Golf's Most Underrated Tournament
July 27, 2014
The PGA of America, especially in recent history, has shown it isn't afraid to try out unconventional venues. The 2012 event was no exception as Kiawah's Ocean Course (left) -- site of the 1991 Ryder Cup -- hosted the season's fourth major for the first time. You won't always see the traditional big-name courses in the PGA's rota, but as a result, fans have been introduced to worthy layouts they otherwise might not have known much about.
For whatever reason, the year's final major always seems to deliver a great -- if not unusual -- ending. From holed bunker shots like Bob Tway's in 1986 (left) to beat Greg Norman, to unknown bunker shots like the one Dustin Johnson was penalized for hitting in 2010 at Whistling Straits, the PGA has produced more than its fair share of memorable moments.
A Rich History
How far back does the PGA go? Well, Walter Hagen (left) won all of his record five titles (tied with Jack Nicklaus) seven years before the first Masters was even held. The PGA also has the distinction of being the only major to use match-play format, a practice that ended in 1957. And yes, you can thank TV for that. . .
It's Anyone's Ballgame
With changing venues that result in a variety of winning scores, the PGA isn't suited as much for any one type of player like either of the Opens. As a result, a wide range of winners has emerged as well, from bombers like John Daly to, well, not bombers like David Toms (left, in 2001).
It's "Glory's last shot"
That phrase might have seem contrived when used by Jim Nantz during broadcasts, but it really is true. Other than the Ryder or Presidents Cup, many fans turn away from golf after this tournament ends, which makes it even more important for players. Take Tiger Woods. In 2007, after two runner-ups in majors, he won at Southern Hills (left) to "salvage" his season. In 2009, he may have won six regular tour events as well, but not getting it done in the year's final major at Hazeltine made it a disappointing year.
It Counts The Same
A major is a major. That's why when you assess a golfer's career, you don't break down which of the big tournaments he won, but simply how many. No one cares that five of Jack Nicklaus' (left in 1975) 18 majors came at the PGA Championship and that he "only" won the British Open three times. His total of 18 is all people remember and the same goes for Ben Hogan's nine, Tom Watson's eight, Arnold Palmer's seven, etc.
All majors have strong fields, but technically, the PGA Championship is the strongest of the bunch. Why? The qualifications. The tournament takes the current top 70 on the money list, all members of the last Ryder and President Cup team and if any top player has slipped through the cracks, the PGA of America is quick to send an invite to fill out the 156-man group. As a result, this major always winds up having more players in the top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings than the other three. Plus, they do cool pairings like this one in 2006 of the season's three previous major winners.
Upstarts Aren't Intimidated
Perhaps it's the notion that the year's fourth major isn't held to the same lofty standard that the other three are or perhaps it's just that some of the biggest names can't take the sweltering August heat. Whatever the reason, some huge upsets have occurred at the PGA -- probably none bigger than Y.E. Yang (left) taking down Tiger Woods at Hazeltine in 2009. Talk about a crazy finish.
The Club Pros
One of the coolest parts of the PGA Championship is the group of club pros representing the PGA of America that get to tee it up against the world's best players. Currently, the top 20 finishers at the PGA Professional National Championship make the field, and very often a few of them make it into the weekend. Pictured is Glen Arbor Golf Club's Rob Labritz receiving an award at Whistling Straits in 2010 along with winner Martin Kaymer for being the low club pro.
Just look at that thing! The Wanamaker Trophy is so big you could fit the claret jug, green jacket, and USGA executive director Mike Davis HOLDING the U.S. Open trophy into it.