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TULSA, OK. The dramatic conclusion for the 104th PGA Championship provided a slew of engaging moments with players battling to secure possession of the famed Wannamaker Trophy.
For Southern Hills the PGA Championship marked a record fifth time hosting the premier event for the PGA of America. The event also marked the club's eighth overall major championship. The end result brought to the forefront the creative genius of architect Perry Maxwell in conjunction with most recent course upgrades carried out by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner just a few years ago.
The Tulsa-based layout's most recent past major was the 2007 PGA Championship -- won with stellar play by Tiger Woods.
Chief Championships Officer Kerry Haigh only reinforced his position as the most talented person in both creating a testing challenge for the world's best players and doing so without resorting to forced insertions creating an over-the-top result where luck is the more dominant characteristic rather than golfing skills.
Players in the field, with very few exceptions, stated their positive comments on how matters are prepared. One could see that front and center with how Southern Hills was set-up for the final round and the inclusion of the 13th, 17th and 18th holes as part of the three-hole aggregate playoff.
The last time the PGA Championship was in the nation's heartland came in 2018 at Bellerive in the St. Louis area and that event also produced a thrilling climax with Brooks Koepka outlasting Woods.
However, the national championship of American golf has not been back in the heartland of the USA since 2015 when the U.S. Open was held at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. The time before that took place in 2003 when the championship was played at Olympia Fields just outside the Chicago area. The ongoing pattern followed now by the United States Golf Association (USGA) has been to keep its flagship event on either the east or west coasts respectively. The next time the event will be played in the Midwest will come in 2034 when storied Oakland Hills, just outside of the Detroit metro area serves as host for the seventh time.
Southern Hills has hosted the U.S. Open previously three times -- the last coming in 2001 when Retief Goosen won in a playoff.
The updating of the course by Hanse and Wagner brought to the forefront that sheer design brilliance of Maxwell -- the man responsible for a number of compelling layouts in the region with Southern Hills arguably his finest effort.
As of now -- the nearest open date on the USGA calendar for an Open site is 2028. There has been speculation Winged Foot Golf Club in the New York metro area may be selected again to host the championship in part because when the club hosted the event in 2020 there were no on-site galleries and corporate tents causing the club to suffer a financial hardship. Whether that situation is meaningful is hard to gauge. The USGA neither confirms nor denies such matters until making a formal announcement.
Southern Hills was pressed into an earlier hosting role. Initially, the PGA of Ameria had planned to return in 2030 but that changed following the events of January 6, 2021. On that day -- an insurrection spurred on by calls from then President Donald Trump prompted hundreds of people to storm the Capitol resulting in the loss of life and parts of the building vandalized. The 2022 PGA Championship had been planned for Trump National / Bedminster in New Jersey but was then scuttled by PGA of America leadership. Southern Hills was contacted to see if the club was interested in filling the vacated slot and the club quickly agreed.
Golf has four major championships and only the U.S. Open and PGA Championships are rotated to sites within the United States. The competition from various clubs wishing to host is quite fierce. However, each of the sponsoring organizations is quite territorial and host clubs looking to stage such events need to work closely with one or the other. In years past, certain key clubs could reach out to both organizing staging the aforementioned marquee events. No longer.
It's also very possible that the PGA Championship may return to Oklahoma in the vacated 2030 slot. Southern Hills could well view the relationship with the PGA of America as more viable than having to secure the USGA's acceptance for a future Open which may be viewed as a long shot situation.
Southern Hills provided a testing examination and the ending drama culminated with Justin Thomas winning his second Wannamaker Trophy after trailing by seven shots.
The tea leaves of what clubs are ultimately selected is not as secretive as the manner of determining how the next Pope is selected but the jockeying is without question intense.
The PGA of America once again showed clearly how a major championship should be staged and Southern Hills provided the ideal venue in bringing to the forefront the creative talents of the finest players in golf. Attendance for the event was good and it showed how world class golf is received in the South-Central plains.
The leadership of Southern Hills will have to decide how to proceed. Most certainly the glow from this year's event will linger. Southern Hills could prove to be a key site for the leadership of the USGA to consider -- given its location in the USA. Ultimately, the club will have to decide in whether tendering an invitation to either the PGA of America or the USGA is the wisest course of action.
The leadership of the PGA of America is fond of the club and the safer course of action may mean Southern Hills pushing ahead to secure the 2030 opening. But there may be a hidden desire to once again be the host for America's national championship.
Interesting options with ramifications on all sides.
Given what Southern Hills proved with the most recent PGA Championship a bold gambit for a fourth U.S. Open may be a goal that proves too irresistible to back away from seeking.
Only time will tell.
One thing is certain -- Southern Hills reintroduced itself to the broader global golf community and did so magnificently. If Southern Hills were a prom date -- it's best for the PGA of America or the USGA to move quickly and make the ask before the other association wins out.