By Matt Cohen | Social Media & Site Editor
By every criterion that actually means something, the Players Championship is a major by every measure except status.
Hosted right down the road from PGA Tour headquarters, the event has gained prestige as the PGA Tour’s major, as the four majors are hosted by Augusta National, the USGA, the R&A and the PGA of America.
Consider this: for the World Golf Hall of Fame, eligible players must have won 15 times on any of the six major tours around the world or win at least two of the following tournaments — The Masters, U.S. Open, The Open Championship, PGA Championship and The Players Championship.
Five tournaments of equal standing. Four of them are majors.
So the million dollar question – why isn’t the Players Championship a major, and should it be?
Here’s a look at the four current majors on the calendar:
- British Open: 1860-present
- U.S. Open: 1895-present
- PGA Championship: 1916-present
- Masters Tournament: 1934-present
Could one reason the Players has never gained status as a major because of the historical ramifications that would follow? Think about it. The Players started in 1974 and came to TPC Sawgrass in ’82. If all of a sudden you had five majors every year, how would golf judge players like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus – legends of the game who played four majors a year?
Golf traditionalists (and there are many) would have a difficult time comparing and analyzing a pre-and-post five major era.
Here’s what a few pros had to say on the topic this week, since it does seem to come up at the event every year.
“It’s big,” Jimmy Walker said. “If you wanted one under your belt, this would be one of them. It’s the PGA Tour’s premier event. It’s the biggest tournament run by the best tour in the world.”
“At the end of the day, for all of us it’s a major,” added Martin Kaymer.
“On first hearing that [Hall of Fame Criteria], it sounds wrong,” Graeme McDowell said. “I’m not offended by it. But there are four majors. And this is very, very good.”
“If it was a major,” Justin Leonard said, “then it would be a major.”
Another layer to the debate is purse money and ratings. At $10 million, the Players, and it’s $1.8 million first place prize, is the richest tournament on tour. Take a look at how that compares to the four majors.
As you can see, the Players is tied with the PGA for the richest tournament on tour all season, but lags way behind in the ratings department. Part of that is the non-major status, and part due to the fact the Players didn’t begin until 1974, 40 years after the Masters. Therefore, it lacks the same historical significance of even events like the Ryder Cup.
Does the Debate Even Matter?
The debate within the debate is does this even matter. After all, if every single professional on tour decided to combine forces and make the Players an actual major, how would it even get done in the first place?
No one questions that The Players is a big deal in the men’s golf world. It has as good a field (maybe better) than the other four majors. It certainly has a recognizable course, and it is played at a time of year now where it is out of the shadow of the Masters but not quite close enough to the U.S. Open to cause a conflict. Not to mention, golf isn’t exactly a sport where tradition gets changed quickly.
So – just because the Players isn’t a major doesn’t mean it’s not a great tournament. It is. And for the foreseeable future, despite social media rumblings this time of year, it will remain in status exactly what it is now – in-between the four current majors and the World Golf Championships; it’s own tournament. Or as the pros themselves call it, “our tournament.”
What do you think of the debate? Should the Players become a major, or should golf stay the way it is? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below, or upload a video to your CLICKON Golf channel with your opinion. Let your voice be heard!