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Pro golf's majors are in great need of a major overhaul

Clive AgranBy Clive Agran,
Phil Mickelson PGA Champion
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Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship in 2005. What would he say about doing away with it? (Courtesy PGA of America)

At the risk of upsetting George W. Bush and my vast army of American fans, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the golfing goodies are not being fairly distributed.

Watching The Masters over the weekend, I found myself asking, "Why should the U.S. host three out of pro golf's four major championships?" And, seemingly not content with three-quarters of the cake, some are lobbying to have the Players' Championship designated as the fifth major, which would raise the American share to an obscene 80 percent.

Next thing you know, some rich Yank will make a billion dollar bid for all the British Open Championship venues, move his company's headquarters into what was previously the R & A clubhouse and re-brand the Open as the Schnickleberger Pretzel and Root Beer Megabuck Challenge, or something equally ghastly.

If you think I'm crazy just reflect on what recently befell those two great British sporting institutions, the football clubs of Manchester United and Liverpool. ‘Institutions?' Sorry, I meant ‘franchises.' (How demeaning for two of my country's greatest sports clubs to be reduced to the same commercial playing field as Dominos Pizza.)

Off the top of my balding head, the only other sport that I can think of that has four major events is tennis, which evenly divides what they call the grand slam titles between the Old and the New World with England, France, Australia and the USA each hosting one apiece. Although it favors the northern over the southern hemisphere by 3:1, many more people sensibly live in the top half rather than the bottom half of the globe, so that's fair enough.

Other top sports similarly make an effort to spread the really big events around. Football (soccer) and rugby union move their World Cups all over the place, while only Americans have the cheek to call the final of their domestic competition the "World Series," as they do with baseball.

At least baseball is their game and so I suppose there are at liberty to call it what they want but golf, dammit, began in Britain and belongs to the whole of mankind. For goodness' sake, the U.S. hasn't even won the Ryder Cup for ages, so who gave them permission to host three majors? If Americans are as fond of democracy as they claim, why don't they let the people decide and give every golfer who possesses a handicap certificate a vote?

Look, I'm not dismissing the significant contribution that the U.S. has made to the game - not least the seemingly universal cry of "Get in the hole!" - I just think the goodies should be more evenly distributed. Accepting, for the time being at least, that the U.S. Open, the Masters and the British Open should stay where they are, the authorities should have the courage to scrap the exceedingly ordinary and far too sweaty PGA Championship in favor of something with more universal appeal, something called The World Open, say.

But where should it be held? The only sensible thing to do is rotate it around everywhere that doesn't presently host a major, which is the world minus the United States and Great Britain.

Given its considerable civilizing influence, golf can play a key role in encouraging previously undemocratic countries to appreciate the real benefits of living in a free and open society. A little generosity on the part of the U.S. now could reap a rich reward in terms of peace, prosperity and golf cart exports for years to come.

Although in his 60s, with a handicap of 15 and lifetime earnings comfortably below $100, Clive Agran nevertheless still believes he can win a major. Arguably England's most gifted golf writer, when not dreaming of glory he's scouring the globe simultaneously searching for lost balls and great golf courses. Follow Clive on Twitter at @cliveagran.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • PGA Championship

    Martin Schlenker wrote on: Nov 3, 2009

    This would take a big overhaul, but I think that the PGA Championship should keep it's name but be moved to international venues. There are other PGA's, such as the Asian PGA,PGA's of Europe and PGA of Australia. So why can't they merge together and have a more international oriented championship with venues all over the world?


  • I agree on most of the stuff you said but when you say "For goodness' sake, the U.S. hasn't even won the Ryder Cup for ages, so who gave them permission to host three majors?"

    Joshua kaufman wrote on: Sep 3, 2009

    I agree on most of the stuff you said but when you say "For goodness' sake, the U.S. hasn't even won the Ryder Cup for ages, so who gave them permission to host three majors?" You for got to write about the solheim cup. U.S has won it what 8-3. And yes i know how the solheim is no where near as popular as the Ryder. But you still can't say thats a reson to "give away a major" in a scenes. Write back if you dissagre.


  • totally agree the m8

    Ben wrote on: Apr 3, 2009

    i've thought a lot about this too and it's the US PGA Championship that has to go. make it the World PGA Championship and rotate it around the globe. even hold it in the US from time to time and traditional PGA venues. there are sooo many great golf courses around the world (Royal Melbourne) and so many great golfers. it must change. what will help this is if every year in every major an international player wins... lol. that'd help a lot.


  • move pga to international sites

    noel habib wrote on: Jan 30, 2009

    Wonderful article. Been thinking about this issue for years and am thrilled to read your refreshingly sensible comments. As a U.S. citizen, I'm embarrassed that this country has hogged 3 of the majors, clinging to the superfluous PGA which is nothing more than a glorified greater Milwaukee Open or quarter-baked U.S. Open. It even features repeats of Open courses!, so that no new topography, grass texture or layout design is explored by the players. The fans of golf are being robbed of seeing which golfer can master a DISTINCTLY different type of course hosting a world-class, international field. Also, it is unfair to give U.S. golfers home-field advantage 3 times (2 is bad enough), for it has tragically altered the record books forever. Let's see Mark Brooks, for example, play a course he's never seen before that week, drink water he's never drunk before, adjust to some hideous jet-lag, and maybe have to speak a new language, and then go out and beat, not a bunch of his PGA buddies, but the top players of ALL parts of the world, many of whom might know how to handle some weird grass that only grows in that other country. This "world golf major" that you propose would make for a more just and exciting sport of golf.