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Actually, the PGA Championship is golf’s best major

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The game's last and often forgotten major championship consistently delivers the best golf, on the best setup.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Hey! It’s time for another golf major championship this week. The 99th PGA Championship tees off from Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte this week and you’re probably saying, wait, didn’t we just finish up that awesome Open Championship with the interminable Jordan Spieth adventure on the driving range, like, last week? No, it’s actually been 17 days since we played for one of golf’s four biggest prizes — never forget the delightful Canadian Open and the Bridgestone Invitational that needed to be squeezed into the PGA Tour schedule between the two events.

Last year, the rollicking trash fire but salvaged event that was golf’s reintroduction to the Olympic Games forced the PGA Championship out of it usual second-week-of-August time slot, ahead two weeks to the end of July. The result was a major championship schedule that looked something more like horse racing’s triple crown, a nearly untenable travel schedule for players, and a fourth major championship that many fans might just look over due to the temporary, crammed-in date. This year, it's back in the normal slot -- but it seems to be heading to May in 2019. (That's dumb! But more on that later.) Just enjoy it in August, for now.

For casual golf fans that only tune in for the four major championships, the PGA often gets overlooked anyway. This ranking, from Deadspin’s Drew Magary, is the common one among casual fans.

The great part about sports: you can like multiple things at once, it’s fine, it’s OK. The Open Championship is golf’s oldest championship and is unique and awesome. I enjoy the drama created by the administrative malpractice of the USGA during the U.S. Open. The Masters is golf’s Super Bowl, and I mean that as a pejorative term. It’s overhyped, ruined by Jim Nantz, and the viewing audience is dominated by people that don’t watch much of the sport the rest of the year. That’s fine. It’s a good golf tournament, too. Whatever you like is fine. If the John Deere Classic is your favorite event of the year, I support you.

That said, the PGA Championship is actually golf’s best major championship.

It’s the best tournament setup for the best players in the world -- and that lends itself to big names and big drama

Golf is the only sport where some governing bodies are making the world’s most talented players look like hack chumps. LeBron James didn’t play the NBA Finals on a windy, outdoor court in a park — that’d be stupid! The Super Bowl goes to lengths to make sure the game isn’t played in the snow, same for college football. We throw fits when soccer pitches aren’t absolutely perfectly manicured, or if a pitching mound has just a bit too much moisture. Sure, all these sports are much different from the game of golf — but we go to see greatness to, like, actually see them be great.

No major championship gives golf’s stars a better chance to be rewarded for great shots than the PGA Championship. More often than not, players rave about the course setup by the PGA of America (and setup man Kerry Haigh) at the championship. It’s sufficiently difficult as to not incorrectly reward bad shots, but it’s not so penal that players are complaining about the course being unfair. On the other side of the coin, the setup generally provides ample opportunities for birdies.

What does that mean? The fair risk-reward balance of the PGA allows for lots of back-and-forth battles, lots of field volatility, and historically low numbers. If the field is bunched together, there’s a much better chance for someone from farther down the leaderboard to go out and post a low number and win on Sunday than at other majors. If someone comes from back in the pack at say, the U.S. Open, it usually just means there’s been carnage around them.

The PGA setup also usually yields low scores from the game’s superstars. After wins by journeymen Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel in 2002 and 2003, nearly every PGA Championship finish since has involved a name you probably know. Seriously, look at this:

  • 2004 - Vijay Singh wins in playoff
  • 2005 - Phil, here at Baltusrol
  • 2006 - Big Cat
  • 2007 - Big Cat
  • 2008 - Padraig beats Sergio, again
  • 2009 - The End of Big Cat. Y.E. Yang!
  • 2010 - Martin Kaymer over Bubba in a playoff, DJ bunker-gate
  • 2011 - Keegan Bradley
  • 2012 - Rory, in a rout
  • 2013 - Dufner over Jim Furyk
  • 2014 - Rory, in the dark, over Phil and Rickie
  • 2015 - Jason Day over Spieth
  • 2016 - Jimmy Walker over Day

The PGA is almost always dramatic and awesome and has characters you know now — or will know well soon. Golf also might be in a better spot now in 2017 when it comes to the quality of play of big-name stars than it’s ever had in each of these past seasons, too.

This PGA shouldn’t disappoint. Quail Hollow's one the most well-respected tracks on the PGA Tour schedule and the three-hole finishing "Green Mile" sets up really well for the game’s big-hitting stars like Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy. And then there's Spieth, on the verge of history and with his one shot to become the youngest ever to complete the career grand slam. There’s a dang good chance one of the game’s biggest names will hold the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday, and that they’ll have to hold off another one or two off that list to do it.

Seriously, watch the PGA Championship this weekend, you’ll like it. Or don’t. Do whatever you want, really. But It’s mid Augusta, there aren’t any other sports for you to consume and golf’s final major of the season is actually the best one.

See y’all on Sunday.