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|Tiger Woods won his 13th major at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, but it may be time to look for a new major. (Courtesy PGA of America)|
It's been a good run, but now is the right time for the PGA Championship to lose its status as golf's fourth major.
Golf's majors are among the most heralded, prestigious events in sports. Our generation's most dominant athlete, Tiger Woods, will define his career mostly on how many he's won in relation to Jack Nicklaus' 18.
So what makes these things such a big deal? It's a mix of a big purse, elite field, challenging golf course and a fancy trophy accompanied with lots of black and white photographs of old men in knickers.
The event should also be a unique test - and that's where the PGA Championship is sorely lacking.
The Masters is a "Tradition unlike any other" hosted on a storied golf course, Augusta National, built specifically for the event. The British Open is the oldest and most distinct of the four, contested on the barren links of the game's origins. The notorious U.S. Open is where we can witness tour pros' demoralized into wimpy, pre-pubescent boys.
The PGA Championship was first staged in 1916. Back then it was the only major to use a match play format. It later switched to stroke play in 1957.
Today, the PGA has morphed into a sort of "U.S. Open Junior." It's difficult, but never as hard as the Open, and is hosted at similar, or sometimes the same, venues. Next year, it's set to be staged at Oakland Hills, just north of Detroit, which last held the Open in 1996. Other courses that double as both Open and PGA hosts include Southern Hills, Winged Foot and Medinah.
These days, the championship is hopelessly marketed as "Glory's Last Shot," no more glamorous than, say, "dessert." Its only outstanding feature is its placement on the tour's schedule. It also has a history of producing the flukiest major winners, like Shaun Micheel and Rich Beam.
Few fans or writers ever make the argument the PGA Championship is the best of the four majors, though that case could be easily made for either of the other three.
It's not too late to do something. The LPGA nixed one of its majors, the du Maurier, in 2001, after tobacco reform in Canada caused sponsors to drop out, in favor of the Ricoh Women's British Open. It was a switch that seemed natural and few even talk about it anymore. It helped bring a new dimension to the tour and paid high-profile dividends this summer at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
So we should replace the PGA with a type of "World Open," a competition that is held on a different continent each year. The assorted PGA's of the world could host it together, professional golf's version of the United Nations. I know I'm not the only one who thinks this.
The fact the PGA of America hosts its tournament each year on U.S. soil is unfairly weighting three of golf's majors in the United States. That leaves the majority of the golfing world shut out from ever hosting a major, even though most of the world's top players don't come from the U.K. or America.
Changing the system would enable golf-rich countries like South Africa, Australia and Spain to host their own major and enjoy golf's biggest spotlight. It wouldn't always have to be staged in August after the three others, either. The dates would vary based on the upcoming continent's climate. North America would be included in the "World Open," of course, but would include potential venues in Canada and Mexico.
Getting media exposure to the far corners of the world isn't a problem in the 21st century, either. We all have up-to-the-minute Internet updates, cable sports TV and TiVO.
As long as there continues to be no Olympic golf, this would be the best way to promote the game globally, which is essential to its future. Right now, golf is growing rapidly in markets like Asia and South America, compared to a largely stagnant U.S. market.
Hosting a "World Open" would be one-of-a-kind and more exciting to watch than any PGA Championship - whether Tiger is charging on Sunday or not. National pride would dominate the atmosphere more than at any other event, something that always sparks more spirited play and more passionate fans. In a few years' time, it could easily make a case as golf's best major.
All we need is to get some old black & white photos of men in knickers.
August 21, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The sun came out over Wales Monday, and Senior Writer Brandon Tucker ditched the final round of Ryder Cup play for 18 holes at nearby Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club. As the Americans rallied and ultimately fell short, Tucker offers his unique perspective on the European victory and the celebration that ensued.
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