Should the Players Championship be a major?
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
The Players Championship kicks off this week with arguably the best field of any championship in golf, a storied history that shows TPC Sawgrass as one of the top tests in golf and a list of champions comparable to any of the majors. Most of the players already consider it one of their “majors”. What has to happen for the traditionalists stuck in the “there-are-only-four-majors” frame of mind to get over it and finally adopt The Players as the fifth major?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Frankly, in my mind, The Players has been more of a major than the PGA Championship, for many years. I love watching the players play TPC Sawgrass, as much as I enjoy the repetition of Augusta every year. But I don’t think you’d ever get the traditionalists to either adopt The Players as a major, or as a replacement to any of the others… even if it was declared to be so by the Tour. Traditionalists are hard to break, just like traditions, and there would be a firestorm of outraged “how dare you?!”s. As if it matters. If some of us want to think there’s five, then let us do so in our own quiet, little way.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): There are ONLY 4 Majors thank you. End of story. The Players is a fine Championship, I appreciate it, and love watching, but its not a Major. And there’s simply too much history to consider when awarding such a designation, would Jack’s record Fall? Do you include or exclude past Players Champions feats? Ugh, I don’t even want to consider that hot mess. And yes, I know they (powers that be) striped Jack of his Amateur Majors, but in doing so, did so for all future players too. Just leave it as it is, a fine Championship with one of the deepest fields in golf.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: The problem here is that anyone who might be involved in the decision has a conflict of interest. Each either owns or conducts one of the current four majors. The World Golf Hall of Fame could be a more independent judge of what qualifies as a major and what doesn’t. They could also go back and look at “historical” majors such as the Western Open, The North-South Open and the Metropolitan Open, which were majors in their day. Even the US Amateur and the British Amateur qualified at one time.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): If it will save golf, let’s turn it into the fifth major. But otherwise, I don’t understand why everyone is so hell bent on classifying it as such. Can’t it just be an illustrious tournament. It has officially become March’s main highlight on the PGA Tour and caps arguably the most challenging stretch of the season in terms of golf course difficulty. Let’s just leave it as it is.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Call me a traditionalist but I don’t like the idea of considering that tournament as a major. I’m not sure why to be honest, it certainly does draw the best field of the year, and typically crowns a great champion, but I just can’t bring myself to consider the tournament as anything more than it already is. But then again, I think I only get excited about the PGA Championship because it’s a major, otherwise it would likely fall into a similar category as the Players. So maybe they should drop down to 3 majors! But in all honesty, I think keeping tradition with 4 majors per year is the way to go. What would happen if they made it the 5th major and Tiger reaches Jack’s record because he has more opportunities over the next few years than Jack ever had in a year? An asterisk beside Tiger’s record?
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Sadly, the days when a sportswriter (not a blogger, by the way) could redefine the Grand Slam (thanks Bob Drum) are long gone. It’s up to the players at The Players (now a grammatical mangle all its own self) to campaign even more widely and pointedly than they have in the TV promos. The best field every year has to proclaim The Players (nee The Players’ Championship) as a Major. The ink-stained wretches are past it.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Traditionalists have to understand that the current four majors are a relatively new thing and even they’re not cast in stone. As Michael Schurman points out, other tournaments were considered majors during their heyday, and until the 1980’s, Jack Nicklaus was recognized with two more major victories for his US Amateur wins. Major status should be earned over a period of time and not instantly created by an extra-large purse. The Players has certainly earned it but I’m ok if it’s just recognized as one of the best tournaments on Tour. History may determine otherwise but the four majors we have now are ok by me.
Last week Titleist dropped Scott Piercy as one of its staff players after Piercy posted an anti-gay slur to his Instagram account. To our knowledge, the PGA Tour took no additional action. Is this something that warrants further action by the Tour and more generally, what should the Tour’s role be in this kind of situation?
Deeks: I would hope the Tour had a quiet word with Scott, and in his case, I’m sure it wasn’t the first time. But that’s all. I mean, why blow the thing. further out of proportion, and further embarrass Pete Buttigieg? Scott Piercy is a walking zombie anyway, one of few people who can walk with one foot permanently in his mouth. As I remember, he was the total moron who won the RBC Canadian Open at Ancaster, then proceeded to verbally trash the course in his post-win news conference. Aside from being monumentally rude and unappreciative, his comment was also monumentally stupid, as Ancaster is continually recognized among the World’s Top 100 courses. Like, wayta go, dude. (May I suggest a semester at the Norman Vincent Peale Institute?)
Loughry: I think the Tour should consider his actions and evaluate if a suspension is necessary. The PGA TOUR’s statement that they’re disappointed seems to indicate they are aware of the comments/post. Maybe there is further action coming, we’ll see. Piercy’s past isn’t exactly squeaky clean, he’s a bit abrasive for my liking. I’m not shocked by this situation.
Schurman: We live in bizarre times! I have never heard more denigrating, slanderous, malicious and even evil commentary come from a political leader than from his royal ‘high’n ass’ with literally no accountability. That doesn’t excuse Piercy or anyone else. Titleist’s actions make me wonder just what is the new standard for real/civilized people obviously there are two?
Kaplan: A suspension followed up by some sensitivity training would be a good start. Piercy only has 17,000 Twitter followers—17,000 too many, if you ask me—but that post has been seen by exponentially more eyeballs now that nearly every sports media outlet has picked up the story. I don’t know if the PGA Tour needs to turn into a moral compass, but it does need to take a stance against all forms of hate speech. There’s no room for that in golf, at any level.
Rule: I admire Titleist and J Lindeberg for dropping Piercy after his IG post, which was completely inappropriate. I am disappointed the Tour has not taken any additional action. Players represent the Tour, and any comments or social media posts that show disrespect reflect poorly on the Tour in addition to the individual. The fact that the Tour didn’t take any action speaks volumes to the views of the people leading the Tour.
Quinn: It’s not the Tour’s role to babysit the ‘independent contractors.’ If the Tour’s happy thumbsters can’t self-edit, and the loss of a major sponsor isn’t a stunning enough example, then they are not worth it. Of course, it begs the question, who the heck would follow a Scott Piercy? The heart plummets imagining such a life when a beep from Scott meant something.
Mumford: Let’s make that Titleist -1, PGA Tour – 0. Normally the Tour is all about protecting its brand and image and this would have been an ideal opportunity to make a bold but necessary step that, despite America’s First Amendment right to free speech, this kind of free speech will not be tolerated on the PGA Tour. The players are the Tour’s brand ambassadors and need to set an example. Titleist gets it. A lengthy, publicly announced suspension would be fitting for Piercy and serve notice to others as well.
NBC golf analyst Paul Azinger got into it last week after he said that Europeans have to win on the PGA Tour in order to prove themselves. This was after watching Englishman Tommy Fleetwood fail to close the deal at the Honda Classic. Azinger’s comments sparked some volcanic reactions with a number of European Tour players, particularly Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. Is Azinger off base with his observations?
Deeks: Azinger’s comment was insensitive and probably better left unsaid. But I think there was some truth to it, if only evidenced by the fact that so many Euro players COME to America to win bigger money and more prestigious honours. I don’t think he was criticizing the Euro players or the Euro Tour, but I can see how they’d get their backs up. (Here’s a case in point: Sergio Garcia and Mark McNulty have both won 16 times on the Euro Tour. Sergio has won 10 PGA Tour events, McNulty 0. Who’s the more prominent player in your mind? FYI, McNulty has won 61 tournaments worldwide, Sergio 41.)
Loughry: RIDICULOUS comments by Zinger. I think he kind of realized how dumb they were not too long after coming out of his mouth. Sure, the competition is deeper on the PGA Tour, but the European Tour is every bit as entertaining, and top players are still very good sticks. I’ll take the broadcast over what has been delivered the past few years on the PGA TOUR too, its actually way more entertaining in my opinion which is a big part of the product. And the last I checked, the Ryder Cup has been DOMINATED in the last decade by Team Europe. MIC DROP.
Schurman: Azinger is paid to attract viewers to his telecasts. Poulter and Westwood would have a more valid point if players from the European Tour won equal numbers of events on the European Tour and the USPGA TOUR. It’s inevitable there will come a day as we are finally seeing the men from the Asian Tour starting to perform well on the PGA TOUR. Based on the career records of Poulter and Westwood, Azinger is right but don’t get too comfortable because as the song says, “things they are a-changin’ “.
Kaplan: LOL. Of course, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have problems with that; they have 5 PGA Tour wins combined. Azinger is not wrong. The PGA Tour is the ultimate test for golfers. All of the other tours are essentially feeder tours. I know that’s not a popular opinion. There are some very good players on the European circuit, like there are in basketball’s Euroleague and baseball’s Japanese and Dominican professional leagues. But at the end of the day, those leagues are essentially feeder leagues as well, with the best talent from each of those organizations almost always signing in the NBA and with MLB, respectively, so that they can compete against the best players in the world. The talent level of PGA Tour fields compared to European Tour fields is worlds apart, and the only people who refuse to accept that are European Tour players or fans, who are clearly biased.
Rule: Typical American post of view! However, he isn’t completely wrong, because the best fields in golf are on the PGA Tour. But with regards to Fleetwood, he has won a couple of HSBC events in Abu Dhabi, which draw a very good field including many of the top US players, so I think we can safely say he has proven himself to be a great player. And are you going to tell me that Colin Montgomerie didn’t prove himself during his career?
Quinn: ‘Zinger (what a clever nickname) is congenitally off base on almost every observation, starting with his “he has to legislate this putt” to his Euro slag. This guy is right of Rush Limbaugh and makes Dan Hicks sound thoughtful. From day one (which never should have happened) he has attempted to be Johnny Miller tough (sic). The only creative part of his schtick is finding different ways to say Miller’s ‘choke.’ That’s all he’s got and we, along with the Euros and fans of golf, have had enough.
Mumford: Azinger is not entirely wrong. Naturally, everybody wants to prove themselves at the highest level possible. However, Azinger should acknowledge that the PGA Tour isn’t just an American Tour; it’s strengthened by having most of the world’s best players full time. Naturally, that doesn’t play into his America first predilection and consequently, his comments are coloured by that perspective. Azinger is a hard-right USA rah rah troll and nobody, including Westwood, Poulter and most of the world’s sentient golf population likes that shoved in their face, whether his comments are correct or otherwise.