CBS does a great job of whetting everyone's golf appetite when it promotes the Masters every year.
In the weeks leading up to the Masters, the NCAA basketball tournament is the dominant sporting event on the calendar. This is one of CBS's top broadcast properties. The network constantly promotes the Masters as the college basketball tournament plays out.
One would think the Masters is the greatest golf tournament in the world and one of the best sporting events of the entire year.
It is no better than the second-best tournament of the year, and it might not even rate that high.
There are four major golf championships during the course of the year. The Masters is the first, followed by the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA.
Jack Nicklaus won 18 of these majors and Tiger Woods has been stuck on 14 since winning his last major in 2008. These are the events that even casual sports fans always follow.
Many of them think that the Masters is the best of these events.
How could it possibly compare with the U.S. Open?
This is the closest tournament there is to a national championship in golf. Instead of being played at the same super exclusive club in Augusta, Ga. year after year, the U.S. Open rotates among a fixed number of superb golf courses—public and private—that test a golfer's skills to the hilt.
In the U.S. Open, the best golfers in the world often struggle to break par. A score of 2- or 3-under par may win the tournament or at least put a golfer in contention. An even par score can win the U.S. Open.
Which major is the most important?
So, when Tiger Woods (12-under at Pebble Beach in 2000) or Rory McIlroy (16-under at Congressional in 2011) have stellar U.S. Opens and whip their competitors by huge margins, it really means something special.
The U.S. Open course is often noted for its tough course conditions and even tougher pin placements. Players are tested every step of the way in this tournament.
The Augusta National is clearly a singularly beautiful place: The dogwood, azaleas and Amen Corner are a remarkable achievement and a wonderful venue to play golf.
It is a great tournament to win.
However, the best golfers are tested more by the U.S. Open.
The British Open (often referred to as The Open Championship) was established in 1860. It is often seen as the top tournament for all European golfers.
American golfers may be more entranced by the Masters than they are by the British Open. That's understandable.
But the U.S. Open is the national tournament. It tests golfers and shows them that achieving par is a good score for a contender or even a winner.
Winning the Masters is nice; winning the U.S. Open is even better.