What makes a major championship great?
Is it a great player winning? A dramatic finish? A compelling storyline? Memorable shots down the stretch? A record-smashing performance? A historically significant result?
Yes, yes, yes and yes. It’s all of these qualities, individually and in combination. We considered them all in assembling the field for a match-play competition to determine the greatest major ever. We call it the Major Match Play Championship.
Our 16-tournament field, assembled and seeded based on opinions gathered from Golf Channel and GolfChannel.com on-air talent, writers, researchers and editors, is brimming with the stuff of greatness. Great players? We have Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Sam Snead, among others. Dramatic finishes? How about Woods winning the 2008 U.S. Open, in a playoff, with a broken leg? Or Nicklaus and Tom Watson “Dueling in the Sun” at Turnberry in 1977? Storylines don’t come any more compelling than Hogan winning in 1950 at Merion less than a year and a half after he was almost killed in a car crash. Memorable shots? Arnie driving the first green at Cherry Hills in 1960. Jack’s “Yes, sir!” Masters putt in ’86. You want smashed records? How about Tiger winning a U.S. Open by 15 shots, a Masters by 12? And historic significance? Two words: Francis. Ouimet.
A few tournaments dominated the discussion and wound up as our top seeds. You’ll recognize them. At the other end of the bracket, there was spirited competition for the final few spots. Some of your favorites made it, some didn’t.
Among the tournaments that missed the cut: the 2004 Masters, the 2000 British Open and the 1982 and 1966 U.S. Opens. In order, that’s Phil Mickelson’s first major, another rout (eight shots) by Woods in a major, Tom Watson’s chip-in at Pebble Beach and Palmer’s epic collapse (aided by Billy Casper’s underappreciated charge) at Olympic.
How could those tournaments not make the final 16? First, there have been more than 16 great majors, so something had to give. Second, each was lacking in at least one category. Mickelson’s total majors haul – five – isn’t large enough to lend significance to his first. Woods won the 2000 British Open by eight shots, but that margin paled in comparison to his previous major runaways, 12 shots in the 1997 Masters and 15 in the 2000 U.S. Open. As memorable as Watson’s hole-out at No. 17 was (and as agonizing as it was to leave this event out of the Sweet 16), it didn’t win the tournament for him. He also birdied the 18th and beat Nicklaus by two shots. And the general consensus was that a player’s collapse might make a tournament unforgettable, but not great. So goodbye, 1966 U.S. Open (Palmer), and take the 1996 Masters (Greg Norman) with you.
Now it’s your turn. Your votes will determine which events advance and which are eliminated. We’ll run the first-round bracket on our home page tomorrow, Tuesday, March 11. Voting will remain open until Monday, March 17. We will reveal the Round 1 results and Round 2 matchups the following day. Which major is the greatest of all time? It's your call.