The Masters Tournament, also known as The Masters (sometimes referred to as The U.S. Masters outside of the United States) is scheduled for the first full week of April, it is the first of the majors to be played each year. Unlike the other major championships, the Masters is held each year at the same location, Augusta National Golf Club, a private golf club in the city of Augusta, Georgia, USA. The Masters was started by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, who designed Augusta National with course architect Alister MacKenzie. The tournament is an official money event on the PGA Tour, the PGA European Tour, and the Japan Golf Tour. The field of players is smaller than those of the other major championships because it is an invitational event, entry being controlled by the Augusta National Golf Club.
The tournament has a number of traditions. A green jacket is awarded to the winner of each tournament, which must be returned to the clubhouse after a year. The Champions dinner, inaugurated by Ben Hogan, is held on the Tuesday before each tournament, and is only open to past champions and certain board members of the Augusta National Golf Club. Beginning in 1963, legendary golfers, usually past champions, have hit an honorary tee shot on the morning of the first round. Such golfers have included Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. Since 1960, a semi-social Par 3 Contest, on a par-3 course on Augusta National's grounds, has been played on the day before the first round of each Masters Tournament.
The United States Open Championship, commonly known as the U.S. Open, is the annual open golf tournament of the United States. It is the second of the four major championships in golf and is on the official schedule of both the PGA Tour and the European Tour. It is staged by the United States Golf Association (USGA) in mid-June, scheduled so that, if there are no weather delays, the final round is played on the third Sunday, which is Father's Day. Since 2008, it has also been an official money event on the Asian Tour, with 50% of Asian Tour members' earnings counting towards the Order of Merit.
The U.S. Open is staged at a variety of courses, set up in such a way that scoring is very difficult with a premium placed on accurate driving. U.S. Open play is characterized by tight scoring at or around par by the leaders, with the winner emerging at around even par.
A U.S. Open course is seldom beaten severely, and there have been many over-par wins . Normally, an Open course is quite long and will have a high cut of primary rough, hilly greens and pinched fairways. Some courses that are attempting to get into the rotation for the U.S. Open will undergo renovations to have these features. Rees Jones is the most notable of the "Open Doctors" who take on these projects. As with any professional golf tournament, the available space surrounding the course (for spectators, among other considerations) and local infrastructure also factor into deciding which courses will host the event.
The U.S. Open is the only one of the four major championships which does not go immediately to a playoff if two or more players are tied at the end of the four rounds. Instead, the players play a fifth 18-hole round the following day (Monday), but if a tie still exists after the round, then a sudden death playoff is held. Only three times has the U.S. Open gone to sudden death after the playoff round, most recently in 2008 when Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate on the first playoff hole.
The Open Championship
The Open Championship, or simply The Open (often referred to as the British Open outside the UK), is the oldest of the four major championships in professional golf. It is the only "major" held outside the USA and is administered by The R&A, which is the governing body of golf outside the USA and Mexico. The Open is played on the weekend of the third Friday in July. It is the third major to take place each year, following The Masters and the U.S. Open, but before the PGA Championship.
The event takes place every year on one of nine historic links courses in Scotland or England (the event has been held once in Northern Ireland, but Royal Portrush is no longer on the rotation). In 2010, The Open will have a prize fund of £4.8 million, with £850,000 going to the winner, an increase of £100,000 over the previous three years.
Historically, The Open's prize money was consistently the least of the four majors; but from 2002 to 2008 it was the highest. Uniquely among the four major championships, the Open features a four-hole playoff for all golfers tied at the end of regulation, with the playoff continuing into sudden death holes if players remain tied after four holes.
The USPGA Championship
The PGA Championship (sometimes referred to as the U.S. PGA Championship outside of the United States) is an annual golf tournament conducted by the PGA of America as part of the PGA Tour. It is the golf season's final major, usually played in mid-August (customarily four weeks after The Open Championship, but it was advanced a week in 2007 and 2008 because of local scheduling conflicts). Due to its distinction as the season's final major, the PGA Championship is nicknamed "Glory's last shot". It is an official money event on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Japan Golf Tour, with a purse of $7.5 million in 2008.
In line with the other majors, winning "The PGA" gives a golfer several privileges which make his career much more secure, if he is not already one of the elite players of the sport. PGA champions are automatically invited to play in the other three majors (Masters, U.S. Open, and the Open Championship) for the next five years, and are exempt from qualifying for the PGA Championship for life. They also receive membership on the PGA Tour for the following five seasons and invitations to The Players Championship for five years.
The PGA Championship has been held at a large number of venues, some of the early ones now quite obscure, but currently it is usually staged by one of a small group of celebrated courses, each of which has also hosted several other leading events.