Unlike baseball, football and basketball, in which the most important events come at the conclusion of the season, professional golf's four crowning events are held in the spring and summer. Any golfer who can win one of the sport's major championships is assured that his feat will be remembered.
The Masters is the first major championship of the PGA Tour season. Held early in April, it has been played at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia since 1934. The legendary golfer Bobby Jones, who helped design the course, was one of the co-founders of the event, which awards a coveted green jacket to the winner each year. Horton Smith won the inaugural tournament; Jack Nicklaus won the event six times and, as of 2011, Tiger Woods has four Masters victories. Augusta National is perhaps best known for Amen Corner, a beautiful sequence of three difficult holes -- the 11th, 12th and 13th -- which play a major role in determining the champion.
U.S. Open Championship
Scheduled so the final round falls on the third Sunday in June, the U.S. Open is conducted by the United States Golf Association. Three of the event's traditional tournament sites are Pebble Beach, Congressional Country Club and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island. The U.S. Open has been held since 1895. It has four four-time winners, including Nicklaus. Woods has won it three times, as of the date of publication. Amateur and many professional golfers have to survive local and sectional qualifying rounds to play in the event. U.S. Open conditions are typically difficult, with the fairways cut narrow and the rough grown long.
The Open Championship
The Open Championship is the formal name of golf's third major; in the United States it is called the British Open. The British Open takes place the third week of July and is the lone PGA Tour major to be played outside the U.S. The Open Championship's location, which has moved around since the first event in 1860, takes place at one of nine different courses in England and Scotland. Harry Vardon won six British Opens between 1896 and 1914. More recently, Tom Watson won five titles from 1975 to 1983. The Open is often notable for its challenging weather conditions, including heavy winds and rain.
Although its name might seem to indicate it is the most celebrated of the majors, the PGA Championship is mainly known for being the season's final major. The event is run by the PGA of America and held in August, typically four weeks after the British Open; it is played at a different venue every year. The first PGA Championship was played in 1958. Nicklaus won five PGA Championships in his career. Any golfer who wins the first three majors of the year wins the Grand Slam if he can claim the PGA Championship.