to design the putter is an extremely pricey material that's costly to mill but has a very distinct feel and crisp sound at impact. Cameron has typically produced GSS putters in the past for high-profile names like McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Ernie Els.
2011: Keegan Bradley, Odyssey White Hot XG Sabertooth Belly
Keegan Bradley's PGA Championship hopes were on life support after a triple bogey on the par-3 15th that left him five shots back of Jason Dufner with three holes to play.
But instead of ceding the title to Dufner, Bradley mounted an incredible charge over the last few holes, making back-to-back birdies, including a 35-footer on the 17th.
When Dufner bogeyed three straight holes to force a three-hole playoff, Bradley took over, using his Odyssey White Hot XG Sabertooth Belly putter to make another birdie on the 16th hole — the first playoff hole — to grab his first outright lead of the day. He would go on to win by one shot.
Along with winning his first major at Atlanta Athletic Club, Bradley, a PGA TOUR rookie at the time, became the first player to win a major with a long putter. Bradley started using the 46.5-inch Odyssey White Hot XG Sabertooth Belly putter in 2010.
The putter Bradley used for his lone major win was officially banned from competition at the beginning of 2016 when Rule 14-1 went in place, prohibiting the use of an anchored stroke.