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Trip abroad might help PGA's appeal
Ask a golfer which major he yearns to win most, and there’s only one certainty.
Not one of them will say the PGA Championship.
“Even guys whose only major victory came at a PGA aren't likely to say it,” former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy once wrote.
Though all four majors count the same when careers are measured, the last on the calendar is also the least among equals.
The Masters may be the youngest, but it has become the one that glitters most — certainly, if television ratings are any indication.
There are many reasons for the eminence of the Masters, from the links to Bobby Jones to the quality of the champions, the spellbinding beauty of Augusta National to the fact that it announces the new golf season.
The year’s second major, the United States Open, stands alone.
Holding that trophy aloft is the dream of every American golfer.
“It’s our national Open,” says Tiger Woods.
It’s special because it’s played on the greatest courses and boasts a rich history and proud tradition.
Ask Phil Mickelson — along with Sam Snead the only great American player never to have won one — what he’d give for a US Open after he finished second for a record sixth time at Merion.
The British Open is the auldest of championships and, to many born outside the US, the grandest.
Adam Scott isn’t giving back his green jacket now that he has become the first Australian to win a Masters, but what he most covets next is a claret jug.
“I think it’s the greatest tournament in the world,” he said. “I like that it’s on a links course; it’s completely different to everything we do over here. It’s the history of the game.
“I just think it’s so unique. I love that it’s called The Open Championship. It’s more open than ever.
“You had (Greg) Norman (challenging) in ‘08, (Tom) Watson at Turnberry (in ’09) and Darren (Clarke) coming back to make his dream come true in 2011.
“It’s really maybe the fairest of them all. The atmosphere is just like nowhere else.”
Mickelson would attest to all of that, too, after his breathtaking July win at Muirfield in the major they said he couldn’t win.
Which leaves the PGA.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the year’s final major other than it just pales by comparison.
It doesn’t have the same history or panache, nor has it really established its identity.
Until 1958, it was a match-play tournament — there are those who think it should be again — and at various stages has tried to be a junior US Open, but the truth is that it’s most often like a PGA Tour event.
Which is to say: not very special.
Its venues are too often hit-or-miss; for every Winged Foot or Oak Hill or Southern Hills there’s a tricked-up Kiawah Island or Whistling Straits or uninspiring tracks like Valhalla and Hazeltine that were clearly picked with money, not aesthetics, in mind.
And, it has to be said, the PGA throws up more unfashionable winners, from Grady to Beem, Brooks to Micheel and Sluman to Tway.
The PGA of America, which runs the championship, has always looked for ways to make it better.
It just might have stumbled on one.
According to a report in Golf Digest magazine, the PGA is considering playing the tournament on foreign soil.
The sites have been set until 2019 — when it will be played at New York’s famous Bethpage Black municipal course — but after that, it could move outside of the US, at least a few times a decade.
PGA of America chief executive Pete Bevacqua told Golf Digest that “many pieces would have to fall into place” for the move to happen, but it’s significant that he also said his organization “need to push ourselves to think outside the box."
"What I have said internally is, 'Shame on us if we don't consider it and go through the exercise,' " Bevacqua said.
It’s a radical idea . . . but the right one.
Given the geopolitical realities of the 21st century, it’s beyond small-minded to think that three of the four golf majors should still be held in the US.
Just like the Giants and Dodgers had to leave New York for greener pastures, so should the PGA.
The logical destination is into Asia, where golf’s growing in leaps and bounds. It could also go to Europe, though the Southern Hemisphere would be problematic in August.
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