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PGA Championship organizers ponder an overseas staging

(Reuters) - The PGA Championship, the last of the year's four majors, may be played outside the United States within the next decade, according to Golf World magazine.

PGA Championship organizers have told Golf World that preliminary in-house discussions have been held about the idea, which has already been greeted enthusiastically overseas.

Australia has thrown its hat into the ring as a possible venue, with PGA of Australia executive director Brian Thorburn selling his country's assets - great golf courses and a proven track record of organizing major sporting events.

"We've hosted big American events before, the Presidents Cup in 2011, the World Cup (of golf) this year, who's to say we can't host a major?" Thorburn told reporters at Perth International.

"I'm meeting with Pete (Bevacqua) in six, seven weeks and I'll certainly make him aware that we'd bust our guts to have a crack at hosting it (the PGA Championship) if they went through with it (staging the event overseas)."

PGA of America chief executive Pete Bevacqua told this week's edition of Golf World: "This is an exercise we are going through, an analysis. It is far from a fait accompli that we are going to take the PGA Championship international.

"When we sat down to map our strategic plan ... the question arose as to what impact it would have to take the PGA Championship to an international location once or twice a decade.

"It would be something we would only do if we had the cooperation of quite a few groups. We would want the international PGAs to be a part of this and share in this. Many pieces would have to fall in place."

EARLIEST POSSIBLE YEAR

Existing contracts for the PGA Championship with television and venues are in place until 2019, leaving 2020 as the earliest possible year when the event could be held overseas.

The Olympic Games will take place in Tokyo in 2020, with golf among the sports to be contested.

Along with the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, the PGA Championship completes golf's elite quartet of events but, with the game becoming increasingly global, it seems an anachronism that three of the four majors are played in the same country.

Though the PGA Championship regularly has the strongest field of the year based on world rankings, it suffers widely from the perception of being the least significant major, partly because it is played in the dog days of August, sometimes at mediocre venues.

Organizations in major American team sports are increasingly trying to tap the burgeoning international market.

The National Football League is playing two matches in London this year for the first time while Major League Baseball's 2014 season will start with two games between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney.

The National Basketball Association has also made a huge global push over the past decade, particularly into Asia. Just this week, Commissioner David Stern pondered the idea of starting games in the U.S. at a time more suited to a growing Chinese television audience.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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