Unofficially, The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass has been regarded as golf’s fifth major for some time already. But should that become something more official?
Rory McIlroy added his name to an illustrious roll of honour of winners of the $12.5 million PGA Tour event when sealing a one-shot win over Jim Furyk on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass last week.
The Northern Irishman joined some of the world’s biggest names who have won The Players Championship, including three-time winner Jack Nicklaus, two-time champions Fred Couples, Davis Love III and Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, Greg Norman, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day.
It reads like a who’s who of golfing major winners and it is little wonder why there is a clamour to increase the status of the tournament. But the key thing here is that The Players Championship isn’t a major, and it isn’t likely to become one either.
Golf already has four majors and they have been there a long, long time. The Masters first started at Augusta in 1934, the USPGA Championship dates back to 1916, the US Open debuted in 1895 and The Open Championship’s rich history began in 1860.
So does a tournament like The Players Championship, which was held for the first time in 1974, really have the kind of heritage that deserves upgrading it to major status?
Yes, it features arguably the best field of any tournament outside of the four majors. Yes, it has similar entry requirements to make up the 144-strong field with winners of PGA Tour events in the last 12 months, the top 125 ranked players, major winners and Players Championship winners in the last five years and a whole lot more. But does that make it a major?
It is also played on one of the most iconic golf courses with TPC Sawgrass known worldwide for its famous island green on the par-3 17th. But, The Masters aside, majors move around courses on a rotational basis and do we really have room for another permanent venue?
Tennis has long had just the four majors—the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open—and there has never been the outcry to add to those four.
Like The Players Championship, tournaments such as the Indian Wells Masters, the Miami Open, the Monte Carlo Open and the Toronto Masters are among those carrying hefty prize funds. They could arguably state the same kind of case to become a major as has been made about The Players Championship.
But with golf—like tennis—now part of the Summer Olympics since debuting in 2016 in Rio when Justin Rose won the gold medal, the sport effectively gained a fifth major then.
While the Olympics will never carry the same lustre as one of the existing four majors, simply because of the fact the field is limited because of limits on entrants from each country, it carries enough significance to mean The Players Championship will not become a major.