Every year, we hear the same old saw from those who journey down to the sunshine for the Florida Swing. “The Players should be the fifth major.” We’re sure the PGA Tour heads-of-state have a reason for not seriously considering The Players Championship as a fifth major option. We’re just not sure what it is.
Of the four majors recognized today, only one of them is played on the same course each year – The Masters at Augusta. The US Open, the PGA Championship, and the Open Championship all rotate to different venues each season. And yet, the Players Championship is held dutifully each year at the vaunted and historic TPC Sawgrass course and is attended by every single top golf professional who qualifies to attend. If you need a list of reasons why The Players should be sanctioned as the 5th major, here you go:
The Course History:
We played TPC Sawgrass last year with Deane Beman, the PGA Commissioner from 1974 to 1994. Commissioner Beman was the genius behind the concept of “stadium golf”. Some backstory: In the late ‘70’s, Beman was surveying a potential golf property on the eastern shore of Maryland with the noted course architect Ed Ault when he had an epiphany. He wanted to design a series of “stadium courses” around the country where the masses could come out and enjoy the day watching the world’s best golfers from multiple vantage points, and where golf could be brought into the mainstream for American television viewers. (It’s worth noting at the time, the number one televised sport in America was bowling.) Beman proposed his concept for stadium golf to the PGA. They promptly turned it down. Undeterred, he engineered the purchase of a large piece of swampland in Northern Florida for $1, hired Pete Dye, and set him to work. Dye laid out the course masterfully, using fill to build up the fairways in the swampy tract. When the architect was stymied at the 17th, it was his wife, Alice, who suggested the island green design. They simply dug the hole and let nature take its course as the low water table filled in the lake, creating one of the most iconic golf holes in the world. If it’s history you need to vote for a fifth major, I’d suggest you have it.
Every year, the Players boasts one of the deepest fields in all golf events. Qualifiers include:
- Winners of PGA Tour events since the last Players
- The top 125 from the previous season’s Fedex Cup points list
- Major champions from the past five years
- The top 50 from the current OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings)
The PGA goes to great lengths to ensure that the best players in the world are eligible to attend.
The 2019 Players Championship includes a $12.5 million purse, the largest professional prize golf has ever seen for a single tournament. The winner will take home a cool $2.25 million. The winner also receives a five-year exemption on the PGA tour, a three-year invitation to the Masters, and three-year exemptions for the US Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship.
While the Waste Management Phoenix Open holds the record for tournament attendance, The Players is no slouch, averaging more than 50,000 enthusiasts each day. Saturday and Sunday crowds at the finishing holes are festive, boisterous, and lively as they cheer on successful shots on the 17th Island Green and console the less fortunate who end up in the drink.
The Players Champ is unlike typical PGA events, which are run by local organizations. The Players Championship is run exclusively by the PGA - in its own backyard - and by the players themselves.
So, tally it up: A storied course steeped in history, played by the worlds very best players, for the most money in golf’s history, all organized and designed by the PGA and the players themselves. If that’s not the perfect formula for recognizing The Players Championship as the official fifth major, we can’t imagine there will ever be one.
-Jeff Helms is a seasoned travel writer and reports on the “Holy Trinity” of great golf trips: Fantastic golf courses paired with excellent food and great libations. He has spent the last 22 years traveling to great golf destinations and discovering where to stay, what to eat, and where to drink so you can plan better golf trips.
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