1980 PGA Championship
Jack Nicklaus had dominated the world of golf for more than 15 years, but in the late 1970s, the Golden Bear was being called the Olden Bear because his winning ways had abated.
As Nicklaus kicked off the 1980 PGA Tour season, he was turning 40 years old, and he had been supplanted by Tom Watson as the world’s No. 1 player. “But that didn't eliminate my feeling that I could come back,” said Nicklaus, who did exactly that, winning the U.S. Open at Baltusrol with a record-setting score of 272, and then capturing the 17th professional major championship and 71st overall PGA Tour victory of his illustrious career by lapping the field in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
Nicklaus, who became just the third player in history to win the Open and PGA in the same year, was superb during his four tours of the newly-renovated East Course. He opened 70-69 to trail Gil Morgan by a shot, then dusted the competition with a spectacular third-round 66.
The three-stroke lead he began the fourth round with may not have seemed like much, but in closing with a classy 69, one of only three players to break par-70 that day, he was a PGA-record seven shots ahead of runner-up Andy Bean, his 274 total the lowest ever posted at Oak Hill.
"I played as fine a finishing round in a major as I've ever played," said Nicklaus, who tied the record of Rochester native Walter Hagen – for whom the tournament was dedicated to – with his fifth PGA Championship victory. "Oak Hill is a marvelous golf course, one of the top 10 or 12 true championship courses.’’
Oak Hill had hosted successful U.S. Opens in 1956 and 1968, but when the USGA turned down its request to bring the event back in the late 1970s, club officials sprang into action. The USGA intimated that the East Course had become antiquated, and a renovation was necessary before it would consider returning. Noted architect George Fazio and his rising star nephew, Tom, were hired, and they built new par-3 holes at Nos. 6 and 15, and re-designed the fifth and 18th holes, which brought the course back up to major championship standards. It was put on display for the first time during the 1980 PGA Championship, and Jack Nicklaus was the only player to break par for the week.