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Should the PGA Championship Return to a Match Play Format?

The identity of the PGA Championship is sometimes questioned, but its founding was undoubtedly unique.

The identity of the PGA Championship is sometimes questioned, but its founding was undoubtedly unique.

By Liam Driscoll. Follow Liam on Twitter.

As players and leaders begin to tee off this Sunday at the 105th PGA Championship at the illustrious Oak Hill East Course, the age old conversation has come up yet again, as it does every year: What is the identity of the PGA Championship?

The fifth Beatle, the PGA Championship doesn’t lay claim to the pristine conditioning and tradition we see at Augusta, nor does it lay claim to the history that shrouds The Open. This week, it’s looked a lot like the US Open, with a high cut line, some revealing hot mics, and tucked pins. Though It’s unlikely that title changes hands any time soon. 

However, it’s still a major, which you could argue is identity enough. But for those still craving some unique calling card, the PGA Championship does maintain an ace up the sleeve. When the PGA Championship started in October of 1916, it was held as a match play tournament and stayed that way for more than 40 years.

The inaugural competition was hosted at the Donald Ross designed Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. Nine-time major winner* Jim Barnes took home the title, the $500 dollar prize, and a gold medal donated by none other than department store owner Rodman Wanamaker. Sound familiar? Well, it should. Not only does the PGA Championship trophy bear his namesake, but earlier that year in 1916, Wanamaker hosted a preeminent class of professional golfers in the United States at Wykagyl Country Club, outside of New York City. There, the seeds were sown for what would become the Professional Golfers Association of America - otherwise known as the PGA.

So the initial championship that followed in October of the same year can largely be attributed to his efforts, as well as those of the accompanying professionals. The tournament itself is a reflection of a ubiquitous interest to establish additional avenues for top-tier competition. The USGA had already been established, and the US Open was already a major, and obviously the Open Championship. Additionally, the Western Open and North and South Open were also considered majors, hence Jim Barnes nine total.

Match Play

A quick synopsis taken from the USGA on match play for those that might not be familiar or might not belong to a  club that hosts a match play championship every year.

A summary of match play rules from the USGA:

“Match play is a form of play where a player (or players) plays directly against an opponent (or opponents) in a head-to-head match. You win a hole by completing it in the fewest number of strokes, and you win a match when you are winning by more holes than remain to be played. You (or your opponent) may concede a stroke, a hole, or even the match to each other. If your next stroke has been conceded, you are permitted to putt out, unless this will help your partner (for example, by showing them the line for their putt).

If you are unsure how to proceed, you and your opponent can agree on a course of action even if it is against the Rules, but you are not allowed to mutually agree to ignore a Rule or penalty. If you and your opponent don’t agree on how to proceed, you should do what you think is correct. Your opponent can then make a request for a ruling, which will later be decided by the Committee. In match play, you are not required to keep a scorecard – scorecards are only required in stroke play.”

Keen to play? Well lucky you. Of the many games hosted through Leaderboard, match play is one of them, and scoring and payouts are done through the platform. 

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