Nick Bonfield offers his opinion on why the USPGA is the best Major Championship of the year
6 Reasons Why the USPGA is the Best Major
I’ve never quite understood why the USPGA Championship is sometimes held in less regard than the year’s other three Majors.
Since I’ve started watching golf on television, the USPGA has constantly produced more drama and excitement than its more-revered peers.
The Masters – as great as it is – is a limited-field event on a golf course that’s becoming increasingly easy to dominate.
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The USPGA, on the other hand, simply doesn’t follow a set formula, and that’s a major part of its allure.
Below, I take a look at six reason why I enjoy the USPGA Championship more than its three predecessors.
Great Golf Courses
One year we’re at a modern links course and the next we’re at one of the great parkland or woodland venues in the States.
The USPGA hops around the country, taking in some of the very best layouts on the way.
There’s no strict remit in terms of characteristics, meaning the PGA of America can choose some of the USA’s top courses that perhaps wouldn’t work for the US Open.
Take 2015, for example, when the tournament was at Whistling Straits, a stunning artificial links on the shores of Lake Michigan with water hazards and waste areas aplenty.
In 2014 and 2013, the USPGA took place at Valhalla at Oak Hill respectively, two of the most quintessentially American courses you could imagine.
It’s an event that can provide the variation none of the other three can.
The Best Field
You have to say the USPGA Championship presents the best field of any of the Majors.
The qualification criteria is geared towards having the most in-form players on the start sheet.
The vast majority of the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Ranking tee it up, unlike The Masters, which has an invitation-only field, and the US and Open Championships, which are open to qualification and therefore players who sit well outside the world’s top 100.
With those events, the top 50 and 60 are invited, meaning those between 60 and 100 in the rankings, who could potentially be playing really well, often miss out.
The inclusion of 20 club professionals also adds another dimension and sense of intrigue.
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I often feel – and perhaps it’s a personal thing – the intensity is more palpable from the get-go at the USPGA than the other three Majors.
I think this stems from the fact it’s the last chance to win one of golf’s big four events for the best part of eight months – something everyone in the field is acutely aware of.
It’s also the last chance for some to realise a season objective, and the number of FedEx Cup points on offer means it’s a great opportunity to move up the rankings ahead of the PGA Tour Play-offs, which begin at the end of August.
At the USPGA, you really get the sense we’re in the business end of the season.
The Claret Jug and Ryder Cup may just trump it but barring those two, the Wanamaker really is one the greatest trophies, not just in golf but, in sport.
The size, the history and the prestige – it really is a prize that every golfer would love to own.
There’s certainly a correlation between the above point and the brand of golf on display at the USPGA.
Unlike The Open (in some conditions) and the US Open, where pars are gold dust and the winner is often the person who’s made the fewest mistakes during the course of the week, the year’s final Major is one you have to go out and win.
With that in mind, the players often adopt an aggressive approach, which leads to more birdies and, by extension, increased atmosphere and excitement.
As I mentioned at the start, some of my most vivid golf-watching memories come from the USPGA Championship.
YE Yang going toe-to-toe with Tiger in 2009 and Martin Kaymer defeating Bubba Watson in 2010’s play-off following Dustin Johnson’s bunker catastrophe are two tournaments that spring to mind.
However, my all-time favourite viewing experience came in 2003, when, as a fresh-faced 14-year-old, I watched Shaun Micheel hit one of the best shots of all time to claim his first and only Major Championship.
In fact, looking back down the list of past winners, I can’t think of one event that failed to captivate me in some way.