KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - The dynamic growth of golf in Asia has prompted suggestions that the continent merits a major championship of its own but if that does ever happen it will not be as a result of the PGA Championship relocating.
PGA officials baulked at the suggestion on Wednesday that their event, widely viewed as the fourth-ranked of the game’s elite tournaments, could benefit from a change of continent.
“America represents about 60 percent of the global GDP (gross domestic product),” said PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka.
“A big part of the International Olympic Committee’s interest in adding golf to the Olympics was because of the size of the American marketplace and the television and media viewership.
“Moving the PGA Championship away from the number one market in the world, that’s a real tough thing to justify from a business rationale standpoint.”
Steranka also said the PGA’s ‘raison d’etre’ effectively ruled out any such move.
“We are still the PGA of America, which represents American golf professionals, and though we are proud of our leadership on the global stage, we’ll leave it at that,” he told reporters on the eve of the year’s final major.
Britain’s Lee Westwood, currently ranked fourth in the world, is one of those who has supported the notion of a major for Asia, arguing that the region’s economic support for the game merits an elite event.
“I think the men’s game has got it pretty much right, although I’d like to see another major somewhere else in the world, somewhere like Asia or Australia,” Westwood said last year.
“I see the way that the Asian economy and markets have supported golf over the last few years and they deserve to have big tournaments there.”
But if a move for the PGA Championship is out of the question, the issue of whether a fifth major could be created for Asia, or any other venue, is essentially one that can only evolve over time.
Major status for the four big events - the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA - was not gained by a formal designation from a governing body in the sport but has instead emerged by consensus among those involved in the game.
“We’ve always said that majors have been defined by the players and the media,” said Steranka.
The annoyance for the PGA is that that very consensus places their event well beneath the status of the other three majors.
“There’s no doubt it’s firmly the fourth major, unfortunately,” said 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland.
“It’s tough, I guess it’s right in the middle of such a busy stretch of the season. We’ve just come off the U.S. (Open) and the British (Open) and are looking towards the FedEx (playoffs) and the Ryder Cup and there’s a lot of golf going on.
“But it is a fantastic major and I would give a lot to win it,” McDowell added.
Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes