Men's major golf championships

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Jack Nicklaus won a record 18 major championships. JackNicklaus.jpg
Jack Nicklaus won a record 18 major championships.

The men's major golf championships, commonly known as the major championships, [1] and often referred to simply as the majors, are the four most prestigious annual tournaments in professional golf. In order of play date as of 2019, they are:

Contents

Importance

Alongside the biennial Ryder Cup team competition, the majors are golf's most important events. Elite players from all over the world participate in them, and the reputations of the greatest players in golf history are largely based on the number and variety of major championship victories they accumulate. The top prizes are not actually the largest in golf, being surpassed by The Players Championship, three of the four World Golf Championships events (the HSBC Champions, promoted to WGC status in 2009, has a top prize comparable to that of the majors), and some other invitational events. However, winning a major boosts a player's career far more than winning any other tournament. If he is already a leading player, he will probably receive large bonuses from his sponsors and may be able to negotiate better contracts. If he is an unknown, he will immediately be signed up. Perhaps more importantly, he will receive an exemption from the need to annually re-qualify for a tour card on his home tour, thus giving a tournament golfer some security in an unstable profession. Currently, both the PGA Tour and European Tour give a five-year exemption to all major winners.

Independent organizations, and not the PGA Tour, operate each of the majors; The Players Championship is the tour's most important event. [3] Three of the four majors take place in the United States. The Masters is played at the same course, Augusta National Golf Club, every year, while the other three rotate courses (the Open Championship, however, is always played on a links course). Each of the majors has a distinct history, and they are run by four separate golf organizations, but their special status is recognized worldwide. Major championship winners receive the maximum possible allocation of 100 points from the Official World Golf Ranking, which is endorsed by all of the main tours, and major championship prize money is official on the three richest regular (i.e. under-50) golf tours, the PGA Tour, European Tour and Japan Golf Tour.

The Players historically has offered a prize pool as large as or larger than the majors, because the PGA Tour wants its most important event to be as attractive. Although the majors are considered prestigious due to their history and traditions, besides The Players there are still other non-"major" tournaments which prominently feature top players competing for purses meeting or exceeding those of the four traditional majors, such as the European Tour's DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, [3] and World Golf Championships. With its large prize fund of any golf event and role as PGA Tour's flagship tournament, The Players is frequently considered to be an unofficial "fifth major" by players and critics. After the announcement that the Evian Masters would be recognized as the fifth women's major by the LPGA Tour, players objected to the concept of having a fifth men's major, owing to the long-standing traditions that the existing four have established. [4] [5]

History

The majors originally consisted of two British tournaments, The Open Championship and The Amateur Championship, and two American tournaments, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur. With the introduction of the Masters Tournament in 1934, and the rise of professional golf in the late 1940s and 1950s, the term "major championships" eventually came to describe the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. It is difficult to determine when the definition changed to include the current four tournaments, although many trace it to Arnold Palmer's 1960 season. After winning the Masters and the U.S. Open to start the season, he remarked that if he could win the Open Championship and PGA Championship to finish the season, he would complete "a grand slam of his own" to rival Bobby Jones's 1930 feat. Until that time, many U.S. players such as Byron Nelson also considered the Western Open and the North and South Open as two of golf's "majors," [6] and the British PGA Matchplay Championship was as important to British and Commonwealth professionals as the PGA Championship was to Americans.

During the 1950s, the short-lived World Championship of Golf was viewed as a "major" by its competitors, as its first prize was worth almost ten times any other event in the game, and it was the first event whose finale was televised live on U.S. television. The oldest of the majors is The Open Championship, commonly referred to as the "British Open" outside the United Kingdom. Dominated by American champions in the 1920s and 1930s, the comparative explosion in the riches available on the U.S. Tour from the 1940s onwards meant that the lengthy overseas trip needed to qualify and compete in the event became increasingly prohibitive for the leading American professionals. Their regular participation dwindled after the war years. Ben Hogan entered just once in 1953 and won, but never returned. Sam Snead won in 1946 but lost money on the trip (first prize was $600) and did not return until 1962.

Golf writer Dan Jenkins, who was often seen as the world authority on majors since he had attended more (200+) than anyone else, once noted that "the pros didn't talk much about majors back then. I think it was Herbert Warren Wind who starting using the term. He said golfers had to be judged by the major tournaments they won, but it's not like there was any set number of major tournaments." [7]

In 1960, Arnold Palmer entered The Open Championship in an attempt to emulate Hogan's 1953 feat of winning on his first visit. Though a runner-up by a stroke in his first attempt, Palmer returned and won the next two in 1961 and 1962. Scheduling difficulties persisted with the PGA Championship, but more Americans began competing in the 1960s, restoring the event's prestige (and with it the prize money that once made it an attractive prospect to other American pros). The advent of transatlantic jet travel helped to boost American participation in The Open. A discussion between Palmer and Pittsburgh golf writer Bob Drum led to the concept of the modern Grand Slam of Golf. [8]

In August 2017, after the previous year's edition was scheduled earlier due to golf at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the PGA of America announced that the PGA Championship would be moved to late-May beginning in 2019, in between the Masters and U.S. Open. The PGA Tour concurrently announced that it would move the Players Championship back to March the same year; as a result, the Players and the four majors will still be played across five consecutive months. [9] [10]

Television coverage

United Kingdom

EventNetworks
Masters Tournament Sky Sports
PGA Championship Sky Sports
U.S. Open Sky Sports
The Open Championship Sky Sports

In the United Kingdom, historically all four majors were broadcast on free to air TV. ITV has not broadcast live golf for many years. The BBC used to be the exclusive TV home of the Masters Tournament, U.S. Open and the Open Championship. By the early years of the first decade of the 21st century, only the Masters and Open Championship were broadcast live on the BBC. From 2011 onwards Sky Sports has exclusive live coverage of the first two days of the Masters, with the weekend rounds shared with the BBC. The U.S. Open is shown exclusively on Sky Sports. Beginning in 2016, Sky Sports also became the exclusive broadcaster of the Open Championship; the BBC elected to forego the final year of its contract. [11] The BBC continues to hold rights to broadcast a nightly highlights programme. [12]

Sky also held rights to the PGA Championship, but in July 2017, it was reported that the PGA of America had declined to renew its contract, seeking a different media model for the tournament in the United Kingdom. [13] The 2017 tournament was aired by the BBC (via BBC Red Button, with the conclusion of coverage on BBC Two) and streamed by GiveMeSport (via Facebook Live). [14] [15] Eleven Sports UK & Ireland acquired the event for 2018, as one of the first events covered by the newly launched streaming service. [16]

United States

EventNetworks
Masters Tournament ESPN/CBS
PGA Championship ESPN/CBS
U.S. Open Golf Channel/NBC
The Open Championship Golf Channel/NBC

As none of the majors fall under the direct jurisdiction of tours, broadcast rights for these events are negotiated separately with each sanctioning body. However, as of 2020, network television coverage of all four tournaments is split equally between the PGA Tour's two main television partners, CBS and NBC.

The Masters operates under one-year contracts; CBS has been the main TV partner every year since 1956, with ESPN broadcasting CBS-produced coverage of the first and second rounds since 2008 (replacing USA Network, which had shown the event since the early 1980s). [17]

Beginning in 1966, ABC obtained the broadcast rights for the other three majors and held them for a quarter century. The PGA Championship moved to CBS in 1991 and the U.S. Open returned to NBC in 1995. [18] [19] ABC retained The Open Championship as its sole major, but moved its live coverage on the weekend to sister cable network ESPN in 2010. In June 2015, it was announced that NBC and Golf Channel would acquire rights to the Open Championship under a 12-year deal. [20] While the NBC deal was originally to take effect in 2017, ESPN chose to opt out of its final year of Open rights, so the NBC contract took effect beginning in 2016 instead. [11]

As of 2020, NBC and Golf Channel hold broadcast rights to the U.S. Open and other USGA events, replacing Fox Sports — which had assumed the rights in 2015 under a 12-year contract, but withdrew and sold the remainder of the rights to NBC in June 2020. [21] [22]

As of 2020, CBS and ESPN hold the broadcast rights to the PGA Championship, under a new contract that replaces TNT as the tournament's cable partner. [23]

Distinctive characteristics of majors

Because each major was developed and is run by a different organization, each has characteristics that sets it apart. These involve the character of the courses used, the composition of the field, and other idiosyncrasies.

Major championship winners

Major champions by nationality

The table below shows the number of major championships won by golfers from various countries. Tallies are also shown for major wins by golfers from Europe and from the "Rest of the World" (RoW), i.e. the world excluding Europe and the United States. The United States plays Europe in the Ryder Cup and an International Team representing the Rest of the World in the Presidents Cup. The table is complete through the 2019 Open. Since the establishment of The Masters in 1934, an American has won at least one major every year, with the exception of 1994.

Country1860s70s80s90s1900s10s20s30s40s50s60s70s80s90s2000s10s20sTotal
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 7233022313133292125214277
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 10910514222155
Flag of England.svg  England 73346111124235
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 144424322
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 1421241217
Flag of Jersey.svg  Jersey 32319
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 142119
Ulster Banner.svg  Northern Ireland 167
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 1124
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland 314
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 123
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 123
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 33
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 112
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 11
Flag of France.svg  France 11
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 11
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 11
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 11
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 11
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 11
Total10910152015303626404040404040406457

Scoring records

Scoring records - aggregate

The aggregate scoring records for each major are tabulated below, listed in order of when the majors are scheduled annually.

DateTournamentPlayerRoundsScoreTo par
Nov 15, 2020 Masters Tournament Flag of the United States.svg Dustin Johnson 65-70-65-68268−20
Aug 12, 2018 PGA Championship Flag of the United States.svg Brooks Koepka 69-63-66-66264−16
Jun 19, 2011 U.S. Open Ulster Banner.svg Rory McIlroy 65-66-68-69268−16
Jul 17, 2016 The Open Championship Flag of Sweden.svg Henrik Stenson 68-65-68-63264−20

Scoring records - to par

The scoring records to par for each major are tabulated below, listed in order of when the majors are scheduled annually.

DateTournamentPlayerRoundsScoreTo par
Nov 15, 2020 Masters Tournament Flag of the United States.svg Dustin Johnson 65-70-65-68268−20
Aug 16, 2015 PGA Championship Flag of Australia (converted).svg Jason Day 68-67-66-67268−20
Jun 19, 2011 U.S. Open Ulster Banner.svg Rory McIlroy 65-66-68-69268−16
Jun 18, 2017 Flag of the United States.svg Brooks Koepka 67-70-68-67272
Jul 17, 2016 The Open Championship Flag of Sweden.svg Henrik Stenson 68-65-68-63264−20

Single round records

The record for a single round in a major championship is 62 which was recorded by South African golfer Branden Grace in the third round of the 2017 Open Championship.

Consecutive victories at a major championship

NationalityPlayerMajor#Years
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Tom Morris, Jr. The Open Championship 41868, 1869, 1870, 1872 [a]
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Walter Hagen PGA Championship 41924, 1925, 1926, 1927
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Jamie Anderson The Open Championship31877, 1878, 1879
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Bob Ferguson The Open Championship31880, 1881, 1882
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Willie Anderson U.S. Open 31903, 1904, 1905
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Peter Thomson The Open Championship31954, 1955, 1956
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Tom Morris, Sr. The Open Championship21861, 1862
Flag of Jersey.svg  Jersey Harry Vardon The Open Championship21898, 1899
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland James Braid The Open Championship21905, 1906
Flag of England.svg  England John Henry Taylor The Open Championship21894, 1895
Flag of the United States.svg  United States John McDermott U.S. Open21911, 1912
Flag of England.svg  England Jim Barnes PGA Championship21916, 1919 [a]
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Gene Sarazen PGA Championship21922, 1923
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Bobby Jones The Open Championship21926, 1927
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Walter HagenThe Open Championship21928, 1929
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Leo Diegel PGA Championship21928, 1929
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Bobby JonesU.S. Open21929, 1930
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Denny Shute PGA Championship21936, 1937
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Ralph Guldahl U.S. Open21937, 1938
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg  South Africa Bobby Locke The Open Championship21949, 1950
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Ben Hogan U.S. Open21950, 1951
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Arnold Palmer The Open Championship21961, 1962
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Jack Nicklaus Masters Tournament 21965, 1966
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Lee Trevino The Open Championship21971, 1972
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tom Watson The Open Championship21982, 1983
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Curtis Strange U.S. Open21988, 1989
Flag of England.svg  England Nick Faldo Masters Tournament21989, 1990
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tiger Woods PGA Championship21999, 2000
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tiger WoodsMasters Tournament22001, 2002
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tiger WoodsThe Open Championship22005, 2006
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tiger WoodsPGA Championship (2)22006, 2007
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland Pádraig Harrington The Open Championship22007, 2008
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Brooks Koepka U.S. Open22017, 2018
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Brooks KoepkaPGA Championship22018, 2019

a These are consecutive because no tournaments were played in between at The Open Championship in 1871 or at the PGA Championship in 1917 and 1918.

Wire-to-wire major victories

Players who have led or been tied for the lead after each round of a major.

Top ten finishes in all four modern majors in one season

It was rare, before the early 1960s, for the leading players from around the world to have the opportunity to compete in all four of the 'modern' majors in one season, because of the different qualifying criteria used in each at the time, the costs of traveling to compete (in an era when tournament prize money was very low, and only the champion himself would earn the chance of ongoing endorsements), and on occasion even the conflicting scheduling of the Open and PGA Championships. In 1937, the U.S. Ryder Cup side all competed in The Open Championship, but of those who finished in the top ten of that event, only Ed Dudley could claim a "top ten" finish in all four of the majors in 1937, if his defeat in the last-16 round of that year's PGA Championship (then at matchplay) was considered a "joint 9th" position.

Following 1960, when Arnold Palmer's narrowly failed bid to add the Open Championship to his Masters and U.S. Open titles (and thus emulate Hogan's 1953 "triple crown") helped to establish the concept of the modern professional "Grand Slam", it has become commonplace for the leading players to be invited to, and indeed compete in, all four majors each year. Even so, those who have recorded top-ten finishes in all four, in a single year, remains a small and select group.

NationalityPlayerYearWinsMajor championship resultsLowest
placing
MastersU.S. OpenOpen Ch.PGA Ch.
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Ed Dudley 19370^3rd5th6thR16R16
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Arnold Palmer 19602112ndT7T7
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg  South Africa Gary Player 19630T5T8T7T8T8
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Arnold Palmer (2)19660T42ndT8T6T8
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Doug Sanders 19660^T4T8T2T6T8
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Miller Barber 19690^7thT610thT510th
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Jack Nicklaus 19711T22ndT51T5
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Jack Nicklaus (2)19731T3T44th1T4
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Jack Nicklaus (3)19740T4T103rd2ndT10
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg  South Africa Gary Player (2)197421T817thT8
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Hale Irwin 19750T4T3T9T5T9
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Jack Nicklaus (4)197521T7T31T7
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tom Watson 19751T8T919thT9
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Jack Nicklaus (5)197702ndT102nd3rdT10
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tom Watson (2)197721T71T6T7
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tom Watson (3)19822T511T9T9
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Ben Crenshaw 19870T4T4T4T7T7
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tiger Woods 200035th1115th
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain Sergio García 200208th4thT810th10th
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa Ernie Els 200402ndT92ndT4T9
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Phil Mickelson 2004112nd3rdT6T6
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji Vijay Singh 20050T5T6T5T10T10
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tiger Woods (2)2005212nd1T4T4
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Rickie Fowler 20140^T5T2T2T3T5
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Jordan Spieth 2015211T42ndT4
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Brooks Koepka 20191T22ndT41T4

^ Never won a regular tour major championship in his career.

On 13 of the 26 occasions the feat has been achieved, the player in question did not win a major that year – indeed, three of the players (Dudley, Sanders and Barber) failed to win a major championship in their careers (although Barber would go on to win five senior majors), and Fowler has also yet to win one.

Multiple major victories in a calendar year

Four

Three

Two

Masters and U.S. Open

Masters and Open Championship

Masters and PGA Championship

  • 1949: Flag of the United States.svg Sam Snead
  • 1956: Flag of the United States.svg Jack Burke Jr
  • 1963: Flag of the United States.svg Jack Nicklaus
  • 1975: Flag of the United States.svg Jack Nicklaus

U.S. Open and Open Championship

U.S. Open and PGA Championship

  • 1922: Flag of the United States.svg Gene Sarazen
  • 1948: Flag of the United States.svg Ben Hogan
  • 1980: Flag of the United States.svg Jack Nicklaus
  • 2018: Flag of the United States.svg Brooks Koepka

Open Championship and PGA Championship

Consecutive major victories (including over multiple years)

Four

Three

Two

Note: The order in which the majors were contested varied between 1895 and 1953. Prior to 1916, the PGA Championship did not exist; Prior to 1934, the Masters did not exist. From 1954 through 2018, the order of the majors was Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, PGA except in 1971, when the PGA was played before the Masters. From 2019, the order has been Masters, PGA, U.S. Open, Open Championship.

Largest margins of victory

Major championships have been won by a margin of nine strokes or greater on eight occasions. On a further eight occasions, majors have been won by a margin of eight strokes; they include the 2012 PGA Championship, which was played over the Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, for which Rory McIlroy holds the PGA Championship record. [28]

NationalityPlayerMarginMajorCourse
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tiger Woods 15 2000 U.S. Open Pebble Beach
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Old Tom Morris 13 1862 Open Championship Prestwick
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Young Tom Morris 12 1870 Open Championship Prestwick
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Tiger Woods 12 1997 Masters Augusta National
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Young Tom Morris 11 1869 Open Championship Prestwick
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Willie Smith 11 1899 U.S. Open Baltimore
Flag of England.svg  England Jim Barnes 9 1921 U.S. Open Columbia
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Jack Nicklaus 9 1965 Masters Augusta National

Most runner-up finishes in major championships

For the purposes of this section a runner-up is defined as someone who either (i) tied for the lead after 72 holes (or 36 holes in the case of the early championships) but lost the playoff or (ii) finished alone or in a tie for second place. In a few instances players have been involved in a playoff for the win or for second place prize money and have ended up taking the third prize (e.g. 1870 Open Championship, 1966 Masters Tournament). For match play PGA Championships up to 1957 the runner-up is the losing finalist.

Along with his record 18 major victories, Jack Nicklaus also holds the record for most runner-up finishes in major championships, with 19, including a record 7 at the Open Championship. He is also the only golfer with multiple runner-up finishes in all four majors. Phil Mickelson has the second most with 11 runner-up finishes after the 2016 Open Championship, which includes a record 6 runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, the one major he has never won. Arnold Palmer had 10 second places, including three in the major he never won, the PGA Championship. There have been three golfers with 8 runner-up finishes – Sam Snead, Greg Norman and Tom Watson. Norman shares the distinction of having lost playoffs in each of the four majors with Craig Wood (who lost the 1934 PGA final – at match play – on the second extra hole).

Players with most runner-up finishes but no major victories

a Crampton was second to Jack Nicklaus on each occasion.

Most major championship appearances (100 major club)

StartsNameCountryWinsSpan
164 Jack Nicklaus Flag of the United States.svg  United States 181957–2005
150 Gary Player Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 91956–2009
145 Tom Watson Flag of the United States.svg  United States 81970–2016
142 Arnold Palmer Flag of the United States.svg  United States 71953–2004
127 Raymond Floyd Flag of the United States.svg  United States 41963–2009
118 Sam Snead Flag of the United States.svg  United States 71937–1983
117 Ben Crenshaw Flag of the United States.svg  United States 21970–2015
115 Gene Sarazen Flag of the United States.svg  United States 71920–1976
114 Phil Mickelson Flag of the United States.svg  United States 61990–2021
110 Mark O'Meara Flag of the United States.svg  United States 21980–2018
109 Tom Kite Flag of the United States.svg  United States 11970–2004
Bernhard Langer Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 21976–2021
104 Ernie Els Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 41989–2019
102 Fred Couples Flag of the United States.svg  United States 11979–2021
101 Davis Love III Flag of the United States.svg  United States 11986–2020
100 Nick Faldo Flag of England.svg  England 61976–2015

Jay Haas and Lee Westwood hold the record for the most major championship appearances without a victory, with 87 starts. [29] [30]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Samuel Jackson Snead was an American professional golfer who was one of the top players in the world for the better part of four decades and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Snead was awarded a record 94 gold medallions, for wins in PGA of America Tour events and later credited with winning a record 82 PGA Tour events, including seven majors. He never won the U.S. Open, though he was runner-up four times. Snead was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

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