11 Biggest Final-Round Comebacks in PGA Tour History

PGA Tour Records: Most Strokes Coming-from-Behind To Win in Final Round

Paul Lawrie poses with the trophy with the green staff after winning the British Open Golf Championship 1999
Paul Lawrie (with Claret Jug) is surrounded by Carnoustie green staff after winning the 1999 Open Championship. David Cannon/Getty Images

The record for the biggest final-round comeback in PGA Tour history is 10 strokes. One golfer was 10 behind at the start of the final round, but went on to win the tournament. Let's take a look at that record-holder, plus the other largest come-from-behind wins in tour history — including the biggest comeback wins in each of the majors.

Key Takeaways: Biggest PGA Tour Comebacks

  • The record-holder is Paul Lawrie, who came from 10 strokes behind to win the 1999 British Open.
  • In PGA Tour history, there have been 11 final round, come-from-behind wins of eight strokes or more.

The Record-Holder: Paul Lawrie

Who holds this record? Paul Lawrie, and he set it at a major: The 1999 British Open.

Lawrie's record come-from-behind win at the 1999 Open is almost completely overlooked in many discussions of that tournament because it was also the site of Jean Van de Velde's infamous choke.

At the end of the third round, Van de Velde had a 5-stroke lead over second-place Justin Leonard and Craig Parry. Van de Velde's score was 213, while Lawrie was tied for 14th place at 223. But Lawrie wound up winning in a four-hole, aggregate-score playoff against Van de Velde and Leonard. Van de Velde shot 77 in the final round and Lawrie shot 67.

The PGA Tour's 11 Biggest Final-Round Comebacks 

Here is the Top 10 list — no, make that Top 11 list — of largest final-round, come-from-behind victories in PGA Tour history:

10 strokes

  • Paul Lawrie, 1999 British Open

9 strokes

As noted, Lawrie's record-setting win ultimately happened via playoff. And so did Cink's 9-stroke, come-from-behind win. Lawrie's playoff was a fourth-hole aggregate. Cink's playoff was sudden-death, but lasted even longer: He beat Ted Purdy on the fifth extra hole. Cink was nine shots behind Purdy at the start of the final round, but shot 64 to Purdy's 73 to force the playoff.

8 strokes

  • Jack Burke Jr., 1956 Masters Tournament
  • Ken Venturi, 1959 Los Angeles Open
  • Mark Lye, 1983 Bank of Boston Classic
  • Hal Sutton, 1985 St. Jude Memphis Classic
  • Chip Beck, 1990 Buick Open
  • Scott Simpson, 1998 Buick Invitational
  • Craig Stadler, 2003 B.C. Open
  • Kyle Stanley, 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open
  • Justin Rose, 2017 WGC HSBC Champions

It's a nice coincidence that the first two names among the eight golfers who've posted 8-stroke comeback wins are those of Burke and Venturi. Because Burke's come-from-behind win at the 1956 Masters was over ... Venturi. Venturi was still an amateur in 1956, and led the second-place golfer by four shots after the third round. Burke was eight behind Venturi. Then, in a windswept final round, Venturi struggled to an 80 while Burke shot 71 to beat Venturi by a stroke.

Biggest Comebacks in the Majors

We've already seen two of them. The biggest British Open comeback is the overall recordholder, Paul Lawrie. And the biggest comeback ever in The Masters is the eight shot comeback by Jack Burke Jr. in 1956. That leaves the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

The U.S. Open comeback record is held by Arnold Palmer, who started the final round seven strokes off the leader in 1960 but went on to win.

And at the PGA Championship, the largest final-round comeback is seven strokes, a record set by John Mahaffey in winning the 1978 tournament.