This is also the 25th-anniversary year of Larry Nelson’s 1987 PGA Championship victory at PGA National, which came on the first playoff hole — against Wadkins.
“It was deju vu all over again,” Wadkins says. “I was playing in the last group, and if I birdie 18 I win. I thought if I hit the same shot I did in ’83 it would be perfect. But it was really, really hot that August, the greens were hard, and I left myself a 20-footer that slid past the hole.”
On the first playoff hole Nelson drilled in a six-foot par putt for the win, as Wadkins ran a four-footer past the cup.
The Senior PGA Championship also was played here from 1982 to 2000. The most lighthearted might be the 1987 victory by Chi Chi Rodriguez, who trailed by six before the final round. Rodriguez strolled into the pro shop, bought a new set of clubs and won by a stroke.
Lee Trevino’s 1994 win came at the expense of Raymond Floyd, who had a four-stroke lead with nine holes to go. Then Floyd found the Bear Trap. He splashed two balls at 15 for a quadruple bogey and plunked another at 17 for a double bogey.
On the scorecard, the Bear Trap doesn’t look particularly omnivorous — two par-3s around an average-length par 4. But approaching the 15th tee a player first sees an upright ursine statue, arms outstretched, mouth open. A plaque proclaims, “You are now entering The Bear Trap,” leaving the mind to supply the implied “Abandon all hope.” There’s also a prescient quote from Nicklaus: “It should be won or lost right here.”
Choosing the right tee box usually mitigates matters. The three Bear Trap holes measure 179, 434 and 172 yards, respectively, from the back tees (I played them from 153, 391 and 155). But as Nicklaus says, distance isn’t the key element.