Notes Majors Treat Players Championship Differently

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The PGA Tour believes it needs backing from the players and the media for The Players Championship to be regarded as a major, even if its the fifth one.
 
But it also requires support from the other major golf organizations, and that remains divided.
 
Augusta National offers the winner of The Players Championship a three-year exemption to the Masters, saying that reflects the importance the PGA Tour and its players place on their showcase event. The other three major champions get a five-year exemption to the Masters.
 
The British Open gives a five-year exemption to the other major winners, and a three-year exemption to the winner of The Players Championship and the BMW Open, the flagship event in Europe.
 
We think its a wonderful event, magnificently organized with a great field, Royal & Ancient secretary Peter Dawson said over the weekend. So, its well worthy of its status.
 
The U.S. Open gives five-year exemptions to major champions, and it recognizes The Players Championship by giving its winner a one-year exemption from qualifying. Players not otherwise eligible must win two PGA Tour events to be exempt from qualifying.
 
USGA executive director David Fay said a longer exemption has not been part of any discussion over the last several years, and he doesnt know what would happen if the topic was broached.
 
Lets face it, how an event is perceived requires a number of components, Fay said. What the players think, what the press thinks, and whether the public buys into what the players and press are saying, which is not always the case. At this point in mens golf, youre talking about four (majors).
 
The PGA of America treats The Players Championship no different from any other PGA Tour event. Every winner on tour is exempt into the PGA Championship, which perennially has the most players from the top 100 in the world ranking.
 
Chief executive Jim Awtrey is quick to point out that the PGA Championship is the most accommodating to PGA Tour players because its the only major that recognizes any tour victory, and it takes the top 70 from the money list, more if needed to fill the field.
 
When you look at that, theres no other reason to give anything (to The Players Championship winner), Awtrey said. The champion is always in.
 
Awtrey said it is not the role of other majors to define what a major championship should be.
 
We shoot for the top 100 (in the world ranking). We ensure we get the top 70 (on the money list). We invite a player that might not otherwise qualify, he said. Its the media and the players and history that must decide what the final status is.
 
BRIDGES FINALE?
If the Big Four dont slug it out in the final round of the majors this year, there is always the illustrious Battle at the Bridges.
 
In what could be the final year for the made-for-TV exhibition, management sources say IMG is trying to get Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson for the July 25 match at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe.
 
Two sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Woods and Mickelson already are confirmed and might even be partners in the better-ball match. Els played at the Bridges two years ago when he and Woods lost to Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. Singh has never played in these exhibitions.
 
Television ratings have plunged since Monday Night Golf began in 1999. The highest rating was 7.6 in 2000 when Garcia beat Woods, but that was the end of singles matches because Woods felt he had nothing to gain. Since then, ratings have slipped all the way to 3.6.
 
This is the final year of the contract with title sponsor Lincoln Financial.
 
POWER IN ITS PLACE
There was plenty of discussion early this season about power dominating the PGA Tour, and no one will ever dispute that big hitters always have an advantage.
 
But the last two weeks showed that certain conditions can place a premium on accuracy.
 
Kenny Perry won the Bay Hill Invitational because he kept it out of the 6-inch rough most of the week. And while the TPC at Sawgrass is not particularly long, it was important to put the ball in the correct spots on the fairway, especially since players were allowed preferred lies in the wet conditions.
 
Plus, wind and water make every course more difficult to play from the rough.
 
Fred Funk, the most accurate driver on tour, won The Players Championship. He is No. 181 in driving distance. In fact, the biggest hitter among the top seven at Sawgrass was Tim Herron, who is ranked 59th in distance. Three others'Scott Verplank, Luke Donald and Steve Elkington'are ranked out of the top 100 in driving distance.
 
AUGUSTA GREENS: Peter Lonard knows how difficult it can be for a newcomer to read the green at Augusta National. He made his Masters debut in 2003 and three-putted the first four greens.
 
But the real proof came on the ninth hole. Lonard played the first two days with Phil Mickelson, and both missed the green to the right. Lonard was slightly inside him.
 
The pin was in the back left corner, and we hit it over the back and to the right, Lonard said. I walked around his ball to come over and take a look at the green. I looked over and said to myself, Ive just been standing on his line for the last five minutes.
 
It worked out fine.
 
Lonard said Mickelson hit his third shot to within inches of the cup, and never said anything to him.
 
There are a lot of things there you have to see to believe, he said.
 
DIVOTS
Jay Haas tied the record for most starts at The Players Championship by competing for the 28th year, joining Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. ... Phil Mickelson will make an appearance at Borders Books in Augusta, Ga., on Monday of the Masters to sign copies of his book, One Magical Sunday (But Winning Isnt Everything). ... Tiger Woods now has gone eight consecutive rounds without breaking 70, his longest streak on the PGA Tour since he went he went 14 straight rounds in the 70s in 1999.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
The last time Florida hosted a top golf tour in May was the 1999 Titleholders on the LPGA Tour. The tournament was not finished until Monday because of rain delays.
 
FINAL WORD
If its this breezy, I dont go out. You dont even hit balls when its this windy.'Vijay Singh, after playing in 35 mph gusts during the final day of The Players Championship.
 
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