Out of Bounds: The Players is not the same as the Majors
Still playing catch-up on the four Majors and it’s a forlorn chase, one it’s destined to lose
The clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photograph: Chris Condon/Getty Images
No, it’s not!
Year after year after year, the debate resurfaces about the status of The Players. Should it be a Major? Why isn’t it a Major? Doesn’t it have (one of) the best fields in golf?
It’s an argument that (so far) has been lost by those who want to see the tournament - the flagship of the PGA Tour, one with wheelbarrows of greenbacks for the winner - elevated to a level alongside that of the Masters, the US Open, The Open and the PGA championships.
But it is not the same.
For all of the quality of the field, for all of the desire that players have to win the title, The Players doesn’t have the history of the others. As the new kid on the clock, so to speak, it never will: even though it has been around now for 44 years, it is still playing catch-up on the four Majors and it is a forlorn chase, one it is destined to lose.
Personally, I love the tournament; love the course at TPC Sawgrass, especially for how the Pete Dye-design - even with the accidental Par 3 17th and its island green that has become its heartbeat as well as breaking many a heart - forces players to actually think over every tee-shot and approach shot; and love the atmosphere which has an electric current running through a crowd who actually get to see more golf at the stadium course than at regular tour stops.
The factors against it being made into a fifth Major outweigh - in my mind - any argument in favour of elevating it.
History is one. Although the definition of the “Grand Slam” has changed over time, and the Masters didn’t get such status until the 1950s (some two decades after it was first played), there is a heritage that has evolved with The Open, the oldest of them all, the US Open and the US PGA that sits comfortably. Four is a good fit.
Indeed, adding another Major onto the calendar for the men - the women already have five - would mean that four of the five would be held in the United States. That too is a mitigating factor against any move for a change in its status. Even allowing for the fact that the PGA Tour is the biggest and best of the professional circuits, that would be one too many stateside in what is a global game with an ever-increasing input from Asian countries.
The behind-the-scenes push for The Players to be a Major will, no doubt, continue . . . although nobody is quite sure who can legitimately make such a decision anyway. The Masters is run by Augusta National, the US Open by the USGA, The Open by the R&A and the US PGA by the PGA of America.
The reality is that The Players is not a Major, but it is a tournament that players want to win for its own worth and that should be enough.
This is the last time The Players will be held in May - a date on the PGA Tour schedule it has held since 2007 - and, from next year, it will return to a March date in the calendar, a month ahead of the Masters. In that slot, it has the potential to increase its standalone status as a tournament that every player worth his salt would want to win. Just don’t call it a Major. It’s not.