The 5th Major
Not a 5th major? The Players Championship for some unknown reason has not been ordained as the 5th major championship in professional golf. Purists have argued that golf has but 4 majors and adding a 5th would muddy the waters for record holders, possibly diluting historical marks set by many of the games legends. The argument has some validity as with many other sports, current competitors are in a constant battle against their contemporaries and ghosts from the past. But how did we get to 4 majors in the first place?
The PGA Championship and the Master’s didn’t exist as majors back when Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam. He held all 4 majors at the same time, just not the ones we consider majors today. So why all the hubbub about messing with tradition? Mr. Jones won the British Open, British Amateur, US Open, and the US Amateur as his 4 major titles. He never played golf professional, remained an amateur till he was put to pasture at the ripe old age of 28. Yet, that feat of holding all 4, even when two of them held amateur status, still rings the bell for those opposed to progress. Come to think of it, they were considered the 4 majors of golf at the time. I’m not talking about cutting down trees here, or drilling in Alaska. I’m talking about validating a tournament which shouldn’t require validation. The players already think of it as the 5th major. I would be surprised if the majority of fans didn’t hold it in the same esteem.
Again, not disparaging the accomplishments of Mr. Jones, there really are no bigger legends in the game. He held them all. The closest we’ve seen since is the Tiger slam, the only other player to hold all 4 at the same time….just not in the same calendar year. So what if we added “The Players” to the mix in a official capacity? What pre tell will be the cataclysmic catastrophe that would sully the great game of golf? I know, less people would watch the tournament….wait “The Players” is one of the most viewed tournaments of the year, so scratch that off the list, pretty sure more would tune in with the upgraded status. The field would have to get better and that may exclude some players that are able to participate now……no that’s not it, arguably the deepest field in all of professional golf. Deeper than the Masters and the PGA Championship for certain. You could argue the Open Championship and the US Open are at least equal. I know, the other tours would be jealous and want a 5th major too? Guess not, the LPGA and the Champions Tour both already have 5 majors. Why not the PGA?
I’ve come across some asinine assertions researching for this blog post. On one highly reputable (at least during football season) the knock was on the golf course. That’s right, TPC Sawgrass, you know maniacal Pat Dye design, was a niche golf course, a gimmick. Has too many “Las Vegas” strip style holes to support a major. “Real” majors don’t have trick holes that are there to embarrass the players. It’s part of the internet, so it must be true. Um…..not calling the 12th at Augusta National a trick hole, but it is a short par 3 that has ripped the heart out the best players in the world. Very few holes that tour professionals pucker for when they are holding an 8 or 9 iron from the tee. The “Road Hole” at St. Andrews? What about the one you drive blind over the hotel? These aren’t trick holes, they are memorable holes that cause the pulse to quicken. The 17th at Sawgrass is the same. It’s a fair test, and we don’t need to search too long to find plenty of memorable tourney winning shots made on that very green. It’s why we tune in! 3 shots is not a safe lead if you haven’t putted out on 17. If I was going to call for a gimmick hole, I’d probably assail 18 before I bothered with 17. I’d have a better chance of finding Waldo than I would finding that fairway. If there was something wrong with the course, guys would quit showing up. They like the test, they love the interaction with the fans.
It’s time to make The Players a major. It has all the ingredients. Reputation, depth of field, a fantastic venue that is without question the crown jewel of the PGA of America. People tune in, even casual fans, they want to see what will happen coming home….especially when it’s time to tee it up on number 17. Give the fans a major, 5 months straight. I absolutely love the major run from June through August. One after the other…bang, bang, bang….sprinkled with huge events in between. No better time in golf in my opinion. If only to further validate the impact of “The Players” you need only look at the 2015 edition….sure felt like a major to me.