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A fifth major? No thanks - send the PGA global

Alex Perry
October 25, 2013
Could Rory McIlroy one day lift the PGA Championship in another country? © Getty Images
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Musing ahead of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, Phil Mickelson said: "Fifty years from now, World Golf Championship titles will have much the same level of prestige as the four majors."

Of course, the Open champion was merely humouring his Chinese hosts - but it reiterates Asia's desire to one day hold a major. Lee Westwood has come out and suggested the addition of a fifth major to the calendar - well he would, wouldn't he? - but that won't sit well with the stonewall traditionalists.

Anyway, the answer has already been discussed.

Speaking to Golf World magazine, the PGA of America's chief executive Pete Bevacqua said: "It is far from a fait accompli that we are going to take the PGA Championship international. This is an exercise we are going through; an analysis.

"When we sat down to map our strategic plan, the question arose as to what impact it would have to take the PGA Championship to an international location once or twice a decade.

"It would be something we would only do if we had the co-operation of quite a few groups. We would want the international PGAs to be a part of this and share in this. Many pieces would have to fall in place."

Taking the PGA Championship global would be a stroke of genius. And if it works out, here's hoping it becomes a permanent fixture.

Future PGA Championship sites

The Wanamaker Trophy © Getty Images
  • 2014: Valhalla, Louisville, Kentucky
  • 2015: Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin
  • 2016: Baltusrol, Springfield, New Jersey
  • 2017: Quail Hollow, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • 2018: Bellerive, St Louis, Missouri
  • 2019: Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, New York
  • 2020: Australia? Europe? Asia?

Ask any golfer in the world which of the four major championships they want to win most and the PGA is never one that crops up. Never. In fact, I would wager a hefty sum that it ranks fourth in almost all answers.

Who won it in 1995? How about 1999? Or 2004? Did you have to look it up? Me too. But you'll never forget the first winner of the international PGA Championship.

But enough about the multimillionaire players, because it's the fans who would be the real winners here.

With the game becoming increasingly global, it seems an anachronism that three of the four majors are played in the same country.

Other organisations have taken their sports around the world. The NFL is taking advantage of its burgeoning European fan base by holding games at Wembley Stadium, while the 2014 MLB season will start with two games between the LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney. Even NBA chiefs are looking at taking advantage of the European and Asian markets - where basketball is huge.

Hey, we've done it ourselves. Remember the Premier League's mooted '39th Game' causing all kinds of controversy?

There are, of course, stumbling blocks. Host venues and television deals are in place until 2019, so the earliest it could happen is 2020. But the PGA Championship has the chance to do what none of the other majors do. The Masters isn't going to move from Augusta, while the United States Open is, for obvious reasons, not going to head abroad.

And with golf's original major, the Open Championship, traditionally held here in the UK - the Home of Golf - that leaves just one option.

Think about it for a minute: A major championship held in Continental Europe, or Scandinavia, or South America, or Africa.

Or how about Down Under? The PGA of Australia director, Brian Thorburn, has already started selling his country to the idea. "I'm meeting with Pete Bevacqua in a few weeks and I'll certainly make him aware that we'd bust our guts to have a crack at hosting it," he said.

"We've hosted big American events before. We had the Presidents Cup in 2011, and this year the World Cup. Who's to say we can't host a major?"

Who indeed?

And how about here in the UK and Ireland? The current rota of Open Championship venues is, as tradition dictates, primarily saved for links courses. I'm sure the likes of Wentworth, Sunningdale, The Grove et al would love the chance to host the battle for the famous Wanamaker Trophy.

Another benefit would be the date change. Despite having the strongest field from being based on world rankings, it's hard to get motivated for a tournament played in the middle of a packed August where players are turning up exhausted and leaving even more so.

But don't be fooled that the PGA of America are doing this for the fans. They stand to make an absolute busload of cash out of any potential deal. There are some golf-crazy fans in Asia and a lot of money floating around.

How much will the likes of China and Japan be willing to pay to host one of golf's majors? A darn sight more than Valhalla or Whistling Straits.

Bevacqua and the PGA of America may be driven by money in this decision. But who cares? It's for the good of the game.

Golf's governing bodies talk about growing the game around the world. They've already started by getting golf back into the Olympics. What better time to push this on and really make golf a truly global game?

You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexPerryESPN

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