As always happens this time of year, the debate gets stirred up as to where The Players stands among golf tournaments. Is it just another tournament? Is it a Major? The answer to both of those questions right now is no. It’s far from just another tournament. With all due respect to the volunteer forces around the country who put on weekly PGA Tour events, The Players is a couple of notches above any of those. Being the showcase for the PGA Tour, in it’s backyard, they spare no expense to make it the marquee event on Tour, It’s their time to shine and they take advantage of it. I’ve said several times before and still believe it: this tournament isn’t only the best run golf tournament, it’s one of the best run sporting events in the world. It needs some tweaking, no doubt, but it’s way up there on the list of what a big event feels like.
But it’s not a major either, at least not yet. What it is is the championship of the PGA Tour.
Each of the four Majors has its on cachet. The Masters is about the reverence for the game, the traditions of the game and the southern hospitality they consistently show at Augusta National. It’s very much about the game of golf. The US Open is our national championship. If you think you’re good enough you can sign up somewhere in your town and have a chance to win the national title. Through qualifying and competition, anybody can get there. The Open Championship honors the beginnings of the game, the elements and in some respects the way the game was invented to be played: through the elements. It also serves as the world championship for many, having been around (the game that is) before some countries were even formed. The PGA Championship was a math play event as invented, mimicking the game most of us play among our “friends.” It also honors the nearly 30,000 professionals who keep the game alive in public and private clubs and continually try to grow the game.
The Players is none of those. It’s about the fans, corporate hospitality, charity, television and a performance by the players as entertainment for the fans with a large amount of money on the line. I heard several analysts last week say the 17th hole “holds the tournament back.” From what? The Tour itself is mirrored by the 17th hole. It’s difficult, corporate tents surround it, fans are everywhere and television has installed a dozen or so cameras to catch every angle of what happens. Some have suggested it would be a better hole if it was somewhere else on the golf course so you might have a chance to recoup any lost strokes that might happen there. Actually it’s perfect where it is. It’s a lonely shot when you play there by yourself, standing out on that peninsula with nothing but water and the green in front of you. As the 71st hole in a championship, it should define the decision-making, the nerves and the execution it takes go finish the job. Hit it or don’t. It’s that simple.
Seventeen isn’t holding the tournament back.
It defines what The Players is all about.