History of the PGA Championship

History of the PGA Championship

The PGA Championship makes the switch from August to May for its 101st edition and so becomes the second Major of the season. It’s 70 years since the tournament was played in the springtime and this year the PGA tees off on the 13th May.

For 2019, the Championship heads for the Black course at Bethpage State Park on Long Island, New York. The tournament tends to stick to the eastern side of the United States. It hasn’t ventured west since 1998 and has only ever headed in that direction on 10 occasions.

With a history like no other Major, the PGA Championship has undergone plenty of changes since it was established in 1916. Always dramatic, and often unpredictable, the PGA setup tends to produce low scores which allow the big names of the game to dominate.

Recent years have seen some seriously low numbers, none more so than the 264 shot by Brooks Koepka at last year’s event at Bellerive Country Club. That figure equalled the record for low scores at a Major tournament. For golf betting on this year’s PGA Championship, simply head over to Bet UK’s online betting. Also check out Robert Cobley's PGA Championship betting tips for his thoughts on this years event.

Origins of the PGA Championship

With interest in golf growing in the early years of the 20th Century, influential department store owner Rodman Wanamaker invited a group of professional and amateur golfers to a lunch meeting in January 1916 to discuss the possibility of forming a professional golfer’s association.

A series of further meetings followed and in April 2016, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) was officially established. Wanamaker had many varied interests including athletics, the arts and he funded early expeditions to the North Pole.

Wanamaker could see the merchandising potential in the establishment of a professional golf organisation with a showpiece tournament to boost its standing. With one eye on boosting sales of endorsed golf clubs at his New York store, Wanamaker donated a trophy and an initial prize purse of $2,580 to help establish the inaugural PGA Championship which took place in October 1916.

The man behind the Championship died the following year but his contribution remains valid today. The winner of the annual tournament still lifts the silver Wanamaker Trophy, which at 27 pounds is one of the largest in golf.

The Match-Play Years

The PGA Championship began life as a match-play tournament and remained so until 1958. Englishman Jim Barnes won the inaugural tournament held at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. Since then, British-born players have only won the PGA on a further six occasions.

As the tournament gained prestige, one man would truly stamp his mark on the PGA Championships during the 1920s. Between 1921 and 1927, American Walter Hagen won the event five times. During that period, Hagen won a staggering 31 of 32 matches in the championship. Hagen transformed the fortunes of professional golfers who had previously been viewed with derision by the amateurs who had until then dominated the game.

In truth, those years were the golden age of the match-play PGA Championship. By the 1950s, the tournament’s place in the calendar was being regularly moved and when the 1957 edition lost money, the decision was taken to change from match to medal play.

At the time, the PGA was the only professional match-play tournament in America. But with the format increasingly unpopular among the players of the day and with losses amounting to more than the winner, Lionel Hebert, took home, the 1958 PGA Championships ushered in today’s stroke-play era.

The Stroke-Play Era Facts & Figures

Jack Nicklaus equalled the record of Walter Hogan when he claimed his fifth PGA Championship in 1980. The Golden Bear could have demolished that record with a touch more luck. He finished runner-up on a further four occasions and posted top-three finishes a further 12 times. Nicklaus has played more rounds in the tournament than anyone else with 128 outings.

Only four golfers have led from start to finish of the four days play in the PGA Championship. Tiger Woods achieved it in 2000 to equal the feats of Bobby Nichols in 1964, Raymond Floyd in 1969 and 1982 and Hal Sutton in 1983.

Rory McIlroy holds the record for the largest winning margin. The Northern Irishman finished eight shots ahead of the rest of the field in the first of his two PGA Championship victories in 2012.

McIlroy was aged just 22 at the time, though he was still a couple of years older than the youngest ever winner - Gene Sarazen who took the title in 1922 at the age of 20 years, 5 months and 22 days.

The biggest comeback in PGA history came in 1978 when John Mahaffey came back from seven shots down to Tom Watson and force a play-off which he eventually won.

Tiger Woods is the only golfer to have won the PGA Championship in successive years in stroke play. Woods achieved it twice and this year will be aiming to add a 16th career Major to his record. If he did so, Woods would remain on course for a 2019 Grand Slam following his stunning win at the Masters in April. No one has ever achieved a modern era Grand Slam, though Woods has held each Major title consecutively - just not in the same calendar year. Could he be the one to finally grab all four Majors in a single year?

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