First played for in 1916, the USPGA Golf Championship is the third oldest of the four Majors after the Open (1860) and US Open (1894). Department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker donated the trophy for the inaugural event as well as the sum of $2,580 in prize money. Since then times have changed and the purse for last year’s competition was a staggering $6.8 million.
England’s Jim Barnes claimed the first ever PGA Championship at Siwanoy Country Club, New York, and made it two in a row when the tournament returned to the schedule after the First World War. Other famous names to grace the trophy in the early years of the event included Walter Hagen (pictured, who holds the joint record with Jack Nicklaus for the most USPGA victories – five), Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. Up until 1958 the competition was played in a match play format, Paul Runyan recording the largest margin of victory in a final at Oakmont in 1938, defeating Snead 8&7 over 36 holes.
In the modern era there have been 11 play-offs for the Wanamaker trophy with the likes of Don January (1961), Tom Watson (1978), Greg Norman (1993) and our own Colin Montgomerie (1995) all missing out on glory.
Tiger Woods shares the record for the lowest score against par with Bob May – the pair finished at 18 under par in 2000 at Valhalla, Tiger defeating the unfortunate May in a three-hole play-off – and Woods equalled that benchmark with an incredible display at Medinah in 2006.
Although the USPGA is often seen as the least important of the four Major golf championships, it traditionally has the strongest field. Despite the fact the tournament reserves places for the top 20 players from the PGA Professional National Championship, the top 70 players on the US money list gain automatic entry. Add to that members of the most recent US Ryder Cup team and you have a very strong field indeed, devoid of large numbers of so-called “ceremonial” players, exempt players and amateurs. All things considered the USPGA is a real treat for golf watchers – and Golf Monthly will be with you every step of the way.