Out of Bounds: The Players is The Players. Let it be
If money and player power were all that were needed, it would already be the fifth Major
A scenic view of the 17th hole as seen during a practice round prior to the The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
There is one particular area where women professional golfers have an edge on their male counterparts. It is to do with the number of Majors contested during a season.
In effect, the women have five chances to hit the bullseye, the men have four. Which, especially in the week that’s in it, brings us to the prospect of the number of Majors in the men’s game increasing to five.
This week The Players’ Championship - the flagship event of the PGA Tour with a wheelbarrow of prize money that amounts to $10.5 million (€9.7 million) is in play - takes place at TPC Sawgrass and, in all but name, it has all the qualities associated with any of the Majors: the Masters, the US Open, The Open and the US PGA.
In fact, the prize money on offer is above and beyond what was on offer at Augusta National which, to be honest, smacks a little of poor form.
Money isn’t everything and it is history and prestige which truly counts
Those gentlemen at the Masters or in the USGA, the R&A and the PGA of America could of course simply respond by increasing the money at their own championships but money isn’t everything and it is history and prestige which truly counts when all is said and done.
On that score, the four Majors have a big lead.
As the PGA Tour has discovered, there is no divine right to muscle a way into the rank of being a Major championship. If money and player power were all that were needed, then The Players - which first took place in 1974 - would already have achieved that elevated ambition. Things are not that simple, though.
If it were a Major, Jack would be on 21
If ever it were decided to increase the number of Majors to five - and there is no obvious desire to do so - it would likely only come from the Masters tournament committee, the USGA, the R&A and the PGA of America getting together to instigate the move and unanimous agreement to do so. It’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, if ever.
For sure, The Players has built its own status as one of the most prized titles out there. That Jack Nicklaus won the very first title gave it an immediate measure of respect. The Golden Bear won it three times. If it were a Major, Jack would be on 21. If it were a Major, players like Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar would no longer be cast among those players shouldered with the ‘best-player-never-to-have-won-a-Major’ label.
But, then, it would also mean players like Craig Perks and Mark Hayes would be called Major champions. Hmmm!
There is also the argument that, if the number of Majors were to increase to five, then why should it be another championship staged in America? Already, three of the four are played stateside. If the numbers game was adding up, why not add the Australian Open - with a history dating back to 1904 - instead?
Or, why not just stay with the status quo? The four Major championships have served golf well, spaced out from April to August in what is the meatiest part of the golfing season. All four offer different challenges, all four have their unique qualities.
As does The Players. Even without a status of being a Major, it is one of the most prized and cherished titles on tour. It stands alone, with its own tradition and its own list of champions; some of them Major champions, others for whom The Players was the pinnacle of their achievement.
This is one of the greatest championships in the world
It is a lofty height in its own right. In addressing the issue of whether or not The Players should be elevated to a Major championship, the new PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was wisely diplomatic.
He talked of it being “our showcase of excellence” and of their desire to “enhance every facet of this event.” He added: “This is one of the greatest championships in the world, and we’re excited about how far we have come and candidly the continued growth that we expect to deliver through it.”
Maybe it’s doing just fine as it is. Maybe there’s no need at all to increase the number of Majors to five.
The Players is The Players. Let it be. Let’s keep the status quo.