Top 10: The Tour’s must-see tournaments

by   |   February 26, 2013
Masters

This is the time of year when I sneak out of my hole, see my shadow, and get a serious case of Spring Fever.  As a viewer, I simply can’t wait to see the calendar flip from winter to spring; from March to April; from the Puerto Rico Open to the Masters.  I am sure that I am not the only one to go on “Masters Watch” as we enter the Florida Swing phase of the PGA Tour calendar. Although I enjoy many of the Texas tournaments — heck with Fantasy Golf I love all tournaments! — there isn’t really a “can’t-miss” tournament coming up until April rolls around.

This anticipation for the first major of the year got me thinking: what tournaments do I plan my calendar around?  Do I have to see every swing in, say, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship?  The Players Championship?  The Playoffs for the FedExCup? Come to think of it, what is my favorite, must-watch, can’t miss tournament every year?  Well, that’s easy…but what is second?  It’s not as obvious as you think. With all of that said, I present to you my “Top-10 list of Must Watch Golf Tournaments.”  This list is the order I would set if I were prioritizing my DVR list on January 1st.  I encourage your feedback to say where I’m crazy, what I got right and what you would switch around. So, without further adieu, here we go.

(Writer’s note: I would typically go No. 10 down to No. 1 to build the suspense. But, since there can simply be no drama about what is No. 1, I would rather front load the list. The drama appears right after No. 1. Let the debate begin!)

1. The Masters

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Come on? What else could possibly be here? I believe that what makes a tournament like the Masters a “must-see” is a combination of elements: First, it has a familiarity where the conditions, sights and sounds are consistent year after year.  I would go so far as to say that I know the back nine at Augusta National as well as I know my home course here in Southern California.  This is true despite the fact that I have never stepped foot in the state of Georgia, let alone the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. I don’t just watch the telecast, I study it. One more thing: yes, I know there are courses that are deemed “more exclusive” than Augusta National, an example being Cypress Point.  But, if you gave me a choice of playing any course anywhere in the world, there is no doubt whatsoever that Augusta National is my choice.  And no, there’s not even a close second.

2. The Ryder Cup

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Every two years we are treated with what always seems to be simply riveting television. There is nothing like seeing the cheering, screaming, fist-pumping, high-fiving, crowd chanting ole! ole! ole!, and all of the craziness (like Cigar Guy) that comes along with the Ryder Cup. Every other year, we see some poor, unsuspecting pro get put into a position of turning into an unlikely goat, while others suddenly rise to hero status. This is a place where legends are made — and all for no purse. No moohlah; just pride of country and the chance to have their name associated on a teeny, tiny little trophy; which just may be the most recognizable cup in all of golf.  As a side-note: I am sometimes struck at how important it seems to be for Europe to beat the U.S. and show that they are just as good, if not better than the Americans. It has the feeling of one of those “one-way” rivalries where one side thinks there is a rivalry while the other side is unaware that it even exists (see: Trailblazers vs. Lakers or Devil Rays vs. Yankees or Cardinals vs. Cowboys). Up to now, I do not believe the Americans have shown the same level of reciprocal intensity towards Europe. But, after watching the European surge and subsequent collapse by the U.S. in 2012, I suspect that will change for good next time ’round.

3. The U.S. Open

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Arguably the toughest conditions combined with what I believe is year-in, year-out the best field in all of golf, the U.S. Open has it all. There have been times where the conditions have almost cruelly brutal, but you know what?  “The rain falls on the just and unjust,” so fair or unfair, it is the same for everyone out there. It’s refreshing to watch the pros struggle to break par. My feeling is that at the highest level of tournament golf, the winner should be the one who breaks par. How cool is it when 2-under wins a major?  Whoever enters the weekend with the most fortitude takes the whole shebang. It’s also great to see guys begin to carve out there legacies by competing on the toughest stage in golf.  And it’s only getting better as over just the past three years we have seen some of the new breed of dominant players — Rory McIlroy , Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson have all captured the title of U.S. Open Champion with more majors likely to come between them.

4. The British Open

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What do you get when you combine soccer chants, the Road Hole, backward shots hit off of stone walls, bunkers so deep that you have to hit backwards to get out and wind-blown conditions that don’t even look fun on the best of days? My biggest gripe with this event is that the coverage, due to restrictions created by the physics of the Earth, happens just too early for me to actually watch. As a DVR guy, I try to record my shows, black out the news, and then watch when I get home. The problem with the Open Championship is that the event is so big, blocking out the news is nearly impossible! But, nothing diminishes the drama of the event and it’s clear that this is the title coveted by probably the most golfers in the world.

5. Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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As mentioned above in the Masters, I am a firm believer that what makes for great golf viewing is familiarity with famous holes on famous courses. There is no course that features more familiar holes to the avid golf viewer than Pebble Beach, with the lone exception of Augusta National. Who among us is not familiar with the 18th at Pebble?  Or the par-3 17th?  Heck, I would go so far as to say that we know the FRONT of Pebble Beach better than we know the front of Augusta National simply because many of us raised on golf viewing ever even saw the front nine at Augusta until about a decade ago when the coverage expanded. In 2012, I finally got the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing Pebble Beach for the first time: it actually felt like I was playing it again.

6. The Players Championship

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You have no idea how close I came to putting this one spot behind. I’m not saying that The Players Championship is ahead of the PGA Championship in importance. But ask yourself, “Which event is simply more fun to watch?”  With the sheer drama of watching the pros deposit ball after ball into the water that surrounds the Island Green, The Players is must-see TV at its best. Then, just to twist the knife, Pete Dye created No. 18, and we get to see our heroes face two of the most intimidating shots in golf; a true test of fire.

7. PGA Championship

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Come on, admit it: you are with me on this. There is something about the 4th major that just doesn’t feel as “major” as the majors, you know what I mean?  It is a great event for stat-filling and when counting career majors for the pros. Yes, it still gets a spot on this top 10 list by virtue of being a major, but I have always felt that this one just seems to lack the personality and character that each of the other majors inherently possess.

8. Northern Trust (LA) Open

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Hogan’s Alley — The Northern Trust Open has one of the longest-standing tour event on the PGA schedule.  This is another famed track where many of the holes have a personality all their own, like the par-3 6th featuring the signature bunker square in the middle of a severely-sloped green and the drivable par-4 tenth hole. Who among us is not familiar with the sweeping vistas showing the famed clubhouse sitting high on the hill visible from every hole on the course.  This course is a true test; so true that Tiger here won there and gave up trying. It took John Merrick’s gritty performance to pull off the victory this year.

9. The Presidents Cup

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This is the poor man’s version of the Ryder Cup occurring in the every-other year format on the year when the Ryder Cup is NOT taking place.  The difference is that this time it’s the U.S. versus the World, umm, minus Europe. Okay.  The format is similar to the Ryder Cup and always fun to watch. It lacks the same must-win atmosphere but it’s certainly worth watching anytime you get the world’s best going head-to-head purely for pride of country (or in this case pride of country vs. pride against the other guys’ country!). How can you not tune in?

10. WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship

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Okay, there is a chance, albeit slight, that this tournament makes the list simply because it just wrapped up as I type. But, in it’s defense: it is a break from tradition. As I was watching the Accenture Match Play get snowed out on day 1, it got me to thinking how I love this quirky tournament!  Match play is flat-out fun to watch simply because it always seems to break away from what I am used to seeing as “normal golf.”   I find that I can settle into the drama of each match while watching how pros respond to pressure-filled situations.  If it’s not the rash of wild upsets that occur every year, like seeing Rory and Tiger get knocked out by guys I couldn’t find with a hard-copy of Wikipedia, then it’s just the sight of seeing things I never see like snow-covered cacti.  Whatever it is, I love the Accenture Match Play and am always sure to set my DVR to watch every stroke they show.

Like the list? Disagree with Chris’ choices? Let us know in the comments section below.

About

Chris Hibler is an avid golfer, writer and golf gear junkie. If he's not practicing his game with his kids, he's scouring the GolfWRX classifieds looking for a score.


21 Comments

  1. Florence Turner

    March 4, 2013 at 5:23 am

    I’ve been following some of those tournaments on live television but I never really had a chance to watch the action in first hand. I love golf. It is a game of skills and talents. Hope I can watch the pros play live someday.

  2. LL

    March 3, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    This is an awesome article! I’ve been watching golf on TV for years and have been really afraid to actually try it myself. My only real “golf” experience was with an ex-boyfriend years ago where I was left to drag a rickety golf bag around all day in sweltering 100 degree heat at Burbank golf course ;-(( Meh…Years later, I finally got up the nerve to take my 1st then 2nd golf lesson and I’m loving it!! This “What to watch” article is helpful to newbies like me who need guidance on what Tourneys to TiVo/Watch. Thank You!!!!

  3. Chris

    February 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Northern Trust Open over The Memorial? My sister could put a better list together.

    • Chris

      February 28, 2013 at 8:59 am

      That was a little bit playful banter but…The Pebble Beach Pro Am is awful, altho it’s played on Pebble so I watch it. For me — all 4 majors and the Ryder Cup are 1-5. The Masters is not only the best golf event of the year, it’s arguably up there with The Superbowl and The World Series and The Stanley Cup for all of sport. And Chris, what’s the justification of The Northern Trust over The Memorial? The course and feild are better at Jack’s event no?

  4. Joe C

    February 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    1 – The Masters
    2 – British Open
    3 – The Players
    4 – Pebble Beach pro am
    5 – Quail Hollow
    6 – Harbor Town
    7/8 – US Open/PGA depending on the courses
    9 – Colonial
    10 – Phoenix

  5. LaterOn61

    February 27, 2013 at 12:14 am

    I have thought Pebble to be one of the worst events of the year. I am also not a fan of the British and the PGA is when I am chasing the sun on the course myself.

    I love Phoenix, Match Play, Bay Hill, and the FedEx playoff tourney outside Boston.

  6. Nathan W

    February 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    I really don’t see why Pheonix is not on the list.

    • Nathan W

      February 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      Going with the list the writer used, I would definitely take off the Presidents cup. Pebble beach is only a shoe in because of the course and the PGA because its a Major (imo it’s not up there with the other 3). You throw in Pheonix, Tour Championship, and/or Firestone. Those are better Tournaments imo. Doral is a great course,but they don’t draw a good field.

  7. Clown

    February 26, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Here’s a list from a European perspective:

    1. Ryder Cup
    2. British Open
    3. Masters
    4. US Open
    5. British PGA
    6. PGA Championship
    7. The Players
    8. WGC Matchplay
    9. Euro Matchplay
    10. Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
    11. Scottish Open
    12. Waste Management Phoenix Open

  8. Chris Hibler

    February 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Tim + Marcus- agree with you on the Waste(d) Management Open (like nickname, too!). I love the energy there.

    Good lists and great feedback! Keep ‘me coming!

  9. Marcus Dyer

    February 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    1. The Masters (Bubba’s SW, Rory’s collapse etc)
    2. Ryder Cup (guaranteed to have most of the best in the game)
    3. US Open (Nice to see some big numbers, makes you feel good)
    4. British Open (Windy, Rainy, colder…perfect)
    5. The Players (Tough Field, 17 for nerves)
    6. PGA Championship (Tought field & conditions)
    7. Presidents Cup (cool, but not ryder cup level)
    8. Firestone
    9. Memorial
    10. Wasted Managment Open

  10. Tim

    February 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I agree about Pebble Beach. Unless the US Open is held there it is one tournament I hardly ever watch anymore. Memorial is high on my list, but I am more along the lines of the Europeans and rate The Open higher right behind the Masters. I love match play but agree that once the top seeds are gone it is hard to watch. I like the Phoenix one due #16 and #17. The PGA may slip depending on venue.

    1. Masters
    2. British Open
    3. US Open
    4. Ryder Cup
    5. PGA Championship
    6. The Players Championship
    7. Memorial
    8. Firestone
    9. Presidents Cup
    10. Phoenix

  11. JASON

    February 26, 2013 at 11:29 am

    The Ryder Cup is definitely there as a top 10 tournament, but since it’s only held every other year, i didn’t list it for 2013. I agree it would be the 2nd tournament behind the Masters in 2014 though.

  12. JASON

    February 26, 2013 at 9:07 am

    No offense, but this list is dreadful. Hardly anyone cares about watching Pebble Beach and being subjected to Chris Berman’s swing. The WGC Match play may have some 1st and 2nd day hype, but after all the top seeds get knocked off no one really cares. The Northern Trust makes this list but Memorial, Players, and Quail Hollow don’t? Those fields are twice as good as the Northern Trust and fall right smack dab in the heart of the season.

    1. Masters
    2. US Open
    3. PGA Championship
    4. British Open
    5. The Players Championship
    6. Memorial
    7. Presidents Cup
    8. Memorial
    9. Firestone
    10. Doral

    • JASON

      February 26, 2013 at 9:08 am

      ^^^^meant to put Quail Hollow @ 8

      • Zak Kozuchowski

        February 26, 2013 at 9:30 am

        The Players Championship is ranked No. 6 by Chris.

        • JASON

          February 26, 2013 at 11:31 am

          I’m an idiot as i somehow completely glossed over it. I suppose i was still in shock he had Pebble Beach at #5!

    • rikks

      February 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

      umm ryder cup jason? not to easy to construct a list that everyone likes, but i thought it was an excellent read

    • Chris Hibler

      February 26, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Jason – no Ryder Cup??? That’s tough to swallow. Firestone is solid.

    • JK

      February 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      The list isn’t that “dreadful.” I suppose he doesn’t like memorial as much as you, but who likes it so much that they put it twice? Just kidding.

      It seems obvious to me that the four majors would be on any “top 10 watch” list for golf. Maybe a list of the non-majors to watch would be more valuable? I agree memorial, quail hollow, firestone, and doral are all better than Pebble, Riviera, and Accenture, though.

  13. JK

    February 26, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Pebble Beach and the President’s Cup don’t belong on the list. The Northern Trust Open probably shouldn’t be on the list. The Accenture Match Play has been a bust each of the last two years. I find it odd that this list comes out right after Pebble, Riviera, and Accenture have JUST been played. For me, Bay Hill is always exciting and usually comes down to that last great hole over water. Memorial is usually good to watching. The John Deere is interesting for the mind-blowing numbers they’re shooting, even if the field isn’t always great. The St. Jude has been good for the last few years since Garrigus blew up on the 18th–great closing hole there. I’d take all of those over Pebble, Riviera, or Accenture in any given year.

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