Men's major golf championships
The men's major golf championships, commonly known as the Major Championships, and often referred to simply as the majors, are the four most prestigious annual tournaments in professional golf. In order of their playing date, the current majors are:
- April – Masters Tournament (weekend ending 2nd Sunday in April) – hosted as an invitational by and played at Augusta National Golf Club in the U.S. state of Georgia.
- June – U.S. Open (weekend ending with the 3rd Sunday in June) – hosted by the USGA and played at various locations in the United States.
- July – The Open Championship (weekend containing the 3rd Friday in July) – hosted by The R&A, an offshoot of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, and always played on a links course at one of nine various locations in the United Kingdom.
- August – PGA Championship (3rd or 4th weekend after the Open Championship) – hosted by the Professional Golfers' Association of America and played at various locations in the United States.
- 1 Importance
- 2 History
- 3 Television coverage
- 4 Distinctive characteristics of majors
- 5 Major championship winners
- 6 Scoring records
- 7 'Player of the Year' in major championships
- 8 Consecutive victories at a major championship
- 9 Wire-to-wire major victories
- 10 Top ten finishes in all four modern majors in one season
- 11 Multiple majors victories in a calendar year
- 12 Consecutive major victories (including over multiple years)
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Alongside the biennial Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team competitions, the majors are golf's marquee 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, the PGA Tour gives a five-year exemption to all major winners, while the European Tour gives a ten-year exemption.
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 different 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.
Although the majors are considered prestigious due to their history and traditions, 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 World Golf Championships, the European Tour's DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, and the PGA Tour's Players Championship. As The Players has the largest prize fund of any golf event, and is promoted as the tour's flagship tournament, it 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 shared objections to the concept of having a fifth men's major, owing to the long-standing traditions that the existing four have established.
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," 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 - often seen as the world authority on majors since he's attended more (200+) than anyone else - has 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."
In 1960, Arnold Palmer entered 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 again 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.
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, except for the Open Championship and early round coverage of The Masters and PGA Championship, they are still primarily broadcast by the PGA Tour's broadcast partners, CBS and NBC
The Masters has been televised by CBS since 1956. 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. ABC retained The Open Championship as its sole major, but moved its live coverage on the weekend to sister cable network ESPN in 2010, making it the first major championship in the television era not to be aired live on one of the country's major networks,
The Masters operates under one-year contracts; CBS has been the main TV partner every year since 1956, with ESPN televising the first and second rounds beginning in 2008, replacing USA Network, which had shown the event since the early 1980s.
ESPN and NBC serve as the broadcasters for the U.S. Open. Notably, NBC also provides coverage during all four rounds of the tournament, making it the only golf event in the U.S. where all four rounds are broadcast on an over-the-air network—network coverage is usually only provided during the third and fourth rounds. In August 2013, Fox Sports picked up broadcast rights to the U.S. Open in a 12-year deal, beginning in 2015.
United Kingdom & Ireland
In the United Kingdom, the BBC used to be the exclusive TV home of the Masters Tournament and the Open Championship, however from 2011 onwards Sky Sports has exclusive coverage of the first two days of the Masters, with the weekend rounds shared with the BBC. The U.S. Open and PGA Championship are shown exclusively on Sky Sports.
Distinctive characteristics of majors
Because each major is developed and is run by a different organization, they each have different characteristics that set them apart. These involve the character of the courses used, the composition of the field, and other idiosyncrasies.
- The Masters Tournament (also referred to as the U.S. Masters outside of the United States) is the only major that is played at the same course every year (Augusta National Golf Club), being the invitational tournament of that club. The Masters invites the smallest field of the majors, generally under 100 players (although, like all the majors, it now ensures entry for all golfers among the World's top 50 prior to the event), and is the only one of the four majors that does not use "alternates" to replace qualified players who do not enter the event (usually due to injury). Former champions have a lifetime invitation to compete, and also included in the field are the current champions of the major amateur championships, and most of the previous year's PGA Tour winners (winners of Fall Series events or "alternate" events held opposite a high-profile tournament do not receive automatic invitations). The traditions of Augusta, such as the awarding of a green jacket to the champion, create a distinctive character for the tournament, as does the course itself, with its lack of rough but severely undulating fairways and greens, and punitive use of ponds and creeks on several key holes on the second nine.
- The U.S. Open is notorious for being played on difficult courses that have tight fairways, challenging greens, demanding pin positions and thick and high rough, placing a great premium on accuracy, especially with driving and approach play. The U.S. Open is rarely won with a score much under par. The event is the championship of the United States Golf Association, and in having a very strict exempt qualifiers list - made up of recent major champions, professionals currently ranked high in the world rankings or on the previous year's money lists around the world, and leading amateurs from recent USGA events - about half of the 156-person field still enters the tournament through two rounds of open qualification events, mostly held in the U.S. but also in Europe and Japan. The U.S. Open has no barrier to entry for either women or junior players, as long as they are a professional or meet amateur handicap requirements. As of 2013, however, no female golfer has yet qualified for the U.S. Open, although in 2006 Michelle Wie made it to the second qualifying stage. The U.S. Open continues to have a 18-hole playoff if players are tied after four rounds. (The Open and PGA Championships use four- and three-hole aggregate playoffs respectively, followed by sudden death if necessary, and most regular events as well as the Masters only have simple sudden death playoffs.)
- The Open Championship (also referred to as the British Open outside of the United Kingdom) is organized by The R&A, an offshoot of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, and is typically played on a links-style course in Scotland or England. It carries the prestige of being the oldest professional golf tournament currently in existence and the original "Open" championship (although the very first event was held only for British professionals). It is respected for maintaining the tradition of links play that dates back to the very invention of the game in Scotland. Links courses are generally typified as coastal, flat and often very windswept, with the fairways cut through dune grass and gorse bushes that make up the "rough", and have deep bunkers. The course is generally not "doctored" to make it more difficult, effectively making the variable weather the main external influence on the field's score. As well as exempting from qualifying recent professional major and amateur champions and leading players from the world rankings, the R&A ensures that leading golfers from around the globe are given the chance to enter by holding qualifying events on all continents, as well as holding final qualifying events around the UK in the weeks prior to the main tournament. Several recent champions have been relatively unknown players who came through one of these qualifying routes. The champion receives (and has his name inscribed on the base of) the famous Claret Jug, a trophy that dates back to 1872 (champions from 1860 until 1871 received instead a championship belt, much like a champion professional boxer's belt nowadays) and the engraving of the champions' name on the trophy prior to them receiving it is, in itself, one of the traditions of the closing ceremony of the championship, as is the award of the silver medal to the leading amateur player to have made the cut to play the last 36 holes.
- The PGA Championship (also referred to as the U.S. PGA outside of the United States) is traditionally played at a parkland club in the United States, and the courses chosen tend to be as difficult as those chosen for the U.S. Open, with several, such as Baltusrol Golf Club, Medinah Country Club, Oakland Hills Country Club, Oak Hill Country Club, and Winged Foot Golf Club, having hosted both. The PGA generally does not set up the course as difficult as the USGA does. The PGA of America enters into a profit-sharing agreement with the host club. As well as inviting recent professional major champions and leading professionals from the world rankings, the PGA Championship field is completed by qualifiers held among members of the PGA of America, the organization of club and teaching professionals that are separate from the members of the PGA Tour. The PGA Championship is also the only one of the four majors to invite all winners of PGA Tour events in the year preceding the tournament. Amateur golfers do not play in PGA, and could only qualify by winning one of the other three majors or having a high world ranking. The PGA tends to be played in high heat and humidity that characterize the American climate in August.
Major championship winners
Win number out of total wins are shown in parentheses for golfers with more than one major championship.
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 2013 Open Championship.
Scoring records - aggregate
The aggregate scoring records for each major are tabulated below. Green indicates an outright record and yellow indicates a shared record.
|Jul 18, 1993||The Open Championship||Greg Norman||Australia||66-68-69-64||267||–13|
|Apr 13, 1997||Masters Tournament||Tiger Woods||United States||70-66-65-69||270||–18|
|Aug 19, 2001||PGA Championship||David Toms||United States||66-65-65-69||265||–15|
|Jun 19, 2011||U.S. Open||Rory McIlroy||Northern Ireland||65-66-68-69||268||–16|
Scoring records - to par
The scoring records to par for each major are tabulated below. Green indicates an outright record and yellow indicates a shared record.
|Apr 13, 1997||Masters Tournament||Tiger Woods||United States||70-66-65-69||270||–18||Won|
|Jul 23, 2000||The Open Championship||Tiger Woods||United States||67-66-67-69||269||–19||Won|
|Aug 20, 2000||PGA Championship||Tiger Woods||United States||66-67-70-67||270||–18||Won|
|Aug 20, 2000||PGA Championship||Bob May||United States||72-66-66-66||270||–18||2nd|
|Aug 20, 2006||PGA Championship||Tiger Woods||United States||69-68-65-68||270||–18||Won|
|Jun 19, 2011||U.S. Open||Rory McIlroy||Northern Ireland||65-66-68-69||268||–16||Won|
Single round records
The single round scoring record for all four majors is 63. This has occurred 26 times by 24 golfers between 1973 and 2013. Greg Norman and Vijay Singh are the only golfers to record two rounds of 63 in the majors. Johnny Miller was the first golfer to shoot 63 in a major and remains the only golfer to shoot 63 in the final round to win a major.
'Player of the Year' in major championships
There is no official award presented to the player with the best overall record in the four majors, although the PGA's Player of the Year system favors performances in the major championships. Since 1984, world ranking points have been assigned to finishes in the majors, which has allowed a calculation of which player has earned the most ranking points in majors in a season - in almost every year since, one of the year's major winners has either won two of them, or has been the only player to win one and record a high finish in another (like Lucas Glover in 2009, David Duval in 2001 or Justin Leonard in 1997), enough to finish top of such a merit table in those years. The single exception was Nick Faldo in 1988, whose finishes of 2nd, 3rd and 4th earned him more world ranking points than any of that year's champions achieved during the season.
Tables are occasionally constructed for interest showing the overall scoring records for those players who have completed all 288 holes in the majors during a season. In the 1970s, Jack Nicklaus led such a table in 1970–73, 1975 and 1979, with Gary Player leading in 1974, Raymond Floyd in 1976, and Tom Watson in 1977 and 1978. In the 1980s a notable leader was in 1987, when Ben Crenshaw was top of this compilation after finishing 4th, 4th, 4th and 7th in the four majors. In total Crenshaw took 1,140 strokes, only 12 more than the sum total of the four respective champions' scores of 1,128. Recent 'winners' of this accolade are Pádraig Harrington in 2008, Ross Fisher in 2009, Phil Mickelson in 2010, Charl Schwartzel in 2011, and Adam Scott in 2012. In 2013 Scott and fellow Australian Jason Day tied for this accolade with a cumulative score of +2.
Consecutive victories at a major championship
|Scotland||Tom Morris, Jr.||The Open Championship||4||1868, 1869, 1870, 1872[a]|
|United States||Walter Hagen||PGA Championship||4||1924, 1925, 1926, 1927|
|Scotland||Jamie Anderson||The Open Championship||3||1877, 1878, 1879|
|Scotland||Bob Ferguson||The Open Championship||3||1880, 1881, 1882|
|Scotland||Willie Anderson||U.S. Open||3||1903, 1904, 1905|
|Australia||Peter Thomson||The Open Championship||3||1954, 1955, 1956|
|Scotland||Tom Morris, Sr.||The Open Championship||2||1861, 1862|
|Jersey||Harry Vardon||The Open Championship||2||1898, 1899|
|Scotland||James Braid||The Open Championship||2||1905, 1906|
|England||John Henry Taylor||The Open Championship||2||1894, 1895|
|United States||John McDermott||U. S. Open Championship||2||1911, 1912|
|England||Jim Barnes||PGA Championship||2||1916, 1919[a]|
|United States||Gene Sarazen||PGA Championship||2||1922, 1923|
|United States||Bobby Jones||The Open Championship||2||1926, 1927|
|United States||Walter Hagen||The Open Championship||2||1928, 1929|
|United States||Leo Diegel||PGA Championship||2||1928, 1929|
|United States||Bobby Jones||U. S. Open Championship||2||1929, 1930|
|United States||Denny Shute||PGA Championship||2||1936, 1937|
|United States||Ralph Guldahl||U. S. Open Championship||2||1937, 1938|
|South Africa||Bobby Locke||The Open Championship||2||1949, 1950|
|United States||Ben Hogan||U. S. Open Championship||2||1950, 1951|
|United States||Arnold Palmer||The Open Championship||2||1961, 1962|
|United States||Jack Nicklaus||Masters Tournament||2||1965, 1966|
|United States||Lee Trevino||The Open Championship||2||1971, 1972|
|United States||Tom Watson||The Open Championship||2||1982, 1983|
|United States||Curtis Strange||U. S. Open Championship||2||1988, 1989|
|England||Nick Faldo||Masters Tournament||2||1989, 1990|
|United States||Tiger Woods||PGA Championship||2||1999, 2000|
|United States||Tiger Woods||Masters Tournament||2||2001, 2002|
|United States||Tiger Woods||The Open Championship||2||2005, 2006|
|United States||Tiger Woods||PGA Championship (2)||2||2006, 2007|
|Ireland||Pádraig Harrington||The Open Championship||2||2007, 2008|
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.
|Three majors won in calendar year that the top ten was completed #|
|Two majors won in calendar year that the top ten was completed ‡|
|One major won in calendar year that the top ten was completed †|
|No majors won in calendar year that the top ten was completed ^|
|Never won a regular tour major championship in his career *|
|Nationality||Player||Year||Wins||Major championship results|
|Masters||U.S. Open||Open Ch.||PGA Ch.|
|United States||Ed Dudley *||1937||0||3rd||5th||6th||R16|
|United States||Arnold Palmer ‡||1960||2||1||1||2nd||T7|
|South Africa||Gary Player ^||1963||0||T5||T8||T7||T8|
|United States||Arnold Palmer (2) ^||1966||0||T4||2nd||T8||T6|
|United States||Doug Sanders *||1966||0||T4||T8||T2||T6|
|United States||Miller Barber *||1969||0||7th||T6||10th||T5|
|United States||Jack Nicklaus †||1971||1||T2||2nd||T5||1|
|United States||Jack Nicklaus (2) †||1973||1||T3||T4||4th||1|
|United States||Jack Nicklaus (3) ^||1974||0||T4||T10||3rd||2nd|
|South Africa||Gary Player (2) ‡||1974||2||1||T8||1||7th|
|United States||Hale Irwin ^||1975||0||T4||T3||T9||T5|
|United States||Jack Nicklaus (4) ‡||1975||2||1||T7||T3||1|
|United States||Tom Watson †||1975||1||T8||T9||1||9th|
|United States||Jack Nicklaus (5) ^||1977||0||2nd||T10||2nd||3rd|
|United States||Tom Watson (2) ‡||1977||2||1||T7||1||T6|
|United States||Tom Watson (3) ‡||1982||2||T5||1||1||T9|
|United States||Ben Crenshaw ^||1987||0||T4||T4||T4||T7|
|United States||Tiger Woods #||2000||3||5th||1||1||1|
|Spain||Sergio García *||2002||0||8th||4th||T8||10th|
|South Africa||Ernie Els ^||2004||0||2nd||T9||2nd||T4|
|United States||Phil Mickelson †||2004||1||1||2nd||3rd||T6|
|Fiji||Vijay Singh ^||2005||0||T5||T6||T5||T10|
|United States||Tiger Woods (2) ‡||2005||2||1||2nd||1||T4|
On 12 of the 23 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 García has also yet to win one (as of the 2012 season).
Multiple majors victories in a calendar year
- 1930: Bobby Jones; The Open Championship, U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur Championship, The Amateur Championship
- 1953: Ben Hogan; Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, and The Open Championship
- 2000: Tiger Woods; U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and The PGA Championship
Masters and U.S. Open
Masters and Open Championship
- 1962: Arnold Palmer
- 1966: Jack Nicklaus
- 1974: Gary Player
- 1977: Tom Watson
- 1990: Nick Faldo
- 1998: Mark O'Meara
- 2005: Tiger Woods
Masters and PGA Championship
- 1949: Sam Snead
- 1956: Jack Burke, Jr
- 1963: Jack Nicklaus
- 1975: Jack Nicklaus
U.S. Open and Open Championship
U.S. Open and PGA Championship
Open Championship and PGA Championship
Consecutive major victories (including over multiple years)
- 1868-72: Young Tom Morris '68 Open, '69 Open, '70 Open, '72 Open
- 1930: Bobby Jones; '30 Open, '30 U.S. Open, '30 U.S. Amateur, '30 Amateur
- 2000-01: Tiger Woods; '00 U.S. Open, '00 Open, '00 PGA, '01 Masters
- 1877-79: Jamie Anderson '77 Open, '78 Open, '79 Open
- 1880-81: Bob Ferguson '80 Open, '81 Open, '82 Open
- 1861-62: Old Tom Morris '61 Open, '62 Open
- 1899-00: Harry Vardon; '99 Open, '00 U.S. Open
- 1924: Walter Hagen '24 Open, '24 PGA
- 1932: Gene Sarazen '32 U.S. Open, '32 Open
- 1941: Craig Wood '41 Masters, '41 U.S. Open
- 1951: Ben Hogan '51 Masters, '51 U.S. Open
- 1951-52: Sam Snead '51 PGA, '52 Masters
- 1953: Ben Hogan; '53 Masters, '53 U.S. Open
- 1960: Arnold Palmer '60 Masters, '60 U.S. Open
- 1971: Lee Trevino '71 U.S. Open, '71 Open
- 1972: Jack Nicklaus '72 Masters, '72 U.S. Open
- 1982: Tom Watson '82 U.S. Open, '82 Open
- 1994: Nick Price '94 Open, '94 PGA
- 2002: Tiger Woods '02 Masters, '02 U.S. Open
- 2005-06: Phil Mickelson '05 PGA, '06 Masters
- 2006: Tiger Woods '06 Open, '06 PGA
- 2008: Pádraig Harrington '08 Open, '08 PGA
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- Coverage of the four majors by the PGA of America
- Listing of golf major championship courses, winners and countries
- The aggregate scores for the Majors since 1960