What Are The Four Majors In Men's Professional Golf?

There are four weeks of the year that men's professional golf looks forward to more than the rest - when the biggest prizes in the sport are competed for

A four-image photo of The Masters logo (top left), Wyndham Clark holding up the US Open trophy (top right), the Open Championship trophy (bottom left), and a flag at the PGA Championship (bottom right)
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While every tournament in men's professional golf is special in one way or another, there are four weeks of the year that stand alone at the top of the prestige scale - the Majors.

They are a chance to write your name into golfing folklore, cement a legacy, and prove you are one of the best on the planet.

Two of these events have been viewed as particularly important for well over a century already, while the remaining pair really came to prominence during the rise of golf's popularity midway through the 1900s.

Only the world's very best compete in them, and as such, they are the most keenly anticipated by fans as well. But what are they? We take a look below.

The Masters

Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka and their two caddies walk up the seventh hole at Augusta National during the Masters

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Kicking off 'Major season' is The Masters, ending on the second Sunday of April. Held annually at Augusta National Golf Club, it is the only Major which never changes venue. As a result, it is arguably the most recognizable and prestigious.

An invitational event at probably the most sought-after members club anywhere in the world, The Masters generally features fewer than 100 players - making it the smallest field of the famous four.

The field is made up of the world's top-50 (as recognized by the OWGR), most PGA Tour winners from the previous year, and former Masters champions - among other categories.

Three of the most notable traditions of The Masters are the awarding of a green jacket to the winner (as well as a trophy shaped like the clubhouse), the par-3 contest on the Wednesday before play begins, and the Champions' dinner - hosted by last year's victor.

Jack Nicklaus holds the record for most Masters wins with six ahead of Tiger Woods (five) and Arnold Palmer (four).


Brooks Koepka with the PGA Championship trophy after winning in 2023 at Oak Hill

Brooks Koepka with the PGA Championship trophy after winning in 2023 at Oak Hill

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The PGA Championship was a match play event from its inception in 1916 until 1958 when it changed to stroke play.

Taking place at a variety of parkland courses, the PGA of America-run event was regularly played in August until 2019 when it switched to May. It is not typically set up to be as difficult as a US Open but still presents unique challenges to its players.

The field is made up of historic PGA Championship winners, recent holders of the other three Majors, and successful qualifiers among members of the PGA of America - as well as leading players in the world rankings and all PGA Tour winners from the past 12 months.

Jack Nickalus and Walter Hagen hold the record for most victories with five each.


A large US Open blue flag blows in the wind

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The US Open is the third Major of the year - now set for June - and is usually played on the toughest course of all four top events. It is rarely won on a score much below par - often taking place on a par-70 layout.

Organized by the USGA, less than half of the 156-golfer field is generally made up of recent major champions, high-ranking professionals, and leading amateurs from recent USGA events. Given it is an 'open' tournament, a high number of entrants make it through two rounds of regional qualifying.

The US Open has recently featured the highest purse size among the Majors, with the 2023 running offering up $20 million.

The most successful players in US Open history include Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, and Willie Anderson - all of whom hold four titles.

The Open Championship

Things You Didn't Know About The Open

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The final men's golf Major of the year arrives in July - the Open Championship. It is run by the R&A, part of the The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, and rotates between a select list of links-style golf courses throughout the United Kingdom.

It is the oldest professional golf tournament currently in existence, having begun (for professionals only) in 1860, and is respected for maintaining traditions linked to the origin of the sport in Scotland.

Like the three preceding tournaments, recent professional Major winners and leading players in the OWGR are given exemptions with amateur victors also included. All former winners of The Open (now under the age of 55) are given exemption status too.

Similarly to the US Open, regional qualifying takes place in the build-up, but the R&A differs to the USGA in that it operates the 'Open Qualifying Series' which presents winners from select events all around the world to tee it up at a Major.

A key Open tradition includes the champion receiving his name on the base of the Claret Jug prior to being presented with the trophy, which in itself dates back to 1872. Before then, winners were given a belt - much like you see in modern-day pro boxing.

Harry Vardon holds the record for most Open Championship victories with six - secured between 1896 and 1914.

Jonny Leighfield
Staff Writer

Jonny Leighfield is our Staff News Writer who joined Golf Monthly just in time for the 2023 Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. He graduated from the University of Brighton with a degree in Sport Journalism in 2017 and spent almost five years as the sole sports reporter at his local newspaper. An improving golfer who still classes himself as ‘one of the worst players on the Golf Monthly team’, Jonny enjoys playing as much as he can and is hoping to reach his Handicap goal of 18 at some stage. He attended both the 150th and 151st Opens and is keen to make it an annual pilgrimage.