JT ties UH’s John Mahaffey for largest PGA Comeback Ever


On Sunday, Justin Thomas came from seven shots back to win the PGA Championship in Tulsa. Thomas played his last 13 holes in six-under (including -2 in the three-hole playoff).

The seven-shot comeback matches the PGA record set in 1978 by Houston Cougar legend John Mahaffey. Mahaffey trailed Tom Watson that Sunday by seven and by five as the players made the turn. Birdie putts of 45 and 25 feet on 10 and 11, along with a Watson double, helped the UH grad pull within one. Mahaffey tied Watson after another birdie at 14. At that point, Mahaffey had played his last 11 holes in six-under.

Both men bogeyed #16 to fall back into a tie with Jerry Pate, playing a group ahead of them. Pate birdied 17 to take the lead but missed a three-footer at 18. The three men went into a playoff, and after three pars on the first, Mahaffey walked it off with a 12-foot birdie on his 74th hole of the week.

John Mahaffey shot rounds of 75-67-68-66 to win his only major. Previously, while at UH, he won the individual title at the 1970 NCAA Championship and was part of two national title teams (1969, 1970) and a runner-up (1968). As a professional, Mahaffey had two near-misses at the U.S. Open: he lost in 1975 (in an 18-hole playoff), and in 1976, losing a two-shot lead with four holes to play.

After the 1976 U.S. Open, Mahaffey went through the wringer: he suffered a broken elbow late in 1976, and a broken thumb sidelined him early in 1977 (he also went through a divorce). Nevertheless, he overcame those obstacles in winning the PGA and sparked a surge in his career: he won the following week at the American Optical and then once in each of the following three seasons.

John Mahaffey was inducted into the UH Hall of Honor in 1976, becoming the second golfer to receive the honor. He is also in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame (Class of 1983).

1978 PGA Championship Final Scores
John Mahaffey….75-67-68-66—276*
Jerry Pate…….72-70-66-68—276
Tom Watson…….67-69-67-73—276
Tom Weiskopf…..73-67-69-71—280
Gil Morgan…….76-71-66-67—280
Craig Stadler….70-74-67-71—282
Andy Bean……..72-72-70-70—284
Lee Trevino……69-73-70-72—284
Graham Marsh…..72-74-68-70—284
Fuzzy Zoeller….75-69-73-68—285

*Won on 2nd hole of a playoff

Mahaffey sinks the winning putt on the second playoff hole // Source: SI Vault


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