World Golf Hall of Fame member David Graham recalls his epic final round and ensuing playoff win over Ben Crenshaw at the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills in 1979, "FORE the Good of the Game."
When it comes to golf, David Graham is a citizen of the world. He has won 36 tournaments, including two Major Championships, on six different continents and as a result, takes his place in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
A Melbourne, Australia native, Graham was first introduced to golf in his early youth as he biked past the Wattle Park nine-hole golf course on his way to school each day. As with most young people, his curiosity got the best of him and he walked into the golf shop to explore. After speaking with the club pro, he was offered a weekend job on the golf course.
He fell in love with the game and found that he had a talent with the clubs. Interestingly, he began playing left-handed and continued for four years until George Naismith, his coach and mentor, convinced him to switch to playing right-handed. Graham remembered that it took him at least 18 months before he won another event.
Graham quit school at age 13 to pursue his dream of playing professional golf. In 1962, at age 16, Graham turned professional and set out on the path he set before him. After winning a few tournaments in Australia, he made the decision in 1969 to move to the United States to try his hand on the PGA TOUR.
Although living in the U.S., he continued to play worldwide. He won the Thailand Open Championship in 1970, the Caracas Open in 1971, the Australian Open and the South African PGA in 1977, followed by the Mexican Open in 1980 and back-to-back wins at the European Trophée Lancôme in 1981 and 1982.
“I’d like to be remembered for where I came from, to where I got to.”
Back in the United States, Graham was making a name for himself by winning the PGA Championship in 1979 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan. With a stunning closing round of 65 on Sunday, he had come from four strokes behind to tie fellow Hall of Fame member Ben Crenshaw and force a playoff. On the third hole of the sudden-death playoff, Graham placed his 4-iron tee shot on the par-3 hole to eight feet. He sunk his birdie putt to claim his first Major Championship title.
To Graham, the win at the PGA Championship was a life-changing experience. He knew he could win playing against the best in the world. With a boost of confidence in his game and in himself, he entered the 1980 season ready to play. The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village would provide the test for him, and he would pass with a clutch 30-foot putt on the final hole to claim the victory by one stroke over another Hall of Fame member, Tom Watson.
Watson said that “David won the tournament; I didn’t lose it.” He went on to say, “David played some wonderful bunker shots, and he played three-under-par the last four holes.”
DAVID GRAHAM HAS WON PROFESSIONAL GOLF EVENTS ON SIX DIFFERENT CONTINENTS.
After winning the Phoenix Open in January 1981, Graham came to the U.S. Open Championship at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania to test his mettle once more. Unlike his first Major Championship title, which was clinched in dramatic fashion in a three-hole playoff, Graham recorded a final round 67 for a clear three shot lead over the rest of the field.
Many have heralded Graham’s final round as one of the best in U.S. Open history. He put on a ball-striking clinic, missing just one fairway and hitting every green in regulation. His performance on the course, especially at Merion, warranted a post-round phone call from a previous winner at Merion, Hall of Fame member Ben Hogan, who called it “one of the best rounds of golf I’ve ever seen.”
David Graham’s stellar career included his appearance in the inaugural Alfred Dunhill Cup competition in St Andrews, Scotland in 1985. Australia fielded a three-man team that included David Graham, Graham Marsh, and fellow Hall of Fame member Greg Norman. At the time, the Dunhill Cup was a team competition featuring professionals from 16 different countries.
The final would pit the Australian team against the United States team, which consisted of Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange, and Raymond Floyd, all members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. It would be a clean sweep for the Australians as they claimed the first of two Dunhill Cup victories. Australia would claim the title again in 1986.
David Graham would represent Australia in three Dunhill Cups and two World Cups. He was also the International Team Captain in the first Presidents Cup in 1994.