Mike Montana

Your Guide to the PGA Tour Golf Majors

Aug 11
10 minutes

From April through July, PGA Tour golfers and enthusiasts set sights on golf’s most prestigious trophies — the major championships. For tour pros, golf majors can define an entire career. For golf fans, the tournaments create memorable experiences and stories they can tell for a lifetime.

Although the PGA has 47 PGA Tour events yearly, only four carry a woven tapestry of intrigue, history, and prestige. Before the next major season hits, brush up on your knowledge with this interesting guide on golf majors.

A Brief History of PGA Golf Majors

Founded in 1929, the PGA is the governing body for all golf majors. Before that time, pro golf ranks had a more relaxed structure and no defined majors. The U.S. Open — started in 1895 — and the British Open (Open Championship) — established in 1860 — are the only remaining majors from that time period. Despite the PGA Championship’s founding in 1916, it wasn’t an official major for decades.

Until the addition of The Masters in 1934, the four majors of professional golf consisted of the U.S. Open, The British Open, the U.S. Amateur golf tournament, and the Amateur Championship. Some golfers considered the Western Open and the North and South Open as part of the golf majors — creating a six-major golf season.

No one’s quite sure when the expression “golf majors” was founded, but many golf historians point to Arnold Palmer’s 1960 season. After winning the PGA Championship and the Open Championship, he remarked that winning The Masters and the U.S. Open would give him a Grand Slam to equal Bobby Jones’s 1930 feat of winning four majors. Through writers, players, and fans, the quote somehow morphed into “golf majors,” which has stuck for over 60 years.

Today, the Open Championship, U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and The Masters are the pinnacle of golf. Complete with late-hole heroics, epic meltdowns, huge favorites, and massive underdogs, few other tournaments create such a spectacle in the ranks of pro sports.

The 4 Golf Majors on the PGA Tour

For the better half of a century, the four golf majors have defined a person’s season, turning even lackluster performance in other tournaments into a season to remember. So get out the calendar, mark the dates, and prepare for some of the best golf performances you’ll ever see.

The Masters

The Masters Trophy

Date: Weekend ending second Sunday in April

Founded: 1934

Location: Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia, USA

Organizer: Augusta National Golf Club

Trophy Name: The Masters Trophy and the Green Jacket

Total Purse (2023): $18 million

First-Place Prize Money (2023): $3.24 million

Last Winner: Jon Rahm

Most Wins: Jack Nicklaus (6)

The first major of the championship season is none other than The Masters Tournament. Held every year since 1934 aside from its cancellation between 1943 and 1945 during WWII, The Masters is arguably the most prestigious major tournament. With only 90 to 100 golfers invited and a tough road to qualifying, making The Masters cut to the final two days is one of the most difficult feats in the sport.

It’s also the only one of the four majors that take place on the same golf course each year. And finally, it has one of the most memorable prizes in all of sports — the Green Jacket.

The PGA Championship

The Wanamaker Trophy

Date: Weekend before Memorial Day weekend

Founded: 1916

Location: Various

Organizer: PGA of America

Trophy Name: The Wanamaker Trophy

Total Purse (2023): $17.5 million

First-Place Prize Money (2023): $3.15 million

Last Winner: Brooks Koepka

Most Wins: Jack Nicklaus, Walter Hagen (5)

Traditionally played on the East Coast — although it moved to Oak Hill Country Club in Los Angeles in 2023 — the PGA Championship is another one of the most notable events in golf. First held in 1916, original winner Jim Barnes was given $500 and a diamond-studded gold medal — a far cry from the $3 million the winner gets today.

The tournament rotates between qualifying courses but rest assured, that course will have fast greens, thick roughs, and plenty of hazards to test golfers. It’s also the only tournament that doesn’t allow top amateur golfers to compete unless they get a sponsor’s exemption — making it second only to The Masters in terms of the quality of the golf.

The U.S. Open

The US Open Golf Trophy

Date: Weekend ending third Sunday in June, Father’s Day weekend

Founded: 1895

Location: Various

Organizer: United States Golf Association (USGA)

Trophy Name: The U.S. Open Trophy

Total Purse (2023): $20 million

First-Place Prize Money (2023): $3.6 million

Last Winner: Wyndham Clark

Most Wins: Jack Nicklaus, Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan (4)

Blending professionals and amateurs, the U.S. Open is one of the most exciting events in major sports. Allowing any amateur with a golf handicap of 1.4 or less to participate, the tournament is the proverbial David vs. Goliath tournament, rivaled perhaps only by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

First played in 1895, it’s the oldest major in America — and interestingly enough — been dominated by American players. With 85 American winners and only 34 foreign winners, it’s the tournament most won by American golfers.

The Open Championship (The British Open)

The Claret Jug

Date: Week containing the third Friday in July

Founded: 1860

Location: Select links courses in Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland, but most famously, St. Andrews — the oldest golf course in the world

Organizer: The R&A

Trophy Name: The Claret Jug

Total Purse (2023): $16.5 million

First-Place Prize Money (2023): $3 million

Last Winner: Brian Harman

Most Wins: Harry Vardon (6)

The oldest tournament among the four majors and the only one on European soil, The Open Championship is a unique event compared to the other three tournaments. Beyond geography, its rotation of famous golf resorts and courses — St. Andrews, Royal Liverpool, Royal Troon, and others — ensure a mix of history and difficulty for participants.

First played in 1860, the Open Championship is the oldest golf tournament in the world and presents a number of challenges. Contrary to the other majors, players in The Open must deal with swift, gusting, and changing winds, as well as far slower greens that require a different approach to putting — or even a different putter altogether.

The LPGA Golf Majors

The list of LPGA is similar to the PGA Tour, sharing the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. However, the women’s game doesn’t have a version of The Masters — but it does include two other majors not on the men’s circuit and five majors in total. Here’s a quick glance at the two other tournaments that feature one-of-a-kind challenges for the best female golfers in the world.

The Chevron Championship

The Chevron Championship Trophy

Date: Late March or Early April

Founded: 1972, became a major in 1983

Location: The Club at Carlton Woods, The Woodlands, Texas, USA

Organizer: Endeavor Group and IMG

Trophy Name: The Dinah Shore Trophy

Total Purse (2023): $5.1 million

First-Place Prize Money (2023): $765,000

Last Winner: Lilia Vu

Founded by actress Dinah Shore and the president of Colgate-Palmolive, The Chevron Championship became the fourth golf major on the LPGA tour in 1983. Originally in a 54-hole format, it was known as the “richest” of ladies’ golf majors, doubling the prize money compared to the U.S. Women’s Open and the LPGA Championship. And although it was held at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, the tournament moved to Texas in 2023, where it’s slated to remain for the near future.

In 1988, winner Amy Alcott jumped into “Poppie’s Pond” on the 18th hole, a tradition that’s still observed by winners today — albeit into a different body of water due to the change in location.

The Evian Championship

The Evian Championship Trophy

Date: Late July

Founded: 1994

Location: Evian Resort Golf Club, Evian-les-Bains, Haute-Savoie, France

Organizer: Amundi

Trophy Name: Evian Championship Trophy

Total Purse (2023): $6.5 million

First-Place Prize Money (2023): $1 million

Last Winner: Celine Boutier

The Evian Championship is often described as the most frustrating major in golf. Criticized by designers, the course is said to have fundamental flaws, which result in horrific results — even for great shots. Despite the characteristics of the course, the winner of the Evian Championship has historically shot far below par — including a course-record -21 shot by winner Chun In-Gee in 2016.

Despite the growing popularity in golf, it’s the only major held on the European mainland, which may have given French winner Celine Boutier an edge in the 2023 tourney.

Trivial (Yet Interesting) Tidbits About Golf Majors

Any golfer who wins a major golf championship has achieved something few others have. However, within the annals of these tournaments, you can find even more interesting facts that go far beyond the tournament itself. Here are some trivial tidbits you can use to dominate the next pub trivia or impress your friends.

  • Only five professional golfers have won all four major titles: Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.
  • Only Karrie Webb has won all five LPGA majors — also known as the Super Grand Slam.
  • In 1930, Bobby Jones won all four majors in one season — the only one to accomplish this feat.
  • The most playoff holes in golf major history occurred at the 1931 U.S. Open when Billy Burke defeated George Von Elm after 72 holes.
  • Jack Nicklaus played in a record 146 consecutive major championships between 1962 and 1998.
  • Golf caddies at The Masters must wear a uniform — the only PGA tournament that mandates one.
  • Despite confusion due to their names and prestige, The Players Championship and the Ryder Cup are not one of the four majors.
  • Ben Curtis was ranked #396 when he won the 2003 Open Championship — the lowest ranking for any major champion.
  • Tiger Woods is the youngest golf major winner in the modern era when he won the Green Jacket at the 1997 Masters at the age of 21 years, 3 months, 14 days.
  • Only five lefties have won a major championship — Sir Bob Charles, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and Brian Harman.
  • The PGA Championship is the only non-invitational golf major, inviting all golfers on the PGA Tour.

How To Enjoy One (or All) of the Golf Majors Yourself

If you’re going to a golf bachelor party or you just want to experience one of the most exciting sporting events in the world, prepare yourself to dole out a pretty penny or enter a ticket lottery. Tickets to The Masters have gone as high as $10,000, while other tournaments can easily set you back a few hundred bucks. But with careful planning and patience, you can experience one of these golf majors for yourself.

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