In professional men's golf, the four most prestigious tournaments are known as the major championships. Prior to the founding of the Masters Tournament, the four majors were considered the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, the Open Championship and the British Amateur. Now, the Masters and the PGA Championship have replaced the U.S. and British Amateurs as the other two majors. This change began in the mid-1930s with the founding of the Masters Tournament and eventually took place at some point after the rise of professional golf following World War II.
4. Masters Tournament
The Masters Tournament was established in 1934. Despite being the youngest event, the tournament and its golf course have become one of the most iconic venues in all of sports. Following his retirement from golf, Bobby Jones (1902-71) created Augusta National with the help of investment banker Clifford Roberts (1894-1977) and golf course architect Alister MacKenzie (1870-1934). The event is organized by the Augusta National Golf Club.
Unlike the other majors it is always played at the Augusta National Course every year, where each hole has its own unique name. Besides this, Augusta is also well known for the green jacket that the winner receives, along with the tradition of the previous year's winner putting it one the current winner at the end of the event. The winner also receives a gold medal, while the lowest scoring amateur golfer to make the cut being given the Silver Cup. There are also has a number of other notable traditions like the Champions' Dinner, the Par-3 contest, and the ceremonial opening tee shot.
The first tournament was won by American Horton Smith (1908-63), with the most recent winner being Spaniard Sergio Garcia. Jack Nicklaus has won the most Masters, winning the iconic green jacket six times between 1963 and 1986. Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth both hold the record for the lowest aggregate score (270) and the lowest score to par at the event (-18 under), which they did in 1997 and 2015. In 1997, Woods also set the record for largest margin of victory, having won by 12 strokes.
3. U.S. Open
The U.S. Open was established in 1895. It is played on a variety of golf courses across the United States each year and is renowned for being the most difficult of the four majors in terms of scoring difficulty. It is one of two majors organized by the United States Golf Association (USGA), along with the PGA Championship.
The event is scheduled to take play in mid-June and so that the final round is played on Father's Day. Another unique aspect of the U.S. Open is that it is the only major to have a full 18-hole playoff. Winners of the event are rewarded with the U.S. Open Trophy, which has been awarded since the founding of the tournament. Like the Claret Jug, the winner gets to keep the trophy for a full year before they have to return it before the start of next year's event.
The first winner of the event was England's Horace Rawlins (1874-1935), with the most recent being American Brooks Koepka. Scotsman Willie Anderson (1879-1910) and Americans Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan (1912-1997) and Jack Nicklaus have won the most U.S. Open titles, as they have hosted the U.S. Open trophy four times each. Rory McIIroy set the record for the lowest aggregate score at the event with a 268 in 2011. He is also tied with Brooks Koepka for having the lowest score to par at -16 under, which they set in 2011 and 2017 respectively. Tiger Woods holds the record for largest margin of victory, having won by 15 strokes in 2000.
2. The Open Championship
The Open Championship, which is also known as the British Open, is the oldest of the four major championships. It was established in 1860 and is held in the United Kingdom. Currently, the major is administered by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (The R&A) and is the only one played outside of America. The event now rotates between 10 courses located in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
One of the best know traditions of The Open Championship is that the winner receives The Golf Championship Trophy, commonly known as the Claret Jug, which was first introduced in 1872. The winner is also bestowed with the gold medal, with the leading amateur to make the final cut is given the silver medal. All other amateurs who make the final cut receives bronze medals.
The first winner of the event was Scottish golfer William Park Sr. (1833-1903), with the most recent being American Jordan Spieth. Jerseyman Harry Vardon (1870-1937) has won the most Open Championships, winning the Claret Jug six times between 1896 and 1914. Henrik Stenson holds the record for the lowest aggregate score and lowest score to par at 264 and -20 under par respectively. Tom Morris Sr. holds the record for largest margin of victory, having won by 13 strokes in 1862.
1. PGA Championship
The PGA Championship was established in 1916, the same year that the Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) was established. Winners of the event receive the Wanamaker trophy, which is named after department store owner Rodman Wanamaker (1863-1928). He hosted the luncheon where attendees helped to set up the agenda for the PGA and was a patron of the sport. Up until 1958, the PGA was played as a match play event until the decision was made to change to standard stroke play since the tournament was losing money and players preferred the other format.
The first winner of the event was Englishman Jim Barnes and the most recent winner is American Justin Thomas. Americans Walter Hagen (1892-1969) and Jack Nicklaus have hosted the most Wanamaker trophies, having both won the event five times. David Toms set the record for the lowest aggregate score at the event with a 265 in 2001, while Jason Day set the record for lowest score to par at -20 under. Rory Mcllory holds the record for largest margin of victory, having won by eight strokes in 2012.