Major Golf Championships
Each year, between April and August, there are four of the most important golf tournaments organized, which together make the men’s major golf championships. The tournaments are also referred to as the Major Championships or the majors. Winning four of them in one year by one professional golfer is unofficially called a ‘grand slam’; the only golfer that achieved it was Bobby Jones, who did that in 1930.
The Masters Tournament
The first of the tournaments, The Masters, begins on the weekend ending the second Sunday in April. It is hosted as invitational and is played at Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Georgia, United States. It began in 1934, on the course founded by Bobby Jones, the most successful amateur golfer in history and Clifford Roberts, a prominent New York financier and designed by Alister Mackenzie, a famous golf course architect. A big role in the success of the first ever tournament had Bobby Jones himself, whose participation helped promote it to a wider public despite the economic depression at that time.
The tournament raised to its current status in the 1950s, thanks to Dwight D. Eisenhower who used to play on it during his presidency and the emergence of television. The US Masters, nowadays played as the first tournament each year, is also known for being first in many innovations later adopted by other tournaments – most notably, it was the first of the significant tournament to ever be televised – thanks to its 1956 broadcast on CBS. Nowadays, despite all the years that have passed its popularity and prestige are still growing and it is the only tournament played on the same course from the very beginning, continuing to draw world’s best golfers to Augusta each and every year in April.
The United States Open Championship
The second tournament, U.S. Open, begins on the weekend ending the 3rd Sunday of June. Unlike Masters, it is played in various locations in the USA and is hosted by the USGA – United States Golf Association. It is much older than the Masters, and dates back to the end of the nineteenth century – first played in 1895 at the Newport Golf and Country Club, it has since evolved into one of the four most important golf tournaments in the world. The first two decades of the twentieth century have brought a raise of popularity among golfers from around the world and the USGA was forced to introduce tickets for the public to watch it in 1922, lead by qualifiers for the players in 1924.
The tournament kept evolving throughout the years, allowing amateur players for the last time in 1933 and continued to evolve until 1965 when the current format, with 18 holes played each day for 4 days have been introduced. The further spike of popularity was brought by ABC Sports, which broadcasted final 2 rounds of 18 holes live in 1977 and then 1995 when the full coverage of the whole tournament was introduced. The 70’s began the era of no European winners, with the last one, Tony Jacklin winning it exactly in the year 1970. Nowadays it’s a world-class event, with more than 9000 entrants trying to qualify to compete and $7,500,000 in prize money.
The Open Championship
The third tournament of the majors is The Open Championship, often referred to as British Open to distinguish it from U.S. Open. It is the oldest golf tournament of the four, which has been held annually (with a few exceptions) since 1860. It is played every year on the weekend containing the 3rd Friday of July at one of the ten locations in Scotland and England (and on one occasion was played in Northern Ireland). Its history began in Scotland at Prestwick Golf Club. It opened to amateurs just one year later, in 1861 and introduced first cash prizes two years after that, with an additional first-place cash prize introduced in 1864. The tournament has been throughout its history dominated by professionals, with only 6 amateur winners. The record number of victories belongs to Harry Vardon who won the tournament six times. Four other golfers managed to score 5 victories.
Since 1995 the tournament is part of the PGA Tour official’s schedule and its importance and prestige are still on the rise. The only tournament played outside of the U.S., in the rainy United Kingdom, unlike other tournaments is often influenced by the weather – as it is played usually along the coast, the sea breeze can have a significant impact on the results – but that’s just another feature of The Open, which, with its reputation and long history, is to this day one of the most important golf tournaments.
The PGA Championship
The last tournament each year, the PGA Championship, is hosted by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America and played on the 3rd weekend prior to Labour Day weekend at various locations in the United States. The first tournament was held a hundred years ago, on October 10-14, 1916 at Siwanov country Club in Bronxville, New York, and the first ever winner was a British-born man, James Barnes. The next two years the tournament had to be suspended due to the First World War.
Following the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century, the tournament kept growing in popularity and prestige, with as many as 10,000 people gathering at the finals of 1953 PGA Championship. The first significant record in the number of spectators was broke in 1976 with the 115,450 spectators attending the four-day event despite the first-ever rain delay in the tournament history. Nowadays, the tournament is held on various courses across the United States and, as part of the Major Championships is one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world, visited regularly by over 100,000 spectators. Because of its origin as a high-profile tournament specifically for professionals, it’s the only major tournament that does not explicitly invite any leading amateurs – in order to get in, they have to qualify by winning one of the other majors.