PGA Championship / ? Major

British Open US Open Masters

As a fan for decades now, I can see why these three tournaments are a big deal.

The PGA doesn’t get me fired up however. Does anyone know how it became a “Major”? Did it earn it or was it just self-proclaimed so? Should golf drop back to a “Triple Crown?”

Other than the money, I can see there may be other tournaments a good golfer would want to win, or ones with more history. The Canadian Open , and Australian Open, British Amateur, US Amateur are a few.

The majors are simply media hype for the most part… some deserving others as you suggest… questionable.

I was talking to Al Barkow about this a few months ago… and he was mentioning that back in the era of Nelson, Hogan, Snead and so forth… the North and South Open and the World Championship of Golf at Tam O Shanter were considered major golf championships. Hogan for instance won 5 of these events which would put him at 14 majors. In Hogan’s career from 1934 until his last event in 1967, Hogan only played the PGA Championship 7 times during those 33 years… and won it twice in 7 attempts. Clearly this was not a major.

I would make an argument for the Australian Open being a major. Certainly a list of champions during this stretch of time that rivals that of any of the other so called majors.

[i]# 1997 Lee Westwood - England

1996 Greg Norman - Australia

1995 Greg Norman - Australia

1994 Robert Allenby - Australia

1993 Brad Faxon - United States

1992 Steve Elkington - Australia

1991 Wayne Riley - Australia

1990 John Morse - United States

1989 Peter Senior - Australia

1988 Mark Calcavecchia - United States

1987 Greg Norman - Australia

1986 Rodger Davis - Australia

1985 Greg Norman - Australia

1984 Tom Watson - United States

1983 Peter Fowler - Australia

1982 Bob Shearer - Australia

1981 Bill Rogers - United States

1980 Greg Norman - Australia

1979 Jack Newton - Australia

1978 Jack Nicklaus - United States

1977 David Graham - Australia

1976 Jack Nicklaus - United States

1975 Jack Nicklaus - United States

1974 Gary Player - South Africa

1973 J. C. Snead - United States

1972 Peter Thomson - Australia

1971 Jack Nicklaus - United States

1970 Gary Player - South Africa

1969 Gary Player - South Africa

1968 Jack Nicklaus - United States

1967 Peter Thomson - Australia

1966 Arnold Palmer - United States

1965 Gary Player - South Africa

1964 Jack Nicklaus - United States

1963 Gary Player - South Africa

1962 Gary Player - South Africa

1961 Frank Phillips - Australia

1960 Bruce Devlin - Australia (amateur)

1959 Kel Nagle - Australia

1958 Gary Player - South Africa

1957 Frank Phillips - Australia

1956 Bruce Crampton - Australia

1955 Bobby Locke - South Africa

1954 Ossie Pickworth - Australia

1953 Norman Von Nida - Australia

1952 Norman Von Nida - Australia

1951 Peter Thomson - Australia

1950 Norman Von Nida - Australia[/i]

I agree, re: the Australian Open as a genuine major event - being played so many times on the great composite layout at Royal Melbourne makes it all the more legitimate - I was there in 1981 when Bill Rogers won the prize - skinny as a rail, that man, but he played with real control of his approach shots and putted beautifully. Also amazing is the span of 21 years between Peter Thomson’s first and last victory.

I had the honor of receiving a prize from Mr. Thomson himself, at a Braid Society medal event about 10 years ago, for somehow going into a complete daze and into “the zone” on a brutal cold and rainy day at Lundin Links, Fife, carding 37 on the back, and finishing with a 78, for 3rd low gross. I had no idea what I even totaled until my marker and I exchanged cards. Good fun, and a great honor to meet and play in the same event as Sir Peter Thomson.

This article makes a good case for Walter Hagen and how the “majors” evolved…

August 09, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: I speak to you today at the behest of my client, Walter Charles Hagen, who though dead for 40 years, has managed to communicate with me.

The PGA Tour record book lists him as third in major championship wins with 11, seven behind Jack William Nicklaus and three shy of Eldrick “Tiger” Woods. It is my intention here to argue that a great injustice has been done to my client, one that I am certain you will agree with when I present the facts.

Mr. Nicklaus, during a career that spanned 25 seasons, won six Masters, five PGA Championships, four United States Opens and three British Opens, 18 in all.

Mr. Woods, still active, has won 14, four behind Nicklaus. He has won four Masters, four PGA Championships, three United States Opens and three British Opens.

I will now list my client’s accomplishments and I urge you to play close attention.

Mr. Hagen won five PGA Championships, four British Opens and two United States Opens for his 11. Did you notice the discrepancy between my client’s record and the other two?

Mr. Hagen has no Masters victories on his scorecard and for good reason. During his prime, which is to say 1914, when he won his first U.S. Open, to 1927, when he won his last PGA Championship, there was no Masters for him to win. The first tournament was held in 1934. Hagen did participate, but he was 42 and well past his prime.

Until the dawn of the Masters, the Western Open, which began in 1899, was considered the third most important golf tournament in this country after the Open and PGA. Hagen won five Western Opens, his first in 1916, his fifth in 1932.

But in those days, major championships bore no special designation. When Ben Hogan, for instance, won his fourth U.S. Open in 1953, it was identified merely as his fourth Open, not his eighth major.

As has been widely reported, including here, if there was a day when four tournaments were pinpointed as majors, it was when Arnold Palmer was flying to Great Britain with his Pittsburgh sportswriter friend Bob Drum. Palmer had just won the U.S. Open and, two months earlier, the Masters.

Now Palmer theorized that if he could win the British Open (where he finished second) and the PGA (which he never won), it would constitute a modern Grand Slam.

Four big tournaments, and what better than the two Arnold had already won that year, plus the British Open and the PGA. The Western Open was left in the gutter.

So you see, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Walter Hagen’s five Western Open wins suddenly became steerage class, replaced by the Masters, 35 years younger.

I ask you, is that fair? Of course it isn’t.

In other sports, seasons expand, as do playoffs before the World Series or Super Bowl. Excited young sportscasters report that run-of-the-mill outfielders or running backs have just broken Mickey Mantle’s home run record or Jim Brown’s number of touchdowns, ignoring the fact that all those extra games are the reason.

What to do about it?

Well, we could add Mr. Hagen’s five Western Opens before the Masters began to his list of majors, giving him 16 major championships, two ahead of Mr. Woods, two behind Mr. Nicklaus.

But better yet, let’s ignore the Masters, which began too late for Hagen. In counting up majors, let’s consider only the other three, all begun in the 19th century. Sorry, Mr. Nicklaus, but instead of 18 you now have 12. And Mr. Woods, you have 10. My client, Walter Charles Hagen, now becomes second in line with his 11.

And from now on, members of the jury, I suggest that the player who wins the Masters get only a handsome check, a green jacket and the right to name next year’s menu for the Champion’s dinner.

I feel the game has experienced three distinctive eras.

The hickory age.
Persimmon and Steel
Modern Titanium age.

Very different games.

Comparing Tiger’s majors to Jack’s or Hagen really makes no logical sense. The games are so vastly different, that comparisons are simply just conversational speculation.

My opinion is that the finest golf course designs were made in the persimmon age… and because of the way these courses were designed, it required players to have more sophisticated precision golf swings… and a much deeper arsenal of golf shots required to play them properly.

Today’s game that turns a 460 yard par 4 into a 350 yard drive, and a 110 yard pitch from wispy grass not on the fairway is much less interesting and requires a more simple dimensional approach to playing. Swing as hard as you can. Find the ball wherever it lands… pitch from the light rough into a huge perfect green… and putt the lights out on a velvet surface.

What used to be Chess is now Checkers.

Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson two players who are ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in Driving distance are ranked near the worst in the world from 75yds in GIR , near the worst from 100 -125 yds GIR, and pretty bad from 125- 150 yds GIR this is not top ball striking these players would be looking for jobs 20yrs ago. The game has changed you can be bad and make millions in golf!

I’m not sure I entirely agree with writing off players from this era if they had to use old gear. These guys are exceptional athletes no matter which way you look at it, but this is the game they learned because this is the best way for them to win within that game. Who’s to say how they would’ve performed in another era. It’s exactly the same argument for not comparing generations, there’s just no real proof. Bubba, for example, has a pretty magical short game, and Jack would never be accused of being a great wedge player or even a great ball striker- that just sounds ridiculous, but you know what I mean… but both of them can putt the lights out. You could even argue that Jack was the original bomb and gouger.
There’s something inside that makes people win at the end of the day. Jack was a winner, and Dustin Johnson has to be seriously commended for how he reacted after the US Open melt down. Not only did he have that memory to cope with, he also spent 18 holes watching Nick Watney do the same thing he did, yet he still managed to stay strong and be right there. He may hit it miles, but that can’t negate that he’s obviously a serious player. Bubba seems like a new man since he won a while ago and I reckon he’ll keep going.
I do agree that it’s sad to see courses getting picked on like they are, but I don’t think you can blame the players, or just say that they’re no good- It’s just not true.

This is true because of the way the courses are set up… and the gear that is available now.
I don’t blame the player either.

When a 585 yard hole becomes a drive and a 6 iron… you simply have a long 4 par… that a long hitter can hit 6 iron into instead of a 2 iron or 4 wood.

Because pro golf has grown so popular, the tour has taken the stadium golf approach, and has moved the game from smaller, tighter, tree lined courses with high rough that required precision ball striking, to big yardage courses that are wide open with little rough and virtually no trees to be as stadium friendly to the patrons as possible.

The advantage of playing precision golf is simply not enough for players to want to do so. It simply is not necessary.
If we look at the PGA Championship, there is little advantage to putting the ball in the fairway with great consistency compared to driving the ball an extra 50 or 100 yards because the bottom line is… it’s easier to wedge out of slight rough from 100 yards that is would be to hit a 4 iron off the fairway.

I only watched a bit of the event, but every time I saw a player hit a drive off line… sometimes 40 or 50 yards off line, they go down there…find there ball in light rough… pull out a lofted short iron… and simply don’t have much problem hitting to the green. There is so little reward for being accuarate that the players motivation for hitting the ball straight is almost non existent.

I will remain firm that a proper golf swing will be able to hit accurate long irons, and drive the golf ball straight the vast majority of the time.

I don’t see this in the modern game, and find the ball striking to be clearly substandard to what was required in the past.

As a golf instructor, my responsibility to students is to teach them how to work towards a golf swing that holds the highest ideals of our own human potential, without compromise, for striking a golf ball with power and accuracy. Therefore, what I teach will be rooted in the principles that best work toward those objectives.

As a golf instructor, my responsibility to students is to teach them how to work towards a golf swing that holds the highest ideals of our own human potential, without compromise, for striking a golf ball with power and accuracy. Therefore, what I teach will be rooted in the principles that best work toward those objectives

This is why i joined ABS and my passion for the game and my passion to strike a golf ball the correct way! Lag is a teacher who can prove it to you thru his ball striking and also play the game at a high level.


        Everyone who plays professional sports is a athlete it cracks me up when they say he or she has atleticism.I play every course from the tips and honestly they still cant make the course long enough its a joke when the driver is going 300+ so what that leaves you 6 to 4 in to the longest par4. Back in the 80's i had the privelege to play Butler National after the tournament i hit a ball no more than 3 yds off the fairway i was in 6 to 8 inches of rough hand to wedge it out 25 yrs later haven't played a course closely to that type of set up. I feel this players are good for this era but good is not that great anymore in our lifetime we will see 40 under win a tournament . If i had a 10yr old just make him hit it as long as possible and has a good chance of makin it as long as he can putt! The question i ask can any of these young guys win 5 to 6 in a row if not why? Parity? Remember Bubba has won 1 tournament in 6 yrs and has 8.5 mill i want to be that bad ha ha. As we watch this PGA was it a example of great golf or who can make bogey how many guys on sunday in the final 3 groups hit the fairway or green?

It’s possible that you’re missing the point I’m trying to make but I’ll reply to some of your post.
I think you’re confusing the amount of money in the game with the ability to play it, or how it’s played, though the latter is definitely linked to the money. Bubba making that kind of money is nothing really to do with the playing of the game, it’s because that’s the prize money on offer for the positions he finished in. I agree, there is far too much money available and this is the drug that makes the whole thing tick. Big manufacturers making lots of money from selling the clubs that supposedly make the ball go far. Everyone gets excited and watches on tv so corporate sponsors come in and play the advertising game. It would also be a misunderstanding to think that golf wasn’t always a traveling circus largely driven by money making, what we’re seeing now is just an evolution or explosion of that. Sadly, much like the deregulation of the oil and financial industries in America, if the referees don’t step in and do their job, and get people to play fair, then the whole thing ends up destroying itself- and in the case of the oil and financial industries, most of what’s around them too.
The Tiger effect shouldn’t be underestimated imo, he changed things dramatically and has actually been screwed the most by the technological “developments”.
As far as modern players being good and not being great, I think I made reference to that in terms of the style that’s required to win, and Lag talked about it too in terms of how courses are built. There was a 520-ish yard par 4 at the PGA last week that Dustin Johnson hit wedge to. I can hit it pretty far, but that makes no sense to me. The reality is that if you’re being asked to play a 500 plus yard par four, and your living is on the line, are you going to pull out your 43 inch persimmon driver and try to get it in play? I’m not bashing the old game at all btw, I wish they had have kept a closer eye on the game, but they didn’t, and that sucks. But I’m not going to say that the guts that Dustin Johnson showed in his performance last week is any less than the guts we read about in the golf history books, nor do I think that his ability is any less, it’s just different.
And as far as hitting or missing fairways goes, if you hit a straight drive 260 from the middle of the tee box to the right half of the fairway on a straight hole, it would be considered a good drive and a fairway it. If you add 60 yards to that drive and make it 320, the exact same shot on the exact same hole, you’re going to miss the fairway. Is that a lesser swing or a lesser quality shot?

I joined ABS because making a bunch of money hitting the ball long and accurate is good for the sex life. Even now I have girls from trailer parks, strip clubs and Waffle Houses practically throwing themselves at me at every turn! When I make the Tour…I’ll upgrade to girls from apartment complexes, hostesses at burlesque clubs and waitresses from Denny’s! Mark my words…it’s good to be driven and ABS drives me toward these goals and more! Lag and Tiger taught me these tenets. :wink:

Captain Chaos

Barkow told me a while back how the general golfing public felt closer to the tour players style of game, because there were a lot of short hitters winning tournaments, and it was easy for a low handicapper to see that they could basically hit the ball as far as Chi Chi, Trevino, Mahaffey, Kite and so on…

What this did is put emphasis on learning to hit the different kinds of shots, and what the pros did so well was hit the ball straight with a repeatable motion. While the amateur could hit a drive 230 yards or maybe even 250, they would struggle on the 450 yard four par, which left them a 200 yard approach shot. The amateur would rarely if ever hit the green, while the pro would more often than not, hit a beautiful approach shot into the green and often have a putt at a birdie on what clearly was a respectable if not even feared golf hole.

Par was always a respectable score, even for the pros… you were never out of the tournament shooting a couple of rounds of par… but of course you would need to go deep once or twice to get into contention. 72 66 71 69 would get you into the action on most Championship Sundays.

The greens were not good enough for pros to shoot 6 under every round… they would control the ball, and pepper the flags all day with all the irons… even long irons… and wait for lady luck to open up the hole for them on occasion. Golf was much more of a ball striking game.

Long hitters did not rule the game exclusively because the penalty for missing a fairway was typically about half a shot.
This meant that when a player was off the fairway, the green was not always accessible, and the player would have to negotiate an up and down at about a 50% completion rate. So if a player missed 6 fairways, that meant 3 bogeys typically,
void of any penalty shots… If the player missed two greens from the fairways he hit, there would be another bogey… so the pro would have to make 4 birdies to shoot 72.

In today’s game, it is not uncommon for a pro to hit 50% of the fairways or less for the entire week…and be holding the trophy on Sunday. But on closer look this player is only makes 3 or 4 bogeys all week. However, on a properly set up golf course, that player is missing 7 fairways a round… 28 fairways a week… and if the course is set up to penalize the player properly as it should… that player makes 14 bogeys… essentially shooting 10 shots worse. So the 16 under you see nowadays would be a 6 under in the game of the past. Then if you take into consideration the surfaces of the greens being velvet pool tables in the modern game… you could conservatively add 2 strokes to the card if not more… and now that 6 under looks more like 2 to 5 over par for the week. We typically see the winner averaging 25 to 26 putts a week.
When I won on tour, I never was under 30 putts in any of my 4 rounds, but still shot 16 under. Good putting, and proper ball striking.

The solution to the modern game is to tighten up the fairways and grow the rough so tall that the players would rarely take out the driver… because if they are in the rough… they are not getting the ball on the green… and then you would have a game much more interesting and exciting at the pro level… because everytime a player pulled driver, it would be very risky and exciting… and would add an element of decision making to the game that has been absent for quite a long time.

I think Bomgolf makes a compelling argument.

I also think that the type of golf that is discussed is still being played on the seniors tour yet only (in the UK anyway) the major events are televised and the crowds are typically much smaller than for the European and PGA tours. The same could be said of the ladies golf where the average player will hit a 9 iron 125 yards yet have great accuracy.

The fact that the ‘main’ male tours are the ones that attract the biggest crowds and most sponsorship would suggest that the majority of the golfing populace wants to see the golf that is being played.

the biggest crowds and most sponsorship would suggest that the majority of the golfing populace wants to see the golf that is being played.

No doubt this is true, but it does not mean that a more articulate version of the game should not exist at the male professional level. Most other sports have followed the model of branching off into a variety of offerings such as motor car racing, billiards and so on.

The problem is that in the present course of history, the USGA is holding a monopoly on the game’s rules and regulations.

I do believe as awareness increases, another organization with more traditional values will rise to a level of some significance at some point. Usually things like this happen at a grass roots level, just like anything else.

So I will continue to bark about the topic until I can no longer either speak or type… and do whatever small part I can to continue to raise awareness with such efforts as the TRGA and so forth.