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Major Championships

The Major Championships, often referred to simply as the "Majors" are the four most prestigious annual tournaments in men's professional golf. The "majors" originally consisted of the (British) Open Championship, the British Amateur or The Amateur Championship, the US Open and the US Amateur. Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam in 1930 when he won all four tournaments. With the introduction of the Masters Tournament in 1934, and the rise of professional golf in the late 1940s and 1950s, the term "major championships" eventually came to describe the Masters, the US Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. 
It is difficult to determine when the definition changed to include the current four tournaments, although many trace it to Arnold Palmer's 1960 season, when after winning the Masters and the US Open to start the season he remarked that if he could win the British Open and PGA Championship to finish the season, he would complete "a grand slam of his own" to rival Bobby Jones' 1930 feat.

The oldest of the majors is The Open Championship, which is often referred to as the British Open. The other three majors all take place in the United States. The Masters is played at the same course, Augusta National Golf Club, every year, while the other three rotate courses. Each of the majors has a distinct history, and they are run by four different golfing organisations, but their special status is recognized worldwide. Major championship winners receive the maximum possible allocation of 50 points from the Official World Golf Rankings, which are endorsed by all of the main men's tours, and major championship prize money is official on the three richest regular (ie under-50) golf tours, the PGA TOUR, European Tour and Japan Golf Tour. In order of their playing date the majors are:
  AprilThe Masters
  JuneUS Open
  JulyThe Open Championship (British Open)
  August  PGA Championship

Alongside the biennial Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team competitions, the majors are golf's marquee events. Elite players from all over the world participate in them, and the reputations of the greatest male players in golf history are largely based on the number of major victories they accumulate. The top prizes are not actually the largest in golf, being surpassed by The Players Championship, the three individual World Golf Championships events, and one or two invitational events, but winning a major boosts a player's career far more than winning any other tournament. If he is already a leading player, he will probably receive large bonuses from his sponsors and may be able to negotiate better contracts. If he is an unknown he will immediately be signed up. Perhaps more importantly, he will receive an exemption from the need to annually requalify for a tour card on his home tour, thus giving a tournament golfer some security in an unstable profession. Currently the PGA Tour gives a five-year exemption to all major winners.

In recent years The Players Championship, which takes place two weeks before The Masters, has been begun to be boosted as "the fifth major" by elements of the American media. This has not been publicly encouraged by the golfing authorities, but the tournament does attract a similar strength of field.
With the Players moving to May starting in 2007, many fans believe that the Players should be considered a De Facto major championship, even if it's not considered part of "the grand slam". In addition, three World Golf Championship events were established in 1999, bringing to eight the total number of events in which virtually all of the world's top 40 players compete against each other every year.

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