During the season, the PGA hosts four major golf tournaments.
Each major carries a tremendous amount of prestige, history, and money that the other PGA Tour events do not. Therefore, they can make or break a player’s career.
If you win even one of the four tournaments, your career as a pro golfer will be set for life.
The four major golf tournaments are:
- The Masters (held every April)
- PGA Championship (held in May)
- U.S. Open (held every June)
- The Open Championships (held in July)
The Masters, held in April at the Augusta National Golf Club, was created by legendary golfer Bobby Jones and investment banker Clifford Roberts. It’s the first major of the year, and many agree, is the most prestigious among the four major golf tournaments.
It’s the only major played on the same course every year, having first been held in 1934. Truly, the Masters is a tournament unlike any other, with its scenic Magnolia Lane driveway, famously sharp greens, the par-3 competition that precedes the main event, and the Champions dinner, which Ben Hogan originally hosted in 1952 to recognize previous champions.
Horton Smith won the first-ever Masters championship in 1934, taking home $1,500 in prize money. Notable winners in the past include golf’s greatest players of all time, such as Tiger Woods, who earned $2,070,000 for winning in 2019 and now has five green jackets overall. Hideki Matsuyama is the current Masters Champion, after scoring 278 (-10) in the 2021 edition of the prestigious tournament.
The Masters Green Jacket
The green jacket worn by the winner of the Masters is the ultimate symbol of excellence in golf. It lets the rest of the world know that the major golf tournament winner is now an honorary member of the Augusta National Golf Club.
These green jackets are kept within the grounds of the Augusta National Golf Club and cannot be taken off unless you beat your competitors and finish ahead of the pack. The reigning Masters champion is permitted to keep the green jacket for 12 months, then hand it back to the golf club. Together with the Master’s trophy, the green jacket has been awarded to the tournament winner since 1949.
The PGA Championship (also known as the US PGA Championship or USPGA outside the United States) is held annually by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.
It was previously held in mid-August, on the third weekend before Labor Day, and served as the fourth and final men’s major of the golf season. Starting in 2019, the PGA Championship is played as the season’s second major on the weekend before Memorial Day in May.
Among the major golf tournaments, it’s the only one that doesn’t invite top amateur golfers to compete; the only way they can compete is to win one of the other three Majors or a PGA Tour event via a sponsors exemption.
Jim Barnes won the first PGA Championship in 1916 at Siwanoy Country Club in New York. The prize money was $500 at the time, and the winner also received the main trophy, which was donated by and named after Rodman Wanamaker, a New York City department store magnate.
The Wanamaker Trophy is a notable piece of silverware, weighing 34 pounds and measuring 27 inches in diameter from handle to handle. From 1916 to 1959, the winner’s home club or residence was engraved on the trophy. From 1960, however, it was engraved with the current champion’s name and the venue where the tournament was played.
Phil Mickelson shot a 6-under 282 to capture the PGA Championship title in 2021 and the sixth major championship of his career.
Stroke Play vs. Match Play
The PGA Championship was played as a match play with a stroke-play qualifier from 1916 to 1957. It wasn’t unusual for participants to play more than 200 holes in seven days during the championship. In 1958, the PGA Championship began using the standard 72-hole, stroke-play format.
In contrast to stroke play, which counts the total number of strokes over one or more rounds of 18 holes, match play awards a point for each hole in which a player or team bests their opponents.
The United States Open Championship, referred to simply as the “U.S. Open,” is the annual open national golf championship in the United States. It’s the third of the four major golf championships and is on the official schedule of both the PGA Tour and the European Tour.
The competition has been 72 holes of stroke play (4 rounds on an 18-hole course) since 1898, with the player having the fewest total number of strokes being declared the winner.
It’s held in June on the same weekend as Father’s Day. The venue for the event changes every year and is widely known as the most difficult of the four majors.
With the first U.S. Open held in 1895, it’s the country’s oldest major championship. Horace Rawlings, an Englishman who had arrived in the United States only a few months before to work at the host venue, won the first U.S. Open. He was one of only 11 competitors and won $150, a gold medal, and the U.S. Open trophy.
Since 1911, American golfers won the event mostly, with 85 titles, compared to 34 titles bagged by winners from other countries.
Until 2017, the U.S. Open was also the only major with the coolest playoff of any golfing major. When two or more players are tied on the final Sunday, they return to play another 18-hole round the following Monday. If they’re still tied after 18 holes, they will play in a sudden-death format until a winner is finally determined.
The defending U.S. Open champion is Spanish golfer Jon Rahm, who finished with 6-under 278.
The Toughest Major
The U.S. Open is widely regarded as the most challenging among the major golf tournaments. It’s caused by difficult conditions on golf courses that have been specially prepared for the tournament. The course surface is uneven, numerous obstacles surround the holes, and the path leading to them is often very long and narrow. With the tougher course conditions, the tournament participants need to work that much harder to win.
The U.S. Open had the largest prize fund of any Major Championship in 2019, with total pot money of $12,500,000.
The Open Championships
The Open Championship, also known as The Open or the British Open, is the last to be played among the major golf tournaments. Held every July, it’s the only major held outside of the United States and the world’s oldest golf tournament.
It was first held annually at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland in 1860. Later, organizers hold the tournament on a rotation of ten of the finest coastal links courses spread across the United Kingdom. It gets its name from the idea that the tournament is supposedly “open” to all professional and amateur competitors. However, only a few of the top amateurs get invited to compete.
The first event was held in Scotland in 1860 and was won by Scottish golfer Willie Park Sr. The Earl of Eglinton presented him with a boxing-style belt known as the “Challenge Belt.”
The event winner was also dubbed “The Champion Golfer of the Year,” a coveted title still in use today and highly sought after by all professional golfers. The famous Claret Jug wasn’t introduced as a trophy until 1872, along with the winner’s medal. 1st-place finishers still get both awards up to this day.
Walter Hagen, who won the 1928 PGA Championship, was the first American-born winner of The Open Championship, which took place in 1922. Except for the 1907 event, which Frenchman Arnaud Massy won, all previous winners were from Scotland or England.
Until 2016, the total prize fund was presented in pound sterling (£), but in 2017, they recognized that U.S. dollars ($) is the most widely used currency in golf and changed the currency accordingly.
The Coveted Grandslam
- Tiger Woods
- Jack Nicklaus
- Ben Hogan
- Gary Player
- Gene Sarazen
These are the only golfers who achieved the coveted “grand slam,” winning all four major championships. With so much talent in the game today and no one standing out in dominant fashion the way these five did, the list of “grand slam” winners will always be short and special.