You either keep evolving or you whither and die. Golf is no different than life and the time has come to stop talking about whether The Players Championship should be elevated to major tournament status and damn well do it.
Gorman, of course, will pooh pooh this. He will regale you with the storied traditions surrounding the four majors and how it would ruin history and historic context if a fifth major should be added to the calendar. This, of course, is the same kind of thinking that would have kept us in horse-drawn buggys and perhaps even in caves. The Players Championship annually boasts the strongest field in all of professional golf.
No amateurs are in the field, no former geezer champions taking up room, no club pros who earn their livelihood giving lessons and selling pastel sweaters out of the pro shop. No, the people who tee it up each year at the Players Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida, are the best in the world. Not a has been or a never will be among them. And they compete on one of the most demanding courses in the world, with three of the most challenging and dramatic holes in all of golf right at the very end, including the world’s most famous hole, the par 3 island 17th. Is there any more of a white knuckle 135-yard shot in all of golf?
Ask the players themselves what the toughest tournament to win and they’ll mostly say the United States Open, mainly because the USGA takes the game of golf and transforms it into more of a test of survival than golfing excellence. Ask them what the toughest field is and to a man they’ll say The Players. So why hasn’t this become the fifth major? Its been around certainly long enough. The first one was contested 42 years ago. It’s held at the home of the PGA of America, where the Golf Hall of Fame is located and its one of the most cherished titles in all of professional golf. Well, we can sum that answer up in three words: The Grand Slam.
The world of golf has been held hostage by the foolish dream that someday somebody may win all four major titles in the same year. And if you add a fifth major then not only would that dream be compromised and made even more difficult, you’d have to come up with another moniker for what nobody has ever accomplished in the first place. Okay, Tiger Woods did once hold all four titles consecutively, but he won the British Open and the PGA in one calendar year and then won the Masters and U.S. Open the next. That’s four in a row but it was not a Grand Slam. Not unless you add a giant asterisk on it.
There are those who will maintain that the great Bobby Jones (please pause to genuflect) is the only player to have won the Grand Slam, but that was when both the British and U.S. Amateur titles were considered majors. They used to also say that Jack Nicklaus had 20 major titles because they included his two U.S. Amateur championships. That’s no longer the case, so by that logic, it can be argued that nobody has ever won a Grand Slam and it is unlikely that anyone ever will.
So we can just throw out that argument and focus on a reason to keep The Players Championship from being considered a major. And there is none.
(Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer: He once played the 17th at Sawgrass and parred it)