As I ruminate about The Players Championship, it occurs to me that it’s stuck between the Masters and the U.S. Open and, like a middle child, it is searching for an identity.
Some call it a major but it’s only a major if you have to park in a dusty or muddy field and fight for a spot on a shuttle bus with other frazzled, disheveled media types who all want to be Dan Jenkins.
It is only a major if, in fact, you see Dan Jenkins in the media center and while pondering some pithy comment about Ben Hogan to engage him, he passes by eating an ice cream and you, the obtuse wannabe journalist, realize that you are, in fact, a twit.
It’s only a major if those running the event react to someone on a cell phone as if they were standing before the Last Supper with a can of spray paint. So what is The Players if not a major?
It is a 37-year-old event that every year gives us a gut full of drama with one of the year’s best fields on a course that is more gauntlet than golf. While some events on Tour and even a few majors have the appeal of cold grease, The Players is like a soap opera on Telemundo. It’s a head-jerking, eye-popping, four-day gladiatorial contest between millionaires in snappy clothes and Pete Dye with a little help from his wife Alice.
This year’s Players did not disappoint, even if curmudgeonly critics say that the combatants in the playoff had all the appeal of a kazoo horn at Easter service. I thoroughly enjoyed the week and now three days removed from the Tour’s biggest event, I am back in my home state for the Colonial, the tournament that meant the most to me growing up.
Started in 1946, no other course has hosted a non-major longer than Colonial Country Club, though far easier now then when it was designed, is still a favorite amongst players for its antique feel and for the history that lingers in the air.
Ben Hogan won the event the inaugural year and four more times after that with his last coming in 1959. Zach Johnson won last year with a score of 259, some 20 strokes lower than the average score that it took to win there in the ‘60s, and in the process set a record that is sure to stand for some time.
This year’s field is full of stars and storylines, like Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, David Toms, Davis Love, Hunter Mahan, Paul Goydos, Rickie Fowler and Vijay Singh – just to name a few – but perhaps the best story coming into the week is Jason Day.
This young man who won the Byron Nelson last year and finished second in the Masters and sixth at The Players this year is a member at Colonial and has agreed to wear a microphone for Golf Channel during the first round. Having just left an era where the game’s best players were not always willing to cooperate with the requests of TV, more and more players are opening up in the media center and being more animated on the course.
Perhaps it’s the social media age we find ourselves in or perhaps it’s that the Tour has done a very good job of communicating the need to help us tell their stories. Regardless, the bottom line is that you, the viewer, get a better look at the players.