COMMENTARY -- The PGA Championship lacks an identity -- a good one, at least.
It's the last major.
Frankly, it's the least coveted, though that's like saying Kathy Ireland is the worst the of super 1994 Sports Illustrated "Swimsuit Issue" cover with Rachel Hunter and Elle MacPherson. (DYK: She was pregnant for that shoot.)
It used to be Glory's Last Shot, but the PGA Tour took that away from the PGA of America in exchange for a better Ryder Cup date.
Now it's the major with the most commercials.
Yes, it has the strongest field, boasting more of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking than any of the four majors.
Kerry Haigh sets up the PGA Championship venues arguably more fairly than any of his major peers, but that just means it seems more vanilla, like a regular PGA Tour event.
The PGA Championship, at long last, may have found its identity -- by taking it from the Open Championship.
The R&A's gem is thought of as the "world's major" because it's the only one of the four played outside of the borders of the U.S. of A. Yeah, it's only played in England or Scotland (though Wales might be coming), but that doesn't stop the Brits and others from flaunting its international flavor.
If the PGA Championship could go a step further and take major championship golf to places it has never been -- S. Africa, Australia, China, India, Japan, you name it -- then the PGA of America will be seen as the truly global major. The PGA of America will be golf imperialists, in a good way, by putting the Wanamaker on the line in some of the most amazing golf destinations on Earth, often hidden because of the hyper-focus on American golf.
Imagine a major at Royal Melbourne. How about at Fancourt? Mission Hills? Pick a spot in Korea. Dubai would be more than happy to host. (They wanted to host the '18 Ryder Cup despite the notable handicap of not even being in Europe.)
The venues would be spectacular. The economic impact would be incredible. The opportunity to grow the game in the areas where the PGA Championship would travel could be not be understated.
I'm starting to sound like Donald Trump talking about Ferry Point, but I digress.
The PGA Championship, held abroad once or twice every decade, could do for golf what the sport's visionaries say the Olympics will do for the game. However, golf will be just one sport in a loaded two-week program in the Olympics. Taking the PGA Championship to new and comparatively exotic locations (sorry, Kohler, Wisc.) will afford a global audience the opportunity to see major championship golf on the most spectacular stages architects have ever conjured. There can be a sense of pride in hosting this prestigious championship in their home country.
Surely, the PGA of America would benefit as well from ensuing bidding wars between countries angling to host the PGA Championship. It increases the brand awareness of the PGA of America around the world, helping to put it on standing it deserves, closer to the governing bodies of the USGA and R&A, as well the game's de facto governing body, Augusta National Golf Club.
Of course, critics of the idea -- which is still a long way from reality -- get hung up on the fact that the PGA of America would be taking a championship outside of their jurisdiction, so to speak. Extradition is a great option, particularly in this case. It affords the PGA of America to go wherever they're wanted and needed to grow the game and the economy. The PGA of America can team up with the lesser-known-and-appreciated PGAs around the world to present the championship. A body that represents the hard-working people proselytizing about golf on a daily basis can spread its gospel to other parts of the world. It all sounds good to me.
There would be logistical hurdles, no doubt. The date of the PGA Championship might have to float, especially when the Wanamaker is up for grabs in the Southern Hemisphere. The tournament would not always air at times convenient to American audiences, but, then again, people get up in droves at 4 a.m. to watch the Open Championship. Depending on how you see it, keeping 20 spots reserved for PGA of America professionals in an international championship might be odd.
Nevertheless, the benefits of a more worldly PGA Championship far outweigh the challenges and inconveniences. And don't worry about the Open Championship. They can still be the links major, the oldest major and the British major.
Consider a foreign PGA Championship like that semester you spent abroad in college. Some weird stuff is bound to happen. Occasional follies will make you feel like you suffer from Ugly American Syndrome. But, man, it was the best time of your life. And it made you miss home, sweet home so much more.
THAT WAS FUN, RIGHT?!
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