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Men's major golf championships

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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 play date, they 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, or Father's Day.) – hosted by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and played at various locations in the United States.
  • July – The Open Championship (week 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 ten locations in the United Kingdom.
  • August – PGA Championship (3rd weekend prior to Labor Day weekend, although subject to change during Summer Olympics years) – hosted by the Professional Golfers' Association of America and played at various locations in the United States.
  • Importance

    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 seven-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 The Open Championship 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.

    United States

    As none of the majors fall under the direct jurisdiction of tours, broadcast rights for these events are negotiated separately with each sanctioning body. All four majors have been broadcast at some point by one of the "big three" networks—all of whom are currently or have previously been PGA Tour broadcast partners. In 2015, CBS was the only big three network that held third and fourth round rights to one or more majors, as the remainder, along with early round coverage of all four, were held either by Fox or cable networks.

    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. In June 2015, it was announced that NBC and Golf Channel would acquire rights to the Open Championship under a 12-year deal. While the NBC deal was originally to take effect in 2017, ESPN chose to opt out of its final year of Open rights, so the NBC contract took effect beginning in 2016 instead.

    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. As of 2015, Fox Sports holds broadcast rights to the U.S. Open and other USGA events, replacing NBC and ESPN, with Fox Sports 1 as the primary pay TV outlet. CBS and Turner Sports hold rights to the PGA Championship, with TNT handling early round and weekend morning coverage, and CBS airing weekend afternoon coverage. Their respective contracts with the PGA of America run through 2019.

    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. Beginning in 2016, Sky Sports also became the exclusive broadcaster of the Open Championship; the BBC elected to forego the final year of its contract. The BBC continues to hold rights to broadcast a nightly highlights programme.

    Distinctive characteristics of majors

    Because each major was 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 "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 primary rough but severely undulating fairways and greens, and punitive use of ponds and creeks on several key holes on the back 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. Additionally, while most regular tour events are played on courses with par 72, the U.S. Open has not been played at a par-72 course since 1992; since then, it has occasionally been played to a par of 71 but most commonly par 70. 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 2014, 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 an 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 Sunday of the Championship has also in recent years fallen on Father's Day (at least as recognized in the US and the UK) which has lent added poignancy to winners' speeches.
  • The Open Championship 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 the United Kingdom (primarily England or Scotland). 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, all former Open Championship winners under age 60, 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 (except when the event is hosted by Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, a club that it owns). In a parallel with The Masters, previous winners of the PGA Championship have a lifetime invitation to compete. As well as inviting recent champions of the other three professional majors and leading players 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 normally play on the PGA Tour, and could only qualify by winning one of the other three majors, winning a PGA Tour event while playing under a sponsor's exemption, or having a high world ranking. The PGA tends to be played in high heat and humidity that characterize the American climate in August, which often sets it apart as a challenge from (in particular) the Open Championship which precedes it, that is often played in cooler and rainy weather.
  • Major championship winners

    Win number out of total wins is 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 to the 2016 season. Since the establishment of The Masters in 1934, an American has won at least one major every year, with the exception of 1994.

    Scoring records - aggregate

    The aggregate scoring records for each major are tabulated below. Green indicates an outright record and yellow indicates a shared record.

    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.

    Single round records

    The single round scoring record for all four majors is 63. This has occurred 30 times by 28 golfers between 1973 and 2016. 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 was the only golfer to shoot 63 in the final round to win a major until Henrik Stenson did so as well during the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Club. The most recent golfer to shoot 63 in a major was Robert Streb at the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club.

    '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 Justin Leonard in 1997, David Duval in 2001, Lucas Glover in 2009 or Dustin Johnson in 2016), 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. Rickie Fowler led in 2014 with −32 after top-five finishes in all four tournaments, while in 2015 Jordan Spieth led the standings by achieving the lowest all-time cumulative score in a year of −54, one shot better than the cumulative score of Tiger Woods in 2000. In 2016, Jason Day again led with -9, achieved despite not winning any of the major tournaments during the year.

    Consecutive victories at a major championship

    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.

    On 13 of the 25 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 and Fowler have also yet to win one (as of the end of the 2016 season).


  • 1930: Bobby Jones; The Open Championship, U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur Championship, The Amateur Championship
  • Three

  • 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

  • 1941: Craig Wood
  • 1951: Ben Hogan
  • 1960: Arnold Palmer
  • 1972: Jack Nicklaus
  • 2002: Tiger Woods
  • 2015: Jordan Spieth
  • 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

  • 1926: Bobby Jones
  • 1932: Gene Sarazen
  • 1971: Lee Trevino
  • 1982: Tom Watson
  • U.S. Open and PGA Championship

  • 1922: Gene Sarazen
  • 1948: Ben Hogan
  • 1980: Jack Nicklaus
  • Open Championship and PGA Championship

  • 1924: Walter Hagen
  • 1994: Nick Price
  • 2006: Tiger Woods
  • 2008: Pádraig Harrington
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy
  • Four

  • 1868–72: Young Tom Morris '68 Open, '69 Open, '70 Open, '72 Open (No Open Championship played in 1871)
  • 1930: Bobby Jones '30 Amateur, '30 Open, '30 U.S. Open, '30 U.S. Amateur
  • 2000–01: Tiger Woods '00 U.S. Open, '00 Open, '00 PGA, '01 Masters
  • Three

  • 1877–79: Jamie Anderson '77 Open, '78 Open, '79 Open
  • 1880–82: Bob Ferguson '80 Open, '81 Open, '82 Open
  • Two

    Note: The order in which the majors were contested was inconsistent between 1895 and 1953. Since 1954, the majors have been played in their modern order (Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, PGA), except 1971, when the PGA was played prior to the Masters.

  • 1861–62: Old Tom Morris '61 Open, '62 Open
  • 1894–95: J.H. Taylor '94 Open, '95 Open
  • 1920–21: Jock Hutchison '20 PGA, '21 Open (The Open Championship was the first major contested in 1921)
  • 1921–22: Walter Hagen '21 PGA, '22 Open (The Open Championship was the first major contested in 1922)
  • 1922: Gene Sarazen '22 U.S. Open, '22 PGA
  • 1924: Walter Hagen '24 Open, '24 PGA
  • 1926: Bobby Jones '26 Open, '26 U.S. Open (The Open Championship was played before the U.S. Open in 1926)
  • 1927–28: Walter Hagen '27 PGA, '28 Open (The Open Championship was the first major contested in 1928)
  • 1930–31: Tommy Armour '30 PGA, '31 Open (The Open Championship was the first major contested in 1931)
  • 1932: Gene Sarazen '32 Open, '32 U.S. Open (The Open Championship was the first major contested in 1932, followed by the U.S. Open)
  • 1941: Craig Wood '41 Masters, '41 U.S. Open
  • 1948: Ben Hogan '48 PGA, '48 U.S. Open (The PGA was played between the Masters and U.S. Open in 1948)
  • 1949: Sam Snead '49 Masters, '49 PGA (As in 1948, the '49 PGA was played between the Masters and U.S. Open)
  • 1951: Ben Hogan '51 Masters, '51 U.S. Open
  • 1953: Ben Hogan; '53 Masters, '53 U.S. Open (The 1953 Open Championship, also won by Hogan, was actually concluded only 3 days after '53 PGA)
  • 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 (The 1971 PGA, also won by Nicklaus, was not consecutive due to being played prior to the Masters in 1971)
  • 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
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy '14 Open, '14 PGA
  • 2015: Jordan Spieth '15 Masters, '15 U.S. Open
  • Most runner-up finishes in major championships

    For the purposes of this section a runner-up is defined as someone who either (i) tied for the lead after 72 holes (or 36 holes in the case of the early championships) but lost the playoff or (ii) finished alone or in a tie for second place. In a few instances players have been involved in a playoff for the win or for second place prize money and have ended up taking the third prize (e.g. 1870 Open Championship, 1966 Masters Tournament). These players are still regarded as being runners-up. For match play PGA Championships up to 1957 the runner-up is the losing finalist.

    Along with his record 18 major victories, Jack Nicklaus also holds the record for most runner-up finishes in major championships, with 19, including a record 7 at the Open Championship. Phil Mickelson has the second most with 11 runner-up finishes after the 2016 Open Championship, which includes a record 6 runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, the one major he has never won. Arnold Palmer had 10 second places, including three in the major he never won, the PGA Championship. There have been three golfers with 8 runner-up finishes – Sam Snead, Greg Norman and Tom Watson. Norman shares the distinction of having lost playoffs in each of the four majors with Craig Wood (who lost the 1934 PGA final – at match play – on the second extra hole).

  • Jack Nicklaus: 19 (1960–1983)
  • Phil Mickelson: 11 (1999–2016)
  • Arnold Palmer: 10 (1960–1970)
  • Sam Snead: 8 (1937–1957)
  • Greg Norman: 8 (1984–1996)
  • Tom Watson: 8 (1978–2009)
  • Players with most runner-up finishes but no major victories

  • Colin Montgomerie 5: U.S. Open 1994, 1997, 2006; Open 2005; PGA 1995
  • / Harry Cooper 4: U.S. Open 1927, 1936; Masters 1936, 1938
  • Doug Sanders 4: U.S. Open 1961; Open 1966, 1970; PGA 1959
  • Bruce Crampton 4: Masters 1972; U.S. Open 1972; PGA 1973, 1975
  • Sergio García 4: Open 2007, 2014; PGA 1999, 2008
  • a Crampton was second to Jack Nicklaus on each occasion.


    Men's major golf championships Wikipedia

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