Sunday, August 3, 2008

Is the PGA Championship Weak As a Major?

The PGA Championship is next week, and apparently, a lot of people consider it to be the weakest of the four majors. Kenny Perry and Scott Hoch may disagree, but John Huggan writes about the majors from the British perspective.

First, he states the obvious - the PGA Championship lacks identity.

While the Masters is instantly recognisable by the course on which it is played every April; the US Open too by the typically (until this year) one-dimensional and penal nature of the challenge presented; and our own Open Championship by its proximity to the nearest ocean; the US PGA looks and feels a lot like, oh, a Memorial, or a Wachovia, or a John Deere Classic. Last time I cocked an ear, no one was shouting for any of those tournaments to be promoted into major-like status.
Huggan is definitely wrong on the last part of his claim, though. The PGA Championship has had a great course rotation and setup for the last decade or so. It has consistently been more fair and more interesting architecturally than the US Open for the last 10 years and the Masters for the last four. The ratings have been pretty solid - actually higher than that of the Open Championship.

Of course, though, you have to remember that the British press love hyperbole. Continuing along that line, Huggan goes on to quote Ken Brown - biased British commentator.
"[J]ust being the fourth biggest championship in the game makes it a pretty big deal. Compared with every other tournament played around the world, fourth is still pretty impressive. But it is definitely number four if you have to choose."
Oh, yeah, definitely fourth. I don't think that the PGA is any one's first major, but it is not clearly last on everyone's lists.

Or, let's hear from Paul Lawrie - a guy whose opinion is perfectly invalid.
"The US PGA would definitely be fourth on my list," agrees former Open champion Paul Lawrie. "I'd go Open, Masters, US Open, US PGA. The others have a character that the US PGA doesn't have. It is just another event. In fact, I'd put the Players Championship ahead of the US PGA. That's a fantastic tournament with a great field. I know the US PGA has a great field, too, but the Players should be the major."
Uh oh, someone has been paying Paul Lawrie and Stephen Ames to prop up the Players - even in the British press.

Huggan, normally reliable for good opinions, basically brushes aside Adam Scott's claim that he does not rank any major above another.
While Scott's view has some obvious merit and support, for long enough the race for the huge Wanamaker Trophy was being run on the golfing equivalent of a public park when an Olympic stadium was available elsewhere. This championship has visited some real goat tracks.
For the second time in the piece, Huggan has a point. He talks about PGA National in 1987, which was pretty crappy and still is as host of the Honda Classic. There are definitely some stinkers on the list of host courses. Still, it's not like people are clamoring to play Royal Lytham, Royal St George's, Royal Liverpool, and definitely not Prestwick Golf Club (though the website makes the course seem very nice).

The best value of the Huggan column is that he poses an interesting question - what tournaments today would be considered major championships if we were picking from scratch? Your thoughts?

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