Golf Sport

Major importance

Written by James Potter

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2012 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Boxing, the 100-metre sprint and tennis are all sports that require a man to be at his best. Golf is another sport that leaves a sportsman with nowhere to hide and no one to blame but himself. Let’s have a look at the golfing majors, rate them from four down to one, and see why they represent the holy grail to all professional golfers.

Golf is a tough test of human nature. Golfers may not have the physical attributes typical of a classic power or endurance athlete, but a golfer’s ability to remain composed and stay focused day after day in a wide variety of conditions from pleasant to harsh, is nonpareil. On top of this, the skill set of a professional golfer is second to none. Between the power of the drive and the finesse of the short game lies an endless combination of shots designed to achieve his objective. Which shot to play and when becomes the ultimate challenge, and all this while walking kilometer after kilometer for four days straight. Add to this the changing landscape in which golfers play and you have an emotional and physical nightmare that only the strongest of minds ever come close to mastering. A great golfer is like a great poker player and both admit to never conquering their game, they merely play it better than most.

Golf has some similarities to tennis in that they are both played worldwide and their stars live their lives practicing, playing, travelling and ordering room service. The very best make huge money while thousands of others try to claw their way to the top. Whilst golfers have the advantage of a longer shelf life, golf is a tougher gig. They play for longer, practice longer and the competition is more competitive. A tennis court is a tennis court (though surfaces vary) but each golf course has 18 challenges designed to turn a good day into a disastrous one.

The majors in golf represent the pinnacle of the sport. You can forget about the Ryder Cup or World Match Play events, winning one of the four majors is what the game is all about. It is how champions are compared and remembered. Australian Greg Norman was one of the best golfers to ever play the game but only won two majors. With eight second place finishes, 14 top three and 20 top five finishes, he will always be remembered as a “choker”, unable to get the job done when it mattered. Jack Nicklaus, the “Golden Bear”, won 18 majors and is therefore rightly remembered as the best to ever play the game. That feat may never be challenged. Tiger Woods is currently stuck on an impressive 14 majors but the game is constantly becoming more competitive. Winning multiple majors is much harder than it used to be.

So are all golf majors created equal? In regards to racking up major wins they all count equally, but arguments rage as to which is the most prestigious. Our experts at World Gaming magazine have a view on ranking the four majors, and here it is!

Number 4: The US PGA Championship

This is one you won’t get much argument about. The US PGA is clearly the least important of the majors.

It changes venue each year and is the golf season’s final major. Don’t get us wrong, it’s one hell of a tournament but “glory’s last hope”, as it is affectionately known, will always be just that.

Number 3: The British Open

From here on in, opinion is divided. We are going to reluctantly put the British Open, also known as The Open Championship, in third place. The Open is held on one of nine select links style golf courses on a rotational basis throughout Scotland and England. These include some incredible courses such as Turnberry, Royal Troon, Royal Birkdale and Royal St George’s. Sheets of rain, deep bunkers, huge rolling greens and driving winds make the British Open a truly special tournament and it is an unlucky number three.

Once every five years the British Open is played at The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in Scotland, universally acknowledged as the home of golf itself. If the Open was always played at St Andrews, we might well rank it the most important major of them all.

This is the only major outside the US, which is sad. We would love to see the US PGA replaced with a rotating international tournament. However, America is the new home of golf and that is never going to happen.

Number 2: The US Open

We are going to give the bridesmaid position to the U.S. Open. But for the fact that it is staged on a variety of courses, it could easily come in at number one. There are some great things about this tournament. The fact that anyone can pay their entry fee and try their luck at qualifying makes it truly remarkable. It truly is an open tournament with entry available to any professional, or amateur with an up-to-date United States Golf Association (USGA) handicap index not exceeding 1.4.

Another fantastic aspect of the US Open is that the USGA tries to make it as difficult as possible to win. You don’t see golfers finish at 20 under par in this tournament. Sometimes no player finishes in the red and birdies and eagles are as rare as hens’ teeth. This is a war of attrition. The rough is thick, the holes play long and finishing on top of the leaderboard means passing a true test of golfing savvy and mental toughness. Winners are made here with near faultless golf for 72 holes. Mistakes at the US Open are punished with a severity not seen anywhere else in the game. It is the only major that sees another 18 holes of golf instead of a playoff, in the event the best score at the end of the 72 holes is shared by two or more players.

 Number 1: The US Masters

The US Masters, or simply The Masters, is going to get our tick as the most important golf tournament of them all. The fact this tournament is played at the Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia, every year, over the same 18 holes is something that elevates it above all others. Augusta is a private course that is ruled with an iron fist. It is nearly impossible to get a round there unless you are a pro golfer, a member of the club or maybe a former President of the United States.

Even the caddies have to wear white jump suits to fit in with Augusta National’s conservative traditions. From the dyed blue water and perfect gardens, to the billiard table greens, this is a golfing wonderland.

Winning the Masters means donning the elusive “green jacket”, which is the most coveted possession of any professional golfer. There is an exclusive private dinner held on the Tuesday prior to the tournament, and apart from a couple of board members, this affair is strictly for those who have had the glory of wearing a “green jacket”.

The history, the crowds and the golf all come together to make this not only golf’s greatest tournament, but truly one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. Fans the world over learn the course simply by watching their favorite golfers play the most famous holes golf has to offer. Along with St Andrews this is a golfing mecca and golfing fanatics from across the globe make their pilgrimage to Augusta National, simply to have the honor of walking the hallowed fairways, watching the best in the world strut their stuff.

The unofficial fifth major

The Players Championship held at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) Sawgrass every year has been dubbed the unofficial fifth major. It is played on an incredible golf course that players and spectators have come to love over the years. All the best players in the world consider this the biggest tournament to win outside the majors.

Betting on golf

With such large fields, usually over 100 players, it is difficult to pick the winner of any one particular golf tournament. When betting on golf, either in a single tournament or over the longer term, always consider form. You may also like to pick a young up and coming golfer and place a small wager on him to win every tournament, or every major he plays, throughout a year or even several years. There are good players who never win majors but if you get lucky and your man gets over the line in the first few years you’ll be in for a big payday. Also, researching the course and players whose abilities suit the conditions is advantageous. Sometimes players don’t like windy courses, tough greens or long holes. Finding the right player for the right event will serve you well.

Other golf betting options include:

  • Tournament matchups: you take one golfer to beat another golfer head to head over the whole tournament.
  • Three ball: in the first two days of the tournament, players play in groups of three. You have to pick which player you think will win the threesome on a particular day.
  • Two ball: in the last two days of the tournament, players play in groups of two. You have to pick which player you think will win the head to head battle on a particular day.

Golf is not only a great sport to watch and bet on, it is also a great game to play if you don’t take yourself too seriously. World Gaming magazine will continue to bring you as much golf news as possible from Asia and the rest of the golfing world. Keep an eye on our website for red hot tips on which golfers we think represent good betting value.