Can We Get a Name Change


The PGA of America's premier championship trophy is called the Wanamaker. Its place in major championship history is secure and respected. But I think it's time for a change.
How about the Won-a-major trophy? Has a nice ring to it doesn't it? And if you look at recent history the PGA of America has been spending Sunday's at its marquee event handing out the trophy to first-time major winners.
Payne Stewart won the PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes in suburban Chicago in 1989 to become a major winner for the first time. And there was John Daly in 1991 at Crooked Stick. How bout Aussie Wayne Grady? And what a run we've had since 1995. Steve Elkington at Riviera in 1995, Mark Brooks at Valhalla in 1996, Davis Love III at Winged Foot in 1997 and Vijay Singh at Sahallee in 1998. Tiger broke the trend at Medinah in 1999 and a year later he won again at Valhalla. But last year it was David Toms and now we're saluting Rich Beem at Hazeltine.
I, for one, think it's great. You can't win multiple majors until you win your first. Just ask Phil Mickelson. And I guess if I was a betting man I'd now envision Phil's first to come at a PGA Championship as well.
People seem to pile on the PGA of America for some reason. Mostly the media, I might add. They view the year's fourth major as the 'forgotten major'. But re-read the list of champions I've just run off and think back to the excitement on that particular Sunday.
Rich Beem might have been a long-shot, but he played like a hot-shot. He earned his major by holding off the world's No. 1 Tiger Woods. A final round 68 might have been one-shot higher than Woods' 67, but Beem was in control all day on Sunday, never really giving in to the pressure that Woods has put on so many players in the past. Need proof? How about hitting 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens - easily his best numbers of the week. Doesn't seem like wilting under pressure to me.
And I promise you, the four consecutive birdies Woods ran off to finish his round on Sunday would not have happened at the U.S. Open. And more than likely, they wouldn't have come at the British either. Talk to the players and they'll spend a good amount of time defending the PGA of America's set-up of its major championship. It might be long, but it's definitely fair. Actually, if you walked around Hazeltine National last week you'd have had a hard time believing you weren't at a stiffened-up PGA Tour event. A Memorial on steroids if you will. Guys like Nick Price who missed the cut said they just didn't play well. They didn't balk about the course.
And maybe that's why Rich Beem was able to find comfort all being week in contention. Maybe it's why Fred Funk was able to focus as much on theatrics as he was on making a run of his own. As I see it, the PGA Championship is arguably the most entertaining major of them all. Recent years have provided us with great finishes and great championship winners.
Rich Beem might have been an underdog. But he's now a fan and media darling because unlike other majors, the PGA of America gave him a chance. And I think that's a good thing for golf. So let's celebrate the cell-phone man and bring on Oak Hill in Rochester next year so we can find another guy just like him!