The PGA Championship (sometimes referred to as the U.S. PGA Championship outside of the United States) is an annual golf tournament conducted by the PGA of America as part of the PGA Tour. It is one of the four major championships in men’s professional golf, and is the golf season’s final major, usually played in mid-August, customarily four weeks after The Open Championship. (It was advanced a week in 2007 and 2008 because of local scheduling conflicts.) Due to its distinction as the season’s final major, the PGA Championship is nicknamed “Glory’s Last Shot”. It is an official money event on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Japan Golf Tour, with a purse of $7.5 million in 2008.
In line with the other majors, winning “The PGA” gives a golfer several privileges which make his career much more secure, if he is not already one of the elite players of the sport. PGA champions are automatically invited to play in the other three majors (Masters, U.S. Open, and the Open Championship) for the next five years, and are exempt from qualifying for the PGA Championship for life. They also receive membership on the PGA and European Tours for the following five seasons and invitations to The Players Championship for five years. The PGA Championship has been held at a large number of venues, some of the early ones now quite obscure, but currently it is usually staged by one of a small group of celebrated courses, each of which has also hosted several other leading events.
In 1894, with 41 golf courses operating in the United States, two unofficial national championships for amateur golfers were organized. One was held at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island, and the other at St. Andrew’s Golf Club in New York State. In addition, St. Andrew’s conducted an Open championship for professional golfers at the same time as the amateur event. None of these championships were officially sanctioned by any governing body for American golf, and this caused considerable controversy among players and organizers. The controversy led to the formation of the United States Golf Association later in 1894; the USGA became the first formal golf organization in the country. After this, golf quickly became a sport of national popularity and importance.
In February 1916 the Professional Golfers Association of America was established in New York City. One month earlier, the wealthy department store owner Rodman Wanamaker hosted a luncheon at the Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle. This gathering of Wanamaker with the leading golf professionals of the day prepared the agenda for the formal organization of the PGA. The new organization’s first president was Robert White, one of Wykagyl’s best-known golf professionals of the time. Golf historians have dubbed Wykagyl “The Cradle of the PGA”.
The first PGA Championship was held later in 1916 at Siwanoy Country Club in Eastchester, New York. The winner, Jim Barnes, received $500 and a diamond-studded gold medal donated by Rodman Wanamaker. The 2010 winner, Martin Kaymer, earned $1.35 million. The champion is also awarded a replica of the Wanamaker Trophy, which was also donated by Wanamaker, to keep for one year, and a smaller-sized keeper replica Wanamaker Trophy.
Initially a match play event, the tournament was changed to stroke play in 1958. Network television broadcasters, preferring a large group of well-known contenders on the final day, pressured tournament organizers to make the format change.
In 1971, the PGA was played in February in Florida, and was the first major of the calendar year for the only time in its existence. Prior to the 1960s, the tournament was often played in late July, the week following The Open Championship, making it virtually impossible for players to compete in both majors. Since then, better cooperation on schedules between the sport’s governing bodies has solved this. Now, the PGA is normally played in mid-August.
The PGA Championship was established for the purpose of providing a high-profile tournament specifically for professional golfers at a time when they were generally not held in high esteem in a sport that was largely run by wealthy amateurs. This origin is still reflected in the entry system for the Championship. It is the only major which does not explicitly invite leading amateurs to compete (it is possible for amateurs to get into the field, although the only viable way is by winning one of the other major championships), and the only one which reserves a large number of places, 20 of 156, for club professionals. These slots are determined by the top finishers in the club pro championship, which is held in June.
Since 1968, the PGA Tour has been independent of the PGA of America. The PGA Tour is an elite organization of tournament professionals, but the PGA Championship is still run by the PGA of America, which is mainly a body for club and teaching professionals. The PGA Championship is the only major that does not explicitly grant entry to the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings, although it invariably invites all of the top 100 (not just top 50) players who are not already qualified.
List of qualification criteria as of 2010:
* All former PGA Champions.
* Winners of the last five U.S. Opens.
* Winners of the last five Masters.
* Winners of the last five Open Championships.
* The last Senior PGA Champion.
* The low 15 scorers and ties in the previous PGA Championship.
* The 20 low scorers in the last PGA Professional National Championship.
* The 70 leaders in official money standings on the PGA Tour (starting one week prior to the previous year’s PGA Championship and ending two weeks prior to the current year’s PGA Championship).
* Members of the most recent United States and European Ryder Cup Teams, provided they are in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings as of one week before the start of the tournament.
* Winners of tournaments co-sponsored or approved by the PGA Tour since the previous PGA Championship (does not include pro-am and team competitions, but does include alternate events).
* The PGA of America reserves the right to invite additional players not included in the categories listed above.
* The total field is a maximum of 156 players. Vacancies are filled by the first available player from the list of alternates (those below 70th place in official money standings).