Good weather, a perfect golf course, a somewhat dramatic ending and a star as the champion. The Players, 2007 had all of the ingredients of a very significant sporting event. A big-time golf tournament. So the question still is getting asked: Is it a Major?
The latest answer?
It doesn’t matter.
The Players move to May gives it a stand-alone quality that it didn’t have when it was scheduled 2 weeks before the Masters. It was a tune-up for Augusta and the players, at least the top players, were focused on the first “major” of the year. Winning The Players would be nice; a nice exemption a lot of money but The Masters is what they were pointing at to have their games in shape.
Now, The Players fills a spot in the schedule between Augusta and the US Open where, if truth be told, Jack Nicklaus hoped his Memorial Tournament would eventually reach Major status. But the tour has done everything right when it comes to running this tournament. They accommodate the fans, the media and the players with the best of everything. Any new innovation that comes along, The Players incorporates it into the tournament, making it possibly the best run sporting event in the world.
It has a quality of it’s own. Remember that the Western Open was once considered “a major.” When Bobby Jones won his Grand Slam, the Majors were the US Open and Amateur and the British Open and Amateur. The Masters wasn’t around; the PGA was for club pros. So achieving “major” status means it’s a significant week on tour, and is a tournament that the players especially want to win.
Tom Kite considered it a major when he won in 1989, saying it was a big week and the best field in golf. Current winners like Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, and this year’s contender, Sean O’Hair grew up in golf knowing that The Players was an important event. Not just a regular tour stop but a tournament to focus on.
What the tournament needs is a succession of winners who are stars on tour. That’s why it was important for Phil Mickelson to win this year. The move to may, a redone golf course and extended television coverage, the tournament needed a bona fide star to win it. No disrespect to Sean O’Hair, or Stephen Ames or Craig Perks, but if a tournament wants to raise it’s status and become more high profile, the list of winners has to be the dominant players of the era.
The tournament needs some drama at the finish to take the next step. Phil winning was great, but it would have only been surpassed by a shootout between Phil, Tiger, Sergio, Ernie and a couple of other big stars. Then it becomes memorable for the way a guy got to the championship instead of some competitors falling by the wayside.
There are some national media members who deride The Players and Ponte Vedra as a tour stop on steroids. It is a regular tour stop, times ten. And part of the PGA Tour week in and week out is the atmosphere surrounding the events. They’re not the Masters or the British Open. They’re not the US Open; they’re PGA Tour stops that include corporate hospitality and a party, fun atmosphere. That’s part of it. It that means never becoming a so-called “major” it doesn’t matter. The tournament stands by itself.