Europe’s Last Frontier Beckons

It's been 77 years since Tommy Armour became the last European-born player to triumph in the PGA Championship. Along with Jim Barnes (1916 and 1919) and Jock Hutchinson (1920), born in England and Scotland, respectively, he had acquired U.S. citizenship some time before his name adorned the Wanamaker trophy, however.

Of the three U.S.-based major championships, the PGA is therefore the last bastion of European exclusion. Along with Ryder Cup success, the continent has produced 20 U.S. Open champions and 11 winners of the Masters, yet no PGA champion in the tournament's 101-year history, despite 88 attempts.

A European victory in Tulsa would therefore be of far greater significance than Padraig Harrington's Open Championship triumph at Carnoustie. Fittingly, in the wake of his retirement, it would rank alongside Seve Ballesteros's Masters win in 1980 — Europe's first at Augusta — as a statement of intent; announcing the re-emergence with serious credibility of European golf on the world stage.

It won't be easy. Another factor standing in the way of Harrington and his peers — notably Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, and Nick Dougherty — will be this year's venue. Southern Hills Country Club, in Oklahoma, has hosted six major championships in the last 50 years, three U.S. Opens and three PGA Championships; none have yielded European success.

In recent years, the course has proved favorable to South Africans — Nick Price won the 1994 PGA Championship and Retief Goosen was crowned U.S. Open champion in 2005 — and before that, it was an American stronghold, with triumphs for Tommy Bolt (1958 U.S. Open), Dave Stockton (1970 PGA), Hubert Green (1977 U.S. Open), and Raymond Floyd (1982 PGA).

When the tournament gets under way on Thursday, temperatures are certain to be in the 90s and in dramatic contrast to those experienced on the European tour. Humidity will be high and the hard, fast greens will favor high-trajectory iron play — Tiger Woods territory. Buoyed by Harrington's accomplishments, however, the Europeans will enter the fray flush with kind of confidence not seen since the reign of Nick Faldo.

Major Championships at Southern Hills Country Club

1958    USGA Open Championship		Tommy Bolt
1970    PGA Championship		Dave Stockton
1977    USGA Open Championship		Hubert Green
1982    PGA Championship		Ray Floyd
1994    PGA Championship		Nick Price
2001    USGA Open Championship		Retief Goosen

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