COMMENTARY | Adam Scott bellowed. Aussies drank. Long putter supporters rejoiced. The Masters happened. Now what?
After Augusta delivered another outstanding spectacle, as is the norm with the Masters, the large majority of the golfing world went back into hibernation, sleeping out the two month drag between majors. The U.S. Open doesn't tee off until June 13; the British not till mid-July; and the PGA Championship closes out the grand slam in early August.
So, what to feed the golfing fans with the most voracious appetites? The Players Championship, the unofficial fifth major, of course.
That tag has long been the moniker of the Players, a tournament segueing the gap between the recognized majors, and one that the PGA Tour has long been pushing to become an official major. It's an event that's big enough and loud enough to excite the casual golfing fan who generally only flicks over to the Golf Channel on Sundays and major weeks, and attracts the most attention of any non-major tournament from the players.
It typically hosts the most elite field (the top 50 in the World Golf Rankings are exempt), playing for the biggest purse ($9.5 million since 2008), at one of golf's most prestigious and well-known venues (TPC Sawgrass), with one of the most signature holes on Earth (the island green 17th), and is the biggest event put on by the PGA Tour.
This is the Tour's baby. It has been since 1974 when Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural title. So what's the problem? What exactly does it take for the Players -- or any other tournament -- to become the official fifth major?
Of all of golf's governing bodies, you would think that the PGA Tour would have its own major. The United States Golf Association has the U.S. Open, the R&A hosts the British, PGA of America puts on the PGA Championship and the Masters is Augusta's pride and joy. But the Tour, while it does have the FedEx Cup and a staggeringly lucrative playoff system in order, doesn't have a major.
Golf, as even any 36-handicap will tell you, is a tradition-driven sport. It takes a whole heck of a lot to change anything, aside from the courses themselves, about the game. And the majors, golf's four shining pillars, are apparently not to be messed with. Ernie Els has long decried the addition of the Players to golf's Big Four, even going as far to give another tournament the nod over the Players.
"[The BMW] is definitely taking the place of the Players," he told Sports Illustrated. "I also feel we have a stronger field here and a classic course."
Els isn't the first to point to a different tournament. Nicklaus used to say the same about the Australian Open and, as SI noted, wrote in his 1969 autobiography, The Greatest Game of All: My Life in Golf, with Herbert Warren Wind: "In conversations with friends I referred to the Australian Open as a major championship, but they knew and I knew I was kidding myself. Being the national championship of a golf-minded country, the Australian Open was a most estimable tournament to be won but simply wasn't a major championship except in the eyes of Australians. Of course, the men who won it prized it highly."
SI would also note that Lee Trevino sided with the Canadian Open as one of the top four tournaments in the world.
Will golf ever actually add a fifth major? Who knows? I sure don't. It's getting to the point where nearly a dozen tournaments could make a case as the next logical major addition. The Accenture Match Play Championship would provide a non-stroke play major, something we haven't seen since the PGA Championship did away with match play in 1958. I know I'd like to see a match play major somewhere down the road.
But for now, renowned golf writer John Feinstein seems to have it right when he said that the Players isn't the fifth major.
There is no fifth major.
Travis Mewhirter has been working in the golf industry since 2007, when he was a bag room manager at Piney Branch Golf Club in Carroll County, Maryland, and has been involved, as a player, since 2004. Since then, he has worked at Hayfields Country Club, where the Constellation Energy Classic was formerly held, and has covered golf at the high school, college, and professional levels.
- Sports & Recreation
- PGA Tour
- PGA Championship