The Players Championship should be a Major

After a shake-up in the Major calendar in the last couple of years with COVID issues and the PGA Championship moving to May, it’s time to add The Players Championship as a Major.

The Players Championship is already considered a Major in the minds of most professionals and PGA Tour fans. It’s the best field – top to bottom – in golf. It’s a huge purse. It’s a ginormous amount of Fed-Ex points, and it is played at an iconic course.

Let’s break down why it makes sense to add The Players to the Major calendar and see if we can put to rest the fears of staunch traditionalists.

The calendar sets up perfectly

What would the PGA calendar look like with a 5th Major added in March?

March – The Players Championship

April – The Masters

May – The PGA Championship

June – The U.S. Open

July – The British Open (I know it’s just the “The Open” now, but some habits die hard.)

August – The FedEx Cup run-up with The Northern Trust and BMW Championships

September – The TOUR Championship

The Players fits in without disrupting any existing Major. I think of it as adopting a new dog into the family. Does it get along with the other pets and kids without messing with their routines and space? Yep, no problem here.

The PGA Tour pros already think of it as a Major’

This is perhaps more important than we realize. There is a reason the Fed-Ex Cup is so important to these guys. Cash. Mountains of cash. If the FedEx Cup didn’t have the biggest payday in the history of golf, do you think the Players would treat it so seriously?

I think a lot of guys would take time off after the last Major. But with a 10-15 million dollar payday out there? Yeah, that might get me a little more motivated.

The point is, The FedEx Cup had to create a massive incentive to become relevant.

The Players already has the reputation of being the 5th Major and is the most coveted title outside of a Major. Formalizing this reputation won’t take any additional effort by the Tour, the players, or the fans to accept.

I look at it this way:

The USGA has The US Open

The PGA has The PGA Championship

The R&A has The Open

Golf Traditionalists and history buffs have The Masters

Why don’t the PGA Tour Pros have a Major in their honor? Well, they do. It’s called the Players Championship and it’s contested at TPC Sawgrass every March. It pays like a Major, has the respect of a Major, awards FedEx Cup points like a Major, and has the best field of any tournament in golf including the existing Majors.

It’s just not a “Major.”

It’s played at an iconic course

TPC Sawgrass is often referred to as “Pete Dye’s Masterpiece.” Even with that moniker, TPC Sawgrass doesn’t get the respect it deserves. This year Golf.com ranked it as the 68th best course in the world.

If you watched The Players this past weekend, that seems a little low, doesn’t it? Is the masterpiece design of the most influential golf architect of the last half-century really that low on the list? It’s hard to believe there are 67 better courses in the world.

TPC Sawgrass is home to arguably the most famous par-3 in golf – the island 17th. The closing stretch of 16, 17, and 18 rivals Amen Corner for drama. In both cases, tournaments are won and lost on those stretches.

On top of that, TPC Sawgrass is a public course – although the most expensive in America. Still, adding a Major at a course that anyone can play seems to fit with the inclusivity goals of the PGA and would make Sawgrass the Pebble Beach-equivalent of the Florida coast.

It adds weight to the early part of the PGA schedule

Much like a slugger in the middle of the order, adding The Players as a Major gives the Hawaii-California-Florida swing of the Tour season some added punch.

It’s hard to believe that a schedule that includes Riviera, Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, the Waste Management theatrics, and Arnie’s Bay Hill needs a goose. But remember that the NFL is now going into February and many American sports fans aren’t in “golf-mode” that time of year.

What if those tournaments in February also had players and fans thinking about the first Major in March? Bay Hill would become even bigger as the last stop before a Major. That would be a nice tribute to Arnold Palmer and make for a seamless handoff between the Super Bowl and the golf Major season.

Adding a Major doesn’t upset the golfing universe

The most common rejoinder is that players are judged on their Major victories and adding a Major dilutes or skews the accomplishments of past Major champions.

Let’s take a walk down “Golf History Lane.”

At one time, the U.S. and British Amateurs were considered Majors. The PGA Championship was a matchplay event until 1958. The Masters didn’t exist until 1934 and didn’t sell out until 1966. In the 30s and 40s, the Western Open was considered among the most prestigious titles.

Some have speculated that Arnold Palmer and journalist Bob Drum created the modern Grand Slam during a plane flight to England in 1960. Back then there were no “official” Majors, just big tournaments often called “major (small ‘m’) victories”.

The point is that the Majors as we know them today have been in flux since golf Championships began. The argument that history dictates there are only four Majors is a weak one and based more on emotion than fact.

The game has grown tremendously in the last 50 years. There are plenty of dollars, sponsors, and quality players to add another Major.

For the record, I’d suggest past Players Championship winners not get credit for a “Major” victory, but future winners would. It would in no way diminish the records of Jack, Tiger, and the like. Bobby Jones never competed in a PGA Championship because he never turned pro. Do we think less of his record?

The Players Championship is already special

“Better than most…BETTER THAN MOST!”

It’s etched into golf history as one of the greatest shots and calls in the game. The fact is, The Players has earned its right to be called a Major.

The island green is perhaps the most iconic hole in all of golf. It’s a roller coaster layout with eagles and double bogeys all over the place. The field is, by tournament rules, loaded every year. The list of past winners of the Players is a Who’s-Who of Hall of Famers.

It checks every box multiple times.

It’s time to simply initial the contract and make The Players Championship what it has been in the minds of those who play and love the game for years – A Major Tournament.