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  • Alistair Tait

The PGA Championship deserves more respect

If there’s one major that struggles to gain the respect it deserves, it’s the PGA Championship. Most polls would probably rate it number four among the tournaments that really.

It deserves the ultimate respect. It’s the hardest major to win.

The PGA Championship probably wasn’t THE major that sprang to mind when greats like Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and defending champion Brooks Koepka were kids standing on the practice putting green dreaming that the five-foot putt they were about to attempt was for a major victory. Maybe the Open Championship, or the Masters, or U.S. Open. You can bet that’s probably the same with kids today.

While no hard and fast evidence exists, there’s a fair chance the PGA Championship would come fourth in any survey even among golf fans ranking the four marquee tournaments. Face it, how many times have you sat and tried to remember who won the previous year’s majors and the PGA Championship was the one you struggled with?

To save you resorting to google or any other search engine, Brooks Koepka is defending this week’s PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco. He’s looking to become only the second player, and the first since Walter Hagen in 1926, to lift the Wanamaker Trophy for the third straight year. Hagen also won in 1927. The Haig is the only player to win the title four years in succession.

Expect to hear the word “threepeat” a few times this week whenever Koepka’s name is mentioned.

Koepka’s two PGA Championship victories match his two U.S. Open wins of 2017 and 2018. However, you can bet those two U.S. Open wins have enhanced his stature in the game more than his two PGA Championship titles. They arguably shouldn’t: Koepka beat superior fields to win both PGA Championships than he did for his U.S. Open victories.

The PGA Championship almost always features stronger fields than the other three majors.

The Official World Golf Ranking doesn’t just rank players. It ranks tournaments on an annual basis. The PGA Championship is usually the strongest ranked field of the year, stronger than the other three majors. The Open comes second, the U.S. Open third and the Masters fourth.

For example, last year the PGA Championship had a strength of field of 901 compared to 898 for the Open Championship, 838 for the U.S. Open and 796 for the Masters. Over the last 10 years the PGA has averaged a strength of field rating of 907 compared to 876 for the Open Championship, 832 for the U.S. Open, with the Masters clocking in at 799. Only once in the last 10 years has the PGA Championship not been the strongest major. It came third behind Rory McIlroy’s 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, which clocked in at 902 compared to the PGA’s 890.

The PGA Championship does something no other major does: it usually has more players from the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking than any other major. Ninety-five of the world’s top 100 were scheduled to play at Harding Park. Once again, the supposedly fourth major will probably have the strongest field of the year.

Maybe kids hoping to follow in the footsteps of Koepka and company should be dreaming of holing a putt to win the PGA Championship instead of the other three majors.

#JustSaying: "I wonder who will come second?" Walter Hagen

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1 Comment

Aug 05, 2020

Couldn't agree more. Even removing the club pros, year after year the PGA probably has the best field in golf by several measures, not just the OWGR. At worst it would be in a virtual tie with the PLAYERS or Open.

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