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REARDON: Is The PGA Championship Just ‘Normal?’

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119665580 REARDON: Is The PGA Championship Just Normal?

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

In this week’s Golf World magazine, former U.S. Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy goes all Standard & Poors on the PGA Championship, downgrading its major status from AAA to A+.

It’s not unusual for someone to take a shot at the PGA. Articles like this are as traditional in August as triple-digit temperatures, and for Ogilvy it was the second salvo, coming off a similar position in the same magazine prior to the U.S. Open.

But since the PGA Championship has now become our championship (Bellerive 2018), let’s take a look at his argument.

Ogilvy calls the PGA “the world’s premier ‘normal’ tournament.” He said it lacks the uniqueness of the other three majors and details his assessment as lacking in areas of history, winners and courses.

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118879354 REARDON: Is The PGA Championship Just Normal?

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

History

There is no question the Open Championship wins this argument. Any tournament that Abraham Lincoln could read about settles that dispute. But the Masters is the “new kid on the block” when it comes to majors. Much of the PGA’s rich history was already in place from the Hagen Era while they were still picking fruit from the trees in Augusta.

The PGA Championship at Bellerive will be number 100 in 2018 and to my mind that is more than enough history to be something more than “normal.”

Winners

Ogilvy mentions most great players include the other majors on their resumes, but Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson failed to win the PGA. I’m not sure what that means in devaluing the PGA but let’s briefly consider winners in this century.

All four major championships have footnote champions in their recent past, excluding the current run, where it appears there is a rule that in order to win a major now it must be your first-such win.

The Masters has Trevor Immelman and Zach Johnson in their green jacket closet. Good, but not first ballot Hall of Fame candidates.

The U.S. Open has Michael Campbell and Lucas Glover. Campbell qualifies as “milk carton” obscure.

The Open Championship has the trio of Paul Lawrie, Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis. Enough said.

The PGA can serve up Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem and share equally in the collection on non-notables who have hoisted the trophy at all four majors.

Courses

The Masters wins this argument by default as the only major hosted at the same location each year. The course is unsurpassed by any other venue on the major rotation every year.

The Open Championship is locked into a set rotation of seaside courses that has largely gone unchanged for more than one hundred years. Some have dropped off; none have been added. I love the Open venues and their retro charm but one has to question how it is possible that no courses of value have come on line in the British Isles in the last century.

111898286 REARDON: Is The PGA Championship Just Normal?

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The U.S. Open has continued to sample new venues continuing the impetus started by David Fay. The return to Pinehurst several years back, Bethpage and Torrey Pines were break through sites and Chambers Bay and Erin Hills are on the horizon.

The PGA has always been willing to award their majors to regions and courses that have not been privileged to host the majors — and some could be called into question. But consider this fact: In the last twenty years, every course that has hosted the PGA Championship has been the host for a USGA major with one exception – Valhalla. It is difficult to imagine the USGA going to that course given the fact the PGA of America has an ownership stake in the Louisville course.

Field

120833395 REARDON: Is The PGA Championship Just Normal?

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

In his column, Ogilvy fails to point out that the PGA has the strongest field of any of the four majors.

Augusta’s invitational format always dictates a weak bottom of the field, especially depending on the number of former champions who tee it up. The U.S. Open with its qualifying format will always bring the charming, but unable to compete players into the field. Ditto for the Open Championship and it’s truly international field.

This year’s PGA features 99 of the top 100 players in the world, and since they have paired back on the club pros in the field, there are more touring pros in the PGA Championship field and no amateurs.

If Ogilvy’s claim is valid, it would seem there would be a next “normal” you could pair with it in these areas, but there isn’t. The Players has field but no history and not everybody is sold on the course. What’s now known as the BMW Championship has history, but is truly just a PGA Tour stop.

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Offering advice to the PGA of America to restore the luster to the ‘fourth’ major, Ogilvy suggests the organization consider returning to its origins and once again become a match play event. I would recommend Geoff check the level of interest and coverage of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship and its roster of former winners. I love match play, especially at team events, but it doesn’t work well with today’s fields deep in talent and shallow in elites.

The PGA Championship worked when the game had two dozen or so major talents and a weaker second tier. In today’s golf world a PGA Tour card qualifies you as elite and 125 is as likely to win in match play as five, leaving the possibility for a Leonard Thompson/Vincente Fernandez finale as they had at Boone Valley’s swan song.

In the future, the “Reardon solution” for the PGA Championship.

Dan Reardon is Golf Editor at KMOX. He can be heard throughout the week on America’s Sports Voice.

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