The Players is a major

Not only is The Players a major, but it is also the number one major! Why not? Who decides?

If you want to win some easy money pose a bet by asking the name of the four golf tournaments that comprise the Grand Slam. Inevitably the answer will be “The Masters, PGA, US Open and British Open” and that is wrong! The Grand Slam has only been won in the same calendar year once, in 1930 by Bobby Jones. He won the US Am, US Open, British Am and British Open.

How and when did it change? It changed in 1960 when Arnold Palmer was flying to play in the British Open with sports writer Bob Drum. Palmer had won the Masters and the US Open. He turned to Drum and asked “If a player were to win the Masters, PGA, US Open and British Open in the same year what would it be called? They agreed (a modern) Grand Slam was a great choice. Drum contacted Mark McCormick, Palmer’s Manager who went on a huge promotional campaign with the British Media and they loved it. Voila, the Grand Slam! Adding to their enthusiasm was the fact 1960 was the 100th anniversary of the British Open and it was being held at St. Andrews; what a story!

Nobody disputes the two Opens but at that time, the players considered the Western open as a major which Arnie won in 1961 as well as the British Open. What if he decided the Grand Slam would be the British Open, the PGA, the US Open and the Western Open? Of course, he wouldn’t do that because he won the Masters in 1960. Mark McCormick wouldn’t let a marketing opportunity like that getaway.

Let’s not forget the players considered the North-South to be a major until the 1950s.

The majors are unique in several ways. First, of the golf courses, Augusta National is the best known by fans both for its design and for beauty. The other championships play a rotating cycle but the different venues each offer distinct similarities mostly in difficulty. However, TPC is the most difficult in comparison. TPC has a course rating of 76.8 and a slope of 155; Augusta National, has a rating of 78.1, a slope of 137; Winged Foot, has a rating76.4 slope140; Oakmont rating of 76.4, a slope of 141; Carnoustie rating of 77.4 a slope 143 and Troon rating75.0, a slope 145. It is beautiful and at the time of the event, the wind changes direction daily causing plenty of swirling conditions. It is a very easy course for spectators to walk, there are hundreds of excellent vantage points and as a permanent site the infrastructure for media is built in; meaning camera locations can be tested and reviewed for top production quality.

The field is the strongest of any event held anywhere. The winner receives the same 600 Fed Ex points as the winners of the other majors. The World Golf Hall of Fame designates a list of majors plus the Players (as nomination criteria) and not that money should determine quality, the purse for the Players is $25M in comparison to $15M for each of the other four events.

Some might suggest tenure as an ingredient but the Masters was only 28 when Arnie invited them in. In fact, for the first few years, the Masters passed the ‘hat’ among members to accumulate some prize money. That was followed by donations from the City of Augusta in an effort to attract tourism. They budgeted for 20,000 spectators and got 1,000. The Players is 48 years old and has never been anything but financially viable with packed ticket sales and large TV audiences.

The Masters Champion earns a lifetime exemption but the US Open, British Open, PGA Champion and Players Champion all gain 5-year invitations and all 5 earn 5-year PGA Tour privileges. In every case, the winner earns huge numbers of Ryder Cup points and they all earn a spot in the Tournament of Champions.

Somewhere around 1970, Dean Beman had a dream to convert several acres of swamp into a golf course intending to establish one of the best golf championships in the world. He not only succeeded, but he also passed the others.

Michael Schurman
Michael Schurman is a Master Professional and Life Member who first joined the PGA of Canada in 1964 and played the Canadian Tour in 1970. He was inducted into the PGA of Canada Hall of Fame Class of 2020 and is a Charter Member of the PGA of Ontario Hall of Fame. He and his wife Diane live in Durham, Ontario.

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