Why people hate the US PGA (and how to fix it)

Wanamaker Trophy Sepia

During the Masters, I put out a tweet that created a bit of a stir. I posed a fairly straightforward question. What would you rather win: the Masters once or the US PGA Championship four times.     

The result was conclusive.

Of the almost 1,500 people who responded, 80% opted for winning the Masters once.

The same poll on the bunkered Facebook page was even more one-sided, with 85% of all respondents picking a Green Jacket over the Wanamaker Trophy.

Replying to my original tweet, one person suggested the imbalance might have something to do with people being caught up in ‘Masters fever’ and that it would be interesting to see how attitudes change during US PGA week.

I couldn't agree more. That's why, over the last 24 hours, people have been voting on a poll on the bunkered Twitter account which asked where the US PGA ranks among their favourite majors. A decisive 84% of all those who took part in the survey ranked it last. Only 2% had it either first or second.

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One user justified their vote, saying: “This putt to win the US PGA Championship… said no kid ever.” The very definition of 'brutal honesty'.

All of which poses a pertinent question: why do people hate the US PGA so much?

The answer may have less to do with the US PGA and more with the other three tournaments with which it shares major billing.

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The Masters has the aura and the intrigue. The Open has the history and the prestige. The US Open has the 'tough' reputation. The US PGA? The US PGA is ‘the other one’.

Its poorly-executed marketing slogans perfectly illustrate its lack of identity. From “Glory’s Last Shot” to “The Season's Final Major” to “This Is Major”, it has had more names than Prince. 

All Major Trophies

There’s also the issue of where it’s played. The Open visits St Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Royal Birkdale. The US Open takes in Pebble Beach, Oakmont and Pinehurst. The Masters pulls back the curtain on the incomparable Augusta National. The list of courses visited by the US PGA is, by comparison, much less remarkable.

Bellerive, Oak Hill, Valhalla, Kemper Lakes, Inverness, Shoal Creek… none of them are bad; they just don’t pique the interest of the average golf fan – far less the casual golf fan - like other major layouts.

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There’s no question the US PGA also suffered from its old place on the calendar. It’s easy, if somewhat lazy, to equate being last chronologically with being last in significance, particularly when what has gone before has, typically, been so captivating. Now that it’s the second men’s major of the season, that may change – but public opinion isn't an easy oil tanker to turn around.

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Resentment. That, too, may have undermined the US PGA. Resentment that, when it’s over, there’s no more major championship golf – in the men’s game at least – for another eight months. And yet it’s hard to imagine the Open, now the final major of the year, arousing such enmity.

Pga Championship Flag

Also worth taking into account is the fact the PGA of America undermined the championship, on this side of the Atlantic at least, with the ‘broadcast rights’ palaver of the last two years.

The organisation’s over-valuation of the championship led to it being forced, at the last minute, to scramble together an ‘anything or nothing’ deal with the BBC in 2017. Then, it tried to be too clever by half with its ill-fated Eleven Sports partnership last year, a partnership that took the event off British and Irish TV screens altogether. It’s back on Sky Sports this year but the relationship between the championship and an already indifferent audience has unquestionably been undermined further.

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Yet the US PGA is still a major and, in lieu of that ever changing, what’s the solution?

There is one. One that would, at a stroke, solve the championship’s lack of identity and repair its bruised reputation.

Take it overseas.

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Most people acknowledge the inherent imbalance in three of the four men’s majors taking place in the US, particularly given the game's rapid and relatively recent globalisation.

The US Open is never going to move; it’s the United States’ national championship. The Masters is never going to leave Augusta. That leaves the US PGA.

Pga Championship Sign

With representation around the world, the Professional Golfers Association is arguably the biggest, most far-reaching and most important body in the game. Crucially, through its various guises and national ‘branches’, it plays a lead role in growing the game at grassroots level. It is critical to the health of the game in both the short and long term.

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If the PGA of America can only look beyond the end of its own nose, it would surely recognise the benefits to both the championship and the game is something worth sacrificing a little of the limelight for.

Just think of the places it could go. Places like Fancourt Links, Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Cabot Cliffs – major venues in all but name.

The US PGA would cease to be the US PGA. Instead, it would just become ‘The PGA’. 

"The People’s Major” won by “The People’s Champion”.

Look, I'm a realist. I know this probably won’t happen. But a man can dream, right? 

Just like all those people who dream of winning the Masters once as opposed to the US PGA four times.

The US PGA Championship - Your thoughts?

Do you agree with Michael McEwan over the US PGA Championship and how it can mend its reputation? Or do you think it's fine as it is? Leave your thoughts in our Comments section below.

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