Would someone please tell Timothy “Grouchy” Geary that after nine miserable years his infantile and incoherent rants have not been connecting with readers. Leave it to me to spill the beans about why the “Grouchy One” fails to connect. Sources say his habit is to blurt out worthless golf columns after pounding down 6 – 8 Bud Lites. Makes me wonder if a dozen brewskis might help him articulate better.
So April is the month the sports world is obsessed with The Masters – the mother of all golf tournaments. A look at the May calendar shows another high-profile event at TPC Sawgrass called The Player’s Championship. The reason The Player’s Championship is noteworthy is because it is run by the biggest tour in the world, features a whopping purse of $10.5 million with $1.8 million to the winner, along with a 10-year exemption on the PGA Tour. Can we agree that if you’re a world class player, you will tee it up here?
The Player’s Championship always gets the strongest and deepest field is because the paychecks are massive, the largest of the planet for posting a 72-hole score. If you make the cut you’ll pocket at least $25,000. The Pete Dye-designed TPC Sawgrass course is a quirky, made-for-TV track but its fun to watch the pros get sliced and diced on the back nine, which is filled with tons of risk and reward shots. The island green on the par-3 17th hole is the hokiest hole in golf, but it makes me watch. The hole is clearly a gimmick because the carnage of balls hit into the water over the last four years reads like this: 2015 (45); 2014 (28); 2013 (44); 2012 (39).
The Players has been around 42 years, but only at TPC Sawgrass since 1982, and in clutch moments some very big names have splashed balls into the pond around 17 green, turning possible victory into instant defeat. Sergio Garcia claimed victory in 2008, but a few years ago he was leading by two standing on 17 tee before splashing two balls into the pond. I’m not sure after watching that momentous choke that I felt a sharp surge of pain or pleasure. Great players aren’t supposed to do that in the clutch!
Last year was memorable because Rickie Fowler played the final four holes in 5-under par, and then won a sudden death playoff with Kevin Kisner by birdieing 17. Certainly an impressive and memorable performance by Fowler, but The Player’s is not and never will be a major championship, despite all the chatter.
A combination of field, course and fans can create an electric atmosphere around the event but not nearly as pressure-packed as a major. Jack Nicklaus is the only three-time champion before the event was held at TPC Sawgrass. Two-time champion Tiger Woods recently summed it up accurately saying, “I think you could honestly say that it’s the Tour that runs it, so that’s why they’re trying to elevate it to a major.”
The Players is the PGA Tour’s flagship event and might be every bit as difficult to win as one of the majors and the final hour rarely lacks for suspense, drama or pressure. The tournament does not lack prestige and seems to get bigger and better every year. But it has not earned the right to be rated alongside the majors, it might be close.
Jim Furyk, fourth in career money earnings with over $65 million including 17 wins said, “The Players is always a giant event. And, I would call it the fifth-biggest event in golf.”
Amen. End of story…until next May when we once again begin debating whether the Player’s Championship is golf’s fifth major?
(Tom Gorman, in his prime could easily pump down a dozen Narraganset, or was it Schlitz?)