John Renslow: Let’s see who’s the best pro in PGA |

John Renslow: Let’s see who’s the best pro in PGA

What in the world is a Wanamaker Trophy? Nearly a hundred years ago (1916) a group of golf professionals gathered to develop what is now known as the Professional Golfer’s Association of America.

From that meeting was also borne the concept of a national championship, the opportunity for the country’s golf pros to compete and determine who was best. A department store magnate, Rodman Wanamaker, hosted the meeting, provided the trophy and purse ($2,500) for the event. Thus, the Wanamaker Trophy.

Today, the PGA Championship is one of golf’s four major tournaments. These “majors” evolved over time to become what they are today, because back when the tour was experiencing birth pangs “every tournament was a major,” golf great Sam Snead would say. Now, there are significantly different benefits to winning one of the big four (the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and the PGA Championship).

First, the purse (amount of money paid to the field of players) is larger. Last month’s British Open winner walked away with nearly $1,500,000. Not bad for a week’s wages. Of course, there are years of preparation for that opportunity.

In addition to big money, the Tour awards an exemption from qualifying for future events. Normally, a Tour event win will bestow a two year exemption. For the majors, the winner receives a ten year exemption. This means that for the next ten years, the champion can play in virtually any tournament of their choosing. Not only is this an increased probability of income, but if you are a vendor looking for a tour player to endorse your product, how about someone you know will be there for the next ten years.

This year’s PGA Championship will be played at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan. It has been over ten years since Oakland Hills has hosted a major tournament, however, the Ryder Cup (US vs. Europe) event was held there in 2004. This is a great golf course with a reputation for being tough. In fact, Ben Hogan used to call it “the monster”.

An interesting note is the change in tournament format exactly fifty years ago. Match Play was the accepted format for tournament play at that time. Rather than the aggregate Stroke Play that we see almost every week, pairs of professionals played matches with the winner going on to face a different opponent. Still enjoyed by millions of amateur players, Match Play is decided hole by hole. The player with the lower score on a given hole wins that hole. A tally (net of holes won or lost) for the number of holes won is kept. A match is won when one player leads by a number of holes greater than the number remaining to be played.

This is a fun, entertaining format. Unfortunately, television has greatly reduced the number of Match Play events. Here is why. Everyone (primarily the golf companies that support the players) wants to see their favorite professional play the game, but in Match Play the round rarely sees all 18 holes.

Let’s say Tiger has a great Match Play round, he has won six holes and there are only five left to play. Match over. Tiger is happy, but the people who pay him to wear their stuff and the companies who purchase commercial time are not. Exit the Match Play format.

So, in 1958, the event changed to Stroke Play (in which the players simply have a total number of strokes). The predictable consistency of completing an entire round makes the vendors and TV producers happy, too.

Quickly, here are the players with a good chance to win. Take a look, then turn on TNT. Coverage starts at 10 a .m.

Sergio Garcia; he’s ranked sixth in the world and has been playing well. This could be Sergio’s breakthrough. Although, he is 0 Ð 40 in attempts to win major tournaments, he won four out of his five matches in the Ryder Cup event at Oakland Hills (the 5th match ended in a tie).

Phil Mickelson; we all know he can win at anytime, perhaps this week he will also become a believer.

Anthony Kim; years ago, we asked who was going to be the next Jack Nicklaus. Now, we ask who is going to be the next Tiger Woods. This might be the guy.

Padraig Harrington; a few weeks ago he successfully defended his title at the British Open.

Lee Westwood; over the last couple of months he has done everything, but get a win.

Vijay Singh; has played well all year and is coming off a win at the World Golf Championships.

On a local championship note, congratulations to Alex Gibbs and Paige Lee, winners of the 2008 Alta Sierra Junior Classic. Boys and girls ages 7Ð17 teed it up for the annual Junior Golf of Northern California tournament. Alex shot a one under par, 71, to capture the boys. Paige carded a 74 to take home the girls first-place trophy.

It’s not too late to enter the Nevada Country Amateur Championship this weekend at the Alta Sierra Country Club and DarkHorse Golf Club. Call the Pro Shop at (530) 273-2010 or go online to

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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