by Jeff Skinner
History measures golfers by the number of major championships won. Win a few majors and history will remember you well. No other measure can define a golfer’s career as the majors do. But lately the World Golf Championships are certainly playing a more important part in determining the status of golfers.
Years ago Greg Norman tried to lead a mutiny against the PGA Tour and form a world golf tour. Norman’s efforts were rebuffed but the WGC’s are a direct result of his work. Today’s WGC events represent a group of tournaments that are a step above those regular weekly events on the PGA and European Tours. They are not quite majors but these stops along with The Players Championship represent the second tier of important tournaments in golf.
Doug Ferguson has an in depth look at the WGC’s and he references Paul Azinger on what makes golfers choke. “Paul Azinger is famous for saying cash and prestige are the only things that made him choke. The WGCs are heavy on cash.” He right, the WGC’s are cash cows for the players. First of all there are no cuts. Show up, hit one shot and you cash a check. But if you win get ready for a hefty check, $1.4 million for three WGC’s and $1.2 for another.
That’s three to four hundred thousand more bills to the winner than the average PGA Tour event. The Players Championship is the richest winners share with $1.71 million, followed by the Open Championship with $1.452 million. The PGA Championship is next at $1.445 with The U.S. Open and The Masters awarding $1.44 million. If it’s cash that makes a player choke like Azinger says there’s plenty here to make them gag.
The WGC’s get very good fields as the top 50 players in the world always qualify and all the other entries are based on rankings on world tour money lists or the Official World Golf Rankings. The Masters is an invitational and usually awards exemptions to players that may not get into a WGC event. The Open Championship and the U.S. Open have amateurs and qualifiers in their ranks. And The PGA Championship has club pros that earn their way in. All of this is part of what makes these majors unique but we can’t deny that the strength of the fields in the WGC’s, smaller as they made be, are major worthy.
And just look at the winners of these events. They are the best in the world and the cream rises to the top at the WGC’s. Tiger has 16 WGC titles and multiple winners include Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, Darren Clarke and Hunter Mahan. Each were playing at the top of their games when they captured their WGC titles.
If the WGC’s were developed to get all the best golfers in the world playing at sites other than the major championships, they’ve succeeded. Yes, they will never be majors but they now occupy a very important place in golf.