How many majors does the LPGA Tour have? PGA Tour Champions? Does it matter?
A major is a major. It is a tournament defined by greatness, historic finishes, player praise, fan interest and hyperbolic gravitas.
The Players Championship should be the fifth major championship. Officially.
As the best field in golf gathers in Ponte Vedra this week, many can argue this is the best golf tournament on the planet. Yes, that includes the Masters. Why?
The Course – Nobody is confusing TPC Sawgrass with Augusta National. It’s not better, no matter the changes are this year. But, like Augusta, The Players offers a familiar, annual course with anticipated back-nine drama.
Fans bubble in anticipation for tee shots at the island green at 17. This comes after a reachable par 5 affords huge scoring swings. The closing 18th may be the best finishing hole for a big tournament. Anything from birdie to triple is in play, and the tee shot will test even the steeliest nerves.
It is also a really fair test of golf. It favors guys who keep it in play off the tee and can hit precise shots into the green. If Tim Clark and Jason Day can both win at Sawgrass, that’s a good golf course.
The Field – There is something to be said about an all-professional staff that rewards the best with an invite. There are no amateur exemptions. There is no open qualifying. There are no club professionals. The best touring professionals in the world are in. Period.
This also lends itself to better golf tournaments. The Masters has gotten to a point where only a dozen players, realistically, can win (the course contributes to this too). The Players, while likely to be won by a big name in this talent boom, also gives us David Lingmerth, Kevin Kisner or Paul Goydos as playoff foils.
You could say that makes the tournament less watchable, but it certainly doesn’t make it less dramatic…
The Drama – All three of these has happened in the last five years:
- Sergio rinsing one on his 71st hole trying to hold off Tiger
- Rickie going 6 under in his final six holes to force a playoff, and then win
- Martin Kaymer snaking home a bomb at 17 to hold off Jordan Spieth
Those are iconic memories, without even mentioning the accusations of gamesmanship Garcia laid at Tiger’s feet in 2013. The tournament always delivers. The list of winners this century includes Woods, Mickelson, Scott, Stenson, Garcia, Fowler, Kaymer and Day. Stout.
The Host – As the biggest tournament hosted by golf’s most successful organizing body, the week is a celebration of the PGA Tour’s ability to run golf tournaments. With rules violations, mispronunciations and setup guffaws plaguing recent majors, there has been a bigger call for the unification of golf’s powers to improve its best tournaments.
Why? The Tour knows what it is doing. From fan experience to player comfort, having 40-plus events a year to hone the craft has more than helped. There is a reason the players have their name on this tournament. It represents the best of professional golf, in all of its filthy rich success.
What prevents golf from recognizing this week, officially, as the sport’s fifth major? It is already viewed as an equal pre-requisite for Hall of Fame membership. Is the rigidness of protecting tradition the driving force behind moving on from four tournaments to bestow glory?
The game has taken huge strides this year in expanding beyond tradition. As we transition from team golf on two continents in back-to-back weeks, perhaps the time has come to transition from four to five majors. There is a most-deserving tournament for it.
The Other Winner
Each week, we identify a player who, while not winning, took something big away from the previous week.
Patrick Reed – Ignore the hot-take vitriol on Reed’s back-nine collapse on Sunday. He was in contention to win a golf tournament. That, alone, is reason to celebrate. After three straight missed cuts and no top 10 finishes in a full field event since the FedEx Cup Playoffs, a simplified approach to the game, perhaps, has centered Reed.
Whatever your opinion of him, he is as important to golf as any star right now. The top players of the game lack a je ne sais quoi that Reed provides. Maybe its fire. Perhaps it is bravado, or even petulance. Whatever it is, it is different.
Reed elevated the Ryder Cup, inspired pandemonium in golf and appears to be the only antagonist in the game who can also back up his alternative style with results.
It appears he will never sustain greatness for long periods, but if this weekend is the start of another surge, he couldn’t have picked a better time to hit the ‘Go’ button.