Actually, it's all a matter of degrees. Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the debate about whether or not The Players Championship should be considered a 'fifth major.'
The opinion here is that The Players Championship won't be considered a fifth major until Woods says so. That's how pervasive his sway is on the game.
Tuesday somebody asked Woods how he thought the 'process' should proceed to officially make this tournament a fifth major. His lack of interest in the question spoke volumes. 'I don't know,' Tiger said. 'You'd have to ask the R&A and the USGA probably for that. . . . probably the PGA of America as well.'
You'd also do well to include the Lords of the Masters, too, although the men in the green jackets have their minds on other concerns right now. Point is, as powerful as the PGA Tour is, it does not control a major championship. More to the point, the tour should not look to Woods any time soon to help promote its quest to elevate The Players Championship to 'major' status.
The reason for this is that Woods has had Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional majors tacked to the bulletin board of his mind ever since he was a young boy. Adding a fifth major would mean exactly what? That Nicklaus' major count would retroactively jump to 21 because of the three Players Championships he won back in the '70s before this tournament even arrived at the TPC at Sawgrass?
This kind of recounting would be highly untidy. And exactly who, by the way, would officially bestow 'major' status on a fifth tournament? The media? The tour? IMG? There have been noises coming out of tour headquarters about getting the players to declare their tournament a major. If they did, it would be a little too unilateral for most people's tastes.
I believe The Players Championship stands alone and doesn't need 'major' status. I believe Pete Dye's Stadium course is one of the top 10 tracks in the world. I believe golf fans get a little more familiar with the geography and the rhythm of this event every year because, like Augusta, much of its history stems from an endearing and enchanting sameness. Remember, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the British Open all rotate their venues That's fine for variety's sake.
But give me the kind of history that goes with the 12th or 15th holes at the Masters or the island green 17th at the Players any time. For that matter, I'd rather watch, cover or play the TPC at Sawgrass than any of the British Open venues. Heresy, you say?
Listen, the British Open Championship is a wonderful tournament with perhaps the most distinct flavor of any event in golf. But if asked to choose between the two, I'll take The Players Championship in a heartbeat. Just don't try to force down my throat the idea that it is one of golf's four majors. That notion will never fly. Unless, of course, Tiger Woods wakes up one morning and decides otherwise.
Remember, it was Nicklaus in the '60s and '70s who defined and reinforced the concept and importance of the four majors. His was the dominant influence of that era. Woods is that influence now. Don't expect him to try and reconfigure anybody's thinking on any of this any time soon.