USA PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Introduction

The PGA Championship is the last major championship of the season, usually played in August, four weekends after the British Open. It is hosted by the Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) as part of the PGA Tour, which in 2007 consisted of a schedule of 48 events over 44 weeks from the beginning of January to the beginning of November.

The PGA Championship (often known as the US PGA Championship outside of the US) is one of four major championships, or Majors of the golf year. The Open Championship or British Open is the only Major held outside the US, on the weekend of the third Friday in July. First played in 1860, it is also the oldest. The other two are the US Masters, played on the weekend ending on the second Sunday in April, and the US Open, held on the weekend ending on the third Sunday in June.

The event is held at one of a range of different golf courses throughout the US. As the season’s last major fixture, the PGA Championship is also known as Glory’s Last Shot. Today, it is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Drawn by the big-name players such as Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, matches are attended by over 100,000 spectators.

History

In January, 1916, department store owner Rodman Wanamaker invited a group of 35 golfing professionals to a meeting, to discuss the idea of forming a national organisation and hosting a tournament. Wanamaker had previously founded the Millrose Games in 1908, now one of the most famous indoor track and field events in the world. The emphasis of the meeting was the need for a prestigious tournament specifically for professional players, rather than for the amateurs who dominated the sport at the time.

The PGA was formed that June and the first PGA Championship was held in mid-October at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. Wanamaker provided a trophy for the occasion as well as $2,580 total prize money. The first prize of $500 was won by Jim Barnes, a Cornishman who moved to the US in 1906. By contrast with its modest beginnings, today’s total prize money stands at $7 million, with the winner taking home in excess of $1 million, in addition to the Wanamaker trophy, which remains one of the sport’s most coveted awards.

The PGA is now the second largest sporting association in the world with upwards of 28,000 members. Although the PGA originally organised professional tournament golf in the US, this function is now fulfilled by the affiliated PGA Tour, which separated from the PGA in 1968. However, the PGA still runs the Majors, and the Ryder Cup.

The competition was delayed for two years due to the First World War, and Barnes won again in 1919. At this stage, the tournament was a match play event (i.e., the competition was decided on the number of holes won). In 1958, due to the restrictions involved in televising the championship, it was changed to a stroke play event (decided on the total number of strokes played over the entire match). Another UK-born professional golfer, the Scottish player J. Fowler Jock Hutchinson, won the 1920 PGA Championship.

American legend Walter Hagen would dominate the 1920s with a record-breaking five wins: 1921 and four consecutive victories from 1924 to 1927. No other player has won so many in a row. Hagen’s total number of wins has never been exceeded, and matched only once since. As a result, many fans view Hagen as the PGA Championship’s greatest ever player. However, Jack Nicklaus also won five Championships, in the stroke play era (1963, 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1980). He was the runner-up in 1964, 1965, 1974 and 1983, also a record. Nicklaus’s final victory in 1980 was additionally won by the record-breaking margin of seven strokes.

Hagen’s string of wins bracketed two by Gene Sarazen. Taking the trophy in 1922, 1923 and again in 1933, Sarazen is one of only five golfers in history to have made the Career Grand Slam, winning every major at least once (the others are Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods). Along with the PGA Championship, he won the US Open in 1922, the British Open in 1932 (with a second US Open win), and completed the set with the Masters in 1935.

The last player of the stroke play era to win two championships in a row – and the last at all for over six decades – was Denny Shute, who took the Wanamaker trophy in the years just before the Second World War, 1936 and 1937. This would not be repeated until 2000, when Tiger Woods won for the second time in as many years. The Championship continued throughout the war years, with the exception of 1943.

John Byron Lord Byron Nelson won the PGA Championship in 1940 and 1945, as well as notching up three second-place positions in 1939, 1941 and 1944. Byron’s career as a professional golfer was a short but glorious one. In total, he scored 52 PGA Tour wins; his Championship win in 1945 was one of no less than 18 victories that year, 11 of which were consecutive. He officially retired from professional golf the following year, though he continued to play a much reduced schedule.

Sam Snead and Ben Hogan, both of whom had been born in 1912, the same year as Byron, were also repeated winners in the years during and immediately after the war – Snead winning three times in 1942, 1949 and 1951, Hogan twice, in 1946 and 1948.

Stroke Play

In 1958, the Championship rules were changed from match play to stroke play. Since match play rounds are decided on the total number of holes won, it is possible for an outstanding player to score an excellent average but still lose a match on the first day. (On the other hand, just one extremely bad hole need not ruin a player’s chances since it only counts for one point; the next hole is a fresh start).

Golfers’ tactics tend to be different, since winning each hole becomes an ends in itself – rather than keeping overall strokes to a minimum. Match play rules can be frustrating for spectators and match televisors, since even the best players can be eliminated early on. Match play events tend to attract fans in the earlier stages, when major golfers may be subject to surprise defeats, but stroke play events build to a more exciting finish and can therefore draw more reliable audiences in the later stages. Largely for this reason – and its financial ramifications – the switch to stroke play was made.

The new stroke play era saw Jack Nicklaus win five championships from 1963 to 1980, matching Hagen’s pre-war record. This has remained unequalled ever since. In 1999, Tiger Woods won the first of four PGA Championships to date. At the time, he was also one of the youngest winners at 23 years old. Also taking the Wanamaker Trophy in 2000, Woods is the first player since Denny Shute to win consecutive victories.

2001 saw a new record set by David Toms, who not only overcame an extremely strong field, but scored an all-time low of 15 under par and 265 for 72 holes. This was particularly surprising, given that the win was unexpected; although Toms has spent a lot of time in the top ten of official world golf ratings, he has never risen higher than fifth and the 2001 PGA Championship was his only major win.

The following years saw a second win by Vijay Singh in 2004 (his first was in 1998). Singh also won the Masters in 2000 -the only one of the majors not won by Tiger Woods that year. Woods won a second two consecutive championships in 2006 and 2007. The 2007 victory was his 13th major win of the year.

He shot eight under par, a total of 272 (71-63-69-69). Woods’ share of the $7 million purse was $1,260,000. As a result of his talent, record and media appeal, Woods has been responsible for a resurgence of interest in the game, bringing it to new audiences. In 2006 he was the world’s highest paid professional athlete, taking $100 million in prize money and endorsements.

Renowned as a long driver, Woods is nevertheless an all-round player, who focuses on consistent scores rather than low individual rounds. Many fans fully expect him to equal and surpass Hagen and Nicklaus’s record of five PGA Championship wins and perhaps take the title as the greatest golfer of all time.

Selection Criteria

Winning the PGA Championship automatically confers the right on the player to enter all future PGA Championships, without the need for qualification, as well as gaining them a five-year invitation to the other majors. They also receive membership for the PGA Tour for the next five seasons and a five-year invitation to the Players Championship.

To be eligible for the PGA Championship, other professional golfers need to meet the selection criteria. A maximum number of 156 players is invited to attend. In order of importance, invitations are extended to:

  • Winners of the last five US Opens.
  • Winners of the last five Masters.
  • Winners of the last five Open Championships.
  • The last Senior PGA Champion.
  • The 15 low scorers and ties in the previous PGA Championship.
  • The 20 low scorers in the last PGA Professional National Championship.
  • The 70 leaders in official money standings.
  • Members of the most recent United States Ryder Cup Team.
  • Winners of tournaments co-sponsored or approved by the PGA Tour since the previous PGA Championship.

Other players may be invited by the PGA to enter the championship if the field is not already full.

Records

Most wins

  • Five times: Walter Hagen (1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927), Jack Nicklaus (1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980).
  • Four times: Tiger Woods (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).
  • Three times: Gene Sarazen (1922, 1923, 1933), Sam Snead (1942, 1949, 1951).
  • 13 players have won the championship twice.

Most consecutive wins

  • Four times: Walter Hagen (1924, 1925, 1926, 1927).

Youngest winner

  • Gene Sarazen (20 years old, 1922).

Oldest winner

  • Julius Boros (48 years old, 1968).

Lowest score

  • Absolute: 265, David Toms (66-65-65-69, Atlanta Athletics Club, Highland Course, 2001).
  • In relation to par: -18, Tiger Woods (66-67-70-67, 270, Valhalla Golf Club, 2000, and 69-68-65-68, 270, Medinah Country Club, Course number 3, 2006) and Bob May (72-66-66-66, 270, Valhalla Golf Club, 2000).

In total, US players have won 78 times; Australia four times; Fiji, South Africa and Zimbabwe twice each.

2008

The 90th PGA Championship will be held at Oakland Hills Country Club, South Course in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, from August 4-10. Oakland Hills was the venue for the 1972 and 1979 Championships -incidentally, two of only a handful of occasions when a non-American has won. In 1972 the South African Gary Player won his second of two victories (his first was a decade earlier in 1962, at the Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania). In 1979 Australian, David Graham, took the Wanamaker Trophy.

Tickets for the 90th Championship are now on sale. Tickets cost from $30 (£15) for a daily Practice Round Ticket to $700 (£350) for an Executive Club Ticket, which gives spectators access to all seven days of the Championship and admission to the Executive Club. See here for more information or the 2008 PGA Tour website to book tickets. Alternatively, call the PGA Ticketing Centre on 1-800-742-4653.

For all other 2008 PGA Championship enquiries, contact: The 2008 PGA Championship Office Oakland Hills Country Club 3951 W. Maple Road Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301 Phone: (248) 646-2008 Fax: (248) 646-3328

Future PGA Championship venues

  • 2009 – Hazeltine National Golf Club (Chaska, Minnesota)
  • 2010 – Whistling Straits, Straits Course (Sheboygan, Wisconsin)
  • 2011 – Atlanta Athletic Club, Highlands Course (Duluth, Georgia)
  • 2012 – Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Ocean Course (Kiawah Island, South Carolina)
  • 2013 – Oak Hill Country Club, East Course (Pittsford, New York)