by Jeff Skinner
Each year as the PGA Tour tees it up at The Players Championship we hear the same old, worn out debate. Is The Players the “fifth major?” For decades The PGA Tour has pushed their marquee event as a major and would like everyone else to consider it in the same class as The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and The PGA Championship. Sorry Mr. Finchem, that’s just not going to happen, not now, not ever.
That is not to say that The Players isn’t an elite tournament. It certainly is. It boasts the biggest purse in golf and that’s important. The Players traditionally has one the deepest fields of any tournament, even without world number one, Lee Westwood and his pal Rory McIlroy, there’s a great field at TPC Sawgrass this year. It is played on a high profile course. The TPC Sawgrass was built for this tournament and it’s about as well known as a course can be. But its uniqueness has made it a little controversial and many players still think it is a bit too tricked up. But no one can deny that this course has had many historic moments.
For me that’s the difference between the four majors and The Players, the history. Yes, the Players has some great history with Hall of Fame Champions and memorable finishes but in essence it’s a “Johnny Come Lately” to the major party and will never get a seat at the major table.
John Feinstein offers his case for The Players as a non-major and says it more eloquently then I ever could. But I have one major factor to determine if a tournament can be considered a major. Unless the tournament can claim on of the following as a past champion it can’t even be considered anything near a major: Old Tom Morris, Young Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, James Braid, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Bryon Nelson or Sam Snead. There are more factors that make the majors, the majors, but for me that’s a big one. Yes, history makes the majors what they are.
I do give The PGA Tour credit for making their top event as interesting as they can but in fact they try too hard to have it included among the big four. My message to the tour office is this: let it be. The Players is not a major, it is a great tournament, and there is nothing wrong with that.