The Players a Major

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The question is asked here each year, Is The Players Championship the fifth major? In this edition of On the tee senior writer Rex Hoggard and editorial director Jay Coffin weigh in.


By REX HOGGARD
Senior Writer, GolfChannel.com
By JAY COFFIN
Editorial Director, GolfChannel.com

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' There were four Beatles, we have four corners to a map, four courses to any good meal and four major championships. Neither Emily Post nor PGA Tour marketing mavens can compete with that kind of symmetry, and why should they?
 
With the occasional exception of parochial predispositions, The Players is among the five most coveted titles in professional golf and thats the only measuring stick that matters. Ask most players to list the five events they would most want to win and The Players is a perennial fifth choice, if not better.
 
No. 1, Matt Bettencourt said. You get everything you get from winning a major, its the deepest field of the year and every player says it feels like its a major.
 
Clarity demands we note that Bettencourt has never played in a major of the non-faux variety, and perhaps his opinion would change if he hoisted a claret jug or Wanamaker Trophy, but The Players first-timer cuts to the heart of the decision.
 
It is the players ' not the media nor fans nor marketing magicians ' that will decide when, or if, the fifth-most important stroke-play event in golf ever joins the Grand Slam club. And it really doesnt matter.
 
The Ryder Cup doesnt enjoy major status, its not even an official event, if were being perfectly accurate, but it likely unseats a major or two on the importance meter and may be the only event in golf that doesnt lose any luster without Tiger Woods in the field. By any other name, big events define themselves.
 
In 1933, when the Masters answered to the title Augusta National Invitational Tournament and the Western Open and U.S. and British Amateurs ranked among the games must-win category, there was no outcry to give Bobby Jones his grand upgrade.
 
That designation came in time, as the professional game grew in importance and the Georgia club started piling up memorable finishes. There was no prolonged debate, no ongoing dialogue. The golf world simply woke up one day with a major shingle tacked up on Washington Road.
 
Sawgrass already has its share of instant classics in the record book and perhaps all it needs now is some seasoning and perhaps a little rerouting. The Stadiums 17th is grand theater thats simply batting out of order.
 
In consecutive years a gust of wind has decided the outcome, an important part of the game but perhaps a tad too harsh given the island-holes place on the scorecard. Relocate the par 3 to, say, No. 11in the lineup and the theater remains, but not the far too capricious rub of the green so late in the game.
 
The fifth major debate is a question of semantics. Is The Players the fifth most important event in pro golf? To Sundays champion, it doesnt matter.
 

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Time to dust off the notes and dig into the annual argument.
 
Different year, same answer: The Players Championship is not a major.
 
It may be the fifth best tournament, it may be the third best tournament and it may even be the best tournament of the year, but it isnt a major.
 
History is so important to golf and history says that golf has four major championships. And, as rich as the history is here with the Stadium Course, it doesnt compare with the four elders in the major rotation.
 
Here are more indisputable arguments:
 
  • If this was a major championship, Tiger Woods would have 15 total majors, Phil Mickelson 4, Davis Love III 3 and Jack Nicklaus 21.
     
  • As a wise co-worker wrote earlier this week, its not a major because Woods has won here once and Sergio Garcia has won once.
     
  • Garcia would not be the best player never to win a major.
     
  • This is the 35th playing of The Players Championship. Any event that is younger than me shouldnt qualify for major status.
     
  • Such a moniker for The Players would not be fair to previous eras that did not have the opportunity to play for five major championships a year.
     
  • The players say so. If they were so passionate about making The Players a major they could make it happen. That doesnt seem to be the case.
     
  • We dont need another major championship in the U.S. If another is added it should held elsewhere.
     
  • If this was a major championship, Tiger wouldnt have missed it last year to get arthroscopic knee surgery so he could be better prepared for the U.S. Open.
     
  • If we added a fifth, why not add a sixth or a seventh? There has to be a standard and, in this sport, four is that standard.
     
  • Doesnt the Quail Hollow Championship, which produced a fantastic result last week (great field, great golf course, dramatic finish) have an argument that it could be the fifth major?
     
  • What about the World Golf Championship events? If the three ' Accenture Match Play, CA Championship and Bridgestone ' truly are championships designed to bring the best players in the world together, they should be in the major conversation.
     
  • While were at it, we should go back and add the U.S. Amateur as a major. Thatd give Woods three more.
     
  • Weve always said this feels like a major championship, Garcia said. And I dont think it has anything that the majors dont have. Its just not considered one.
     
    It could be, but it isnt.
     
    And shouldnt be.

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