Date: August 16, 2017
Author: Mike Clayton

Clayton: Will we ever love the USPGA?

If you were starting championship golf again surely playing three of the four major professional championships in a single country, no matter how powerful, wouldn’t seem to be the best idea.

Of course it wasn’t always thus. When Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam of 1930 two of them, the Open and Amateur Championships of Britain were on the other side of the Atlantic.

Inevitably as the best players gravitated to the professional game in the 1940s and 1950s the balance shifted and Jones’ Masters tournament, seventy years younger than The Open, was decreed by the press as much as anyone else to be one of the four most significant championships in golf.

Rightly the Opens of America and Britain were, and remain, the, most important and the people at Augusta have masterfully employed sentiment allied to their ability to run an incredible event to raise what was a small invitational for Jones’ friends into an event almost the equal of the national Opens.

Then there is the USPGA an historic and great championship won by almost all the great players but the missing link in the historic major championship careers of Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson.

But, is there one kid out there dreaming of winning the PGA above the others?

Does the world outside of America respect, indeed love the PGA the way they do the other three?

Is it really a level above The Players Championship, the tournament with the best top to bottom field in the game but one without the names of Jones or Hagen or Snead or Hogan on the trophy?

In recent times there has been a small but growing sentiment, one expressed by Gary Player last week, the USPGA should consider taking its championship, on occasion, outside of the United States.

Every Olympic year wouldn’t be the worst idea and it would go a long way to reinventing the championship.

There are some parallels with the Australian Open tennis championship. I remember it being played at Kooyong in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and no one in their right minds would have placed it remotely close to the level of the other three majors. Most of the best players didn’t bother to turn up and I assume some who did were paid for their participation. It was historically important but   in serious need of revival.

Four decades on from Connors, Newcombe, Evert and Goolagong the Australian Open is a great event utterly reinvigorated by a complete re-invention of what it was. The PGA Championship is in nowhere near the dire straights of the Australian tennis but taking it to the world once every four years would give it a chance to be something other than the ‘4th major’ which was exactly where Australia’s tennis event once fell but no longer.

The ‘grow the game’ mantra is a principle we hear all the time, one often touted by manufacturers keen to grow it for commercial reasons.  There’s nothing wrong with that but it is what it is.

Few things could grow the game more than taking one of golf’ great championships outside of the United States on occasion to spread the appeal of its best players and to give millions who otherwise have no opportunity to see golf at its very highest level.

Allied is an opportunity to play a wider diversity of golf courses making the game more interesting to play and observe. In Charlotte last week we watched a typically arranged American ‘championship’ course with narrow fairways testing straight driving, great length to combat the technology and high grass to thwart those who missed the targets.

It’s one way to punish players and a particularly obvious way but any study of the play at Augusta, and to a lesser extent The Open in Britain, each year reveals short grass around greens can be as much a minefield but one where options are a real part of the play.

Options in golf course design are the true measure of the worth of a course and the owners of the PGA Championship would do well to consider the option to take what is now the game’s fourth major and make it something much more.