Fact or Fiction: Pondering the Players

FACT: The Players Championship is referred to as the "fifth major," and ranks as the most prestigious event on the PGA Tour so far this season.

FICTION: The Players Championship is, in fact, the fifth major, on par with the likes of the Masters and U.S. Open.

OK, let's not go too far, but this week's event at TPC-Sawgrass is the most prestigious on the tour schedule this season. Herewith, some of the biggest issues surrounding the tournament.

• TPC-Sawgrass' 17th hole is the most exciting par-3 in golf.

Brian Wacker, assistant editor, GolfDigest.com: FICTION. It's not even the most exciting par-3 among TPCs. That honor goes to the 16th at TPC-Scottsdale, which is also the loudest par-3 in golf. When Tiger Woods holed out there in 1997, the place exploded like maybe like no other hole in golf before or since. But there are also several par-3s that are just better: No. 12 at Augusta, Nos. 7 and 17 at Pebble Beach, to name a few. Take nothing away from what Pete Dye did 25 years ago, but the novelty has worn off when other courses start duplicating your idea. Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but that doesn't necessarily make for the most exciting hole in golf.

Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT. There is no drama anywhere quite like at this island green hole that ordinarily presents what appears to be a relatively easy shot, but has tour pros nervous before they even get to the tee. Winds can sometimes make it trickier, but it's mostly mental as a huge crowd of fans, who can see the hole from many vantage points, waits in anticipation for disaster. It is quite the scene.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World magazine: FICTION. No. 12 at Augusta National is the most exciting par-3 in golf. It comes in the middle of Amen Corner on the best back nine in golf and has the extra added attraction – and pressure – of being in The Masters. The island green is a gimmick. No. 12 at Augusta, with its tee shielded by trees from the wind, is a brilliant hole.

Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FICTION. Let's defer to Tiger Woods on this one. Earlier this week, he said, "It's all right. It's just more of a TV hole, more for you [media] guys than it is for us." Thanks, but we're not all that enamored with it, Tiger. The hole plays 137 yards to the middle of the green; if players are too intimidated by water to hit a simple wedge shot, well, that's not too exciting, either.

• The Players Championship should be moved to May.

Sobel: FACT. This should be an absolute slam dunk, no-brainer. It wouldn't even have any competition for the month – there's no other big golf tournament; baseball is settling into its second month; the NFL draft is over; the NBA is a long way from its finals; and the NHL is, um, whatever happened to the NHL? Pessimists say the course will be in worse shape in May, but realists know the TV ratings will be better.

Harig: FACT. The so-called "fifth major" gets lost in NCAA Tournament hoopla and the lead-up to The Masters, which is just two weeks away. The tournament would do better to separate itself some from the other majors, and May offers enough of a cushion between The Masters and the U.S. Open to achieve this goal. There are concerns about the TPC-Sawgrass' difficulty at that time of year, but so what? There is a void of big tournaments in May and this would give golf a top-notch event in five consecutive months.

Sirak: FACT. If the Players is moved to May, then the schedule would have The Masters in April, the Players in May, The U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July, the PGA Championship in August and either the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup in September. For six months we would be constantly building toward the next major or major-like event.

Wacker: FACT. The only thing spicy about the tour schedule in May is the barbecue in Texas. Sure, Colonial and the Byron Nelson are nice events, but they are book-ended by the three-year-old Wachovia and the bland FedEx. Moving the Players to May would also give us a (near) major every month from April through August with The Masters in April, Players in May, U.S. Open in June, British Open in July and the PGA in August.

• The Players Championship should be made into a fifth major.

Harig: FICTION. There is no such thing. You don't touch five bases when you hit a Grand Slam home run, hence there should not be five major championships as part of golf's Grand Slam. The Players Championships has positioned itself quite nicely as the next-best tournament in golf, and that should be fine.

Sobel: FICTION. In the name of Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan and all that is good and right with professional golf, let's hope this never happens. This would be the equivalent of a baseball team building a new stadium just to increase revenue for a season. Sure, it would bring more attention to the event, but it would also water down the importance of the four current majors.

Wacker: FICTION. Four majors is plenty. In fact, it's perfect. Four is a nice round number, it's always been four in golf and tennis (except for the five-major Champions Tour, which tells you all you need to know). Not to mention if golf went ahead and declared the Players a fifth major, it really would have to change some of the eligibility requirements for its field. To allow the top 125 players from the previous year's money list just isn't a strict enough standard for a major championship event.

Sirak: FICTION. Why? We have four majors. If they add a fifth major, then the discussion would begin about what the sixth major should be, and the seventh and the eighth. I can see the ad campaigns now: "Come to the B.C. Open – Golf's 36th Major." More is not always better. We have four majors. Let's just say the Players is the best of the non-majors and leave it at that.

Subscribe to:

Golf Digest