Sport & Culture

Asia’s Quest for a Golf Major

With golf’s popularity growing in Asia, it would be fitting if the region hosted the sports fifth major.

At the moment in golf there are four majors – the U.S. Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA Championship. Not only are these lucrative but they have traditions that stretch back over the decades and in some cases to the early days of the sport itself.

There has long been debate as to which tournament is the next best, the “Fifth major” and, indeed, what makes a major.

Many agree that to be a major, you need to have age and traditions (the British Open started in the 1860s), be able to attract the best players, and have a certain special something.

Jack Nicklaus used to say that the fifth should be the Australian Open but in his 1969 he changed his mind, "In conversations with friends I referred to the Australian Open as a major championship, but they knew and I knew I was kidding myself. Being the national championship of a golf-minded country, the Australian Open was a most estimable tournament to be won but simply wasn't a major championship except in the eyes of Australians.”

Lee Trevino said it was the Canadian Open. Some say it was the Player’s Tournament in the U.S. One of the top golfers in the world, Lee Westwood, thinks otherwise.  “The Players ­probably used to be regarded as the fifth major, and it felt that way back in the late '90s. But since the invention of the World Golf Championships, the Players has actually stepped back. So what is it, eighth on the list now?"

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Others say it is the Memorial Tournament while in 2011, the European Tour claimed it was the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Some believe it is time for Asia to throw its hat into the ring and in fact that is what the Asian Tour plans to do.

The organization wants to expand and eventually rival the European and American tours and sees the world’s largest continent hosting a global golf event as a necessary to realize its objectives.

Asian Tour CEO Mike Kerr, told AFP that even if the continent can’t host an “official” major, it can have something special of its own.

"Yes, I think we can have an iconic event in Asia. There are some plans that we have that we're already in the market talking about, We're working on it… let's say definitely within the next three to five (years)."

At the moment, the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and the Singapore Open are seen as the continent’s big events.

"I'm not sure whether it would ever be confirmed as a major or supported in that way but I think there certainly is room for an iconic event in Asia that would be at a similar level to a major event, which the players can support and which we can build up over time,” Kerr told reporters.

With golf growing all the time in Asia, it would be fitting to have all agree that it should be the home of the fifth major.