The Players Is Already a Major

By | May 9, 2018

It’s Alive! The Dreaded Fifth Major Debate Briefly Resurfaces… | via Geoff Shackleford for GeoffShackleford.com

This debate seemingly died several years ago from fatigue and almost no demand for major status. The tournament has never actively campaigned for the status and in recent years, millions have been poured into improving the fan experience and course.

Well, it appears Geoff Shackleford doesn’t read From The Hazard because I discussed the possibility of The Players becoming a major just last year. Which is not that shocking. Geoff is the best in the business when it comes to golf commentary and blogging. He’s a pretty busy person. I’m just a little guy throwing my two cents into the fountain here. No offense taken Geoff. But, that said, my thinking on the subject has changed a bit since last year’s piece was published.

It turns out that moving The Players to March in 2019 is happening. The tournament is now positioned to be the first “major” of the year. In 2017 I argued that the 17th hole might be holding back The Players from being considered a 5th major. Too much of a gimmick hole to determine a major champion. Since last year I’ve changed my mind. I still believe The Players won’t be the 5th major any time soon but for a different reason: It’s already the 4th major. It’s just that the powers that be won’t accept it.

  1. The Masters
  2. The Open Championship
  3. The U.S. Open
  4. The Players
  5. The PGA Championship

That’s the order I would put the tournaments in if asked to judge them on their quality, personality, and popularity in recent history.

That’s Crazy

Crazy? Sacrilege? Ignorant? I’ve been called worse. It depends on how you define “major” in the media-driven machine of professional sports. Winning any tournament is still a life-changing moment for the player. The satisfaction of defeating a field of the world’s best, and the security that comes with it, remains an amazing accomplishment. Fans, however, are increasingly more interested in the personalities of the players and the tournaments themselves. The Players is loaded with personality and a hugely talented field. How is winning The Players not at least on par with winning the PGA Championship?

The Masters is a historic and unique test of the game played on what is clearly the most beautiful course in the world. The Open Championship is the definition of tradition and classic links golf. Throw in the risk of changing weather conditions and The Open is obviously a major that’s never going to go away. The U.S. Open is nearly as historic as well as often being the hardest four rounds of golf the players will face all year. Tricked-up deep rough, narrow fairways cut towards the tees, dried-out greens, and holes so long you practically need a passport. The PGA Championship is historic but increasingly not unique. Its test of the game is essentially just a toned down version of the U.S. Open. I’m not advocating for ending the PGA Championship. I’m just pointing out that it needs to find its own personality.

A Tipping Point

The Players has personality to burn. TPC Sawgrass is a unique test of golf. The tournament attracts the game’s best players year in and year out. Winning provides a huge financial reward along with extensive exemptions. The tournament also offers what is arguably the most exciting finishing 3-hole stretch in the game. That sounds like a major to me. To say it isn’t is to hold the history of the game as too precious. “Major” is a philosophy as much as a tradition. It’s time to admit that The Players has earned its place at the table.