Thursday, May 8, 2008

Players the 5th Major ... Not a chance

It officially started on May 6th, but in truth it’s carried out at least subliminally every day of the year. It’s Timmie Finchem’s campaign to have The Players Championship declared a Major Championship.

Timmie, I hate to be the bearer of bad news (not really), but 2008 will be like every year before it. It ain’t gonna happen now and it ain’t gonna happen in the future. Let me put it this way. When baseball changes it’s rules to having five bases and someone hits a bases loaded home run and a grand slam scores five runs; we’ll consider it. Remember Timmie, it was the media who wrote in 1969 that the major focus of Jack Nicklaus’ schedule was the Masters, US and British Opens and the PGA Championship that the word Major was used.

When The Players Championship first appeared on the schedule in 1974, Nicklaus had ample opportunity to anoint it as being worthy of his major focus. Maybe because it was first played on that combination hell hole and wind tunnel, Sawgrass CC that forced he and others to regard it as a survival mission rather than a golf tournament. Then when they moved to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the design was so weird for the day that for awhile few took the tournament seriously.

There were a few other things that tarnished the image as well. For instance, they had a Pro Am—a definite no-no for Major status. The tournament primarily was a vehicle for the Tournament Players Clubs, a network of golf real estate developments owned by the PGA Tour. The success they had with the then Tournament Players Championship successfully branded the network. As a result, the players’ pension fund will make more money for the retired players than they made on the PGA Tour. Name me a current Major that was used to sell house lots. Both of things are history now, but that’s just it. It’s part of The Players Championship’s history.

Don’t get me wrong. The Players Championship is a nice tournament, perhaps a great tournament, but not a major. Justin Leonard put it in perspective. “The Majors are the apples and The Players Championship is an orange—a big orange maybe, but it’s still an orange,” he said.

Having said that and believing it, full disclosure demands that I admit that I am in a pool where you draft in order to pick your team for The Players Championship. Four of eight players have to make the cut and the low four-player team after 72 holes wins. This is the first year The Players Championship has been accorded this status. It now joins the, ahem, four Majors

Hey Timmie, it may only be a local sports bar in Central Florida, but it’s a start. Why don’t you stop by some weekend afternoon? They’ll have your golf tournament on at least one of their hi-def TVs. Buy, a round of dollar draughts and you’ll have a public groundswell on your hands. That my friend is the only chance you have to have an opportunity for The Players Championship considered a Major by anyone.

Bartender, please pour a draught beer for the Commish. It’s an acquired taste and I’m sure he’ll find it different from the fine wines and scotches in his wet bar. Timmie, if you’re going to be a man of the people, this is where we live.

See you on the first tee,


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