Something has been bugging me. I’ve let it linger for a couple weeks, but in truth, it’s been lingering for a few years. And now it’s time to let it out.
During the Player’s Championship at TPC Sawgrass, I was once again forced to endure a number of references to it being “golf’s unofficial 5th major.” No, it’s not. There’s no such thing, officially or unofficially.
For U.S. golf fans, there are four majors, and they exist in a definitive pecking order. It also happens to be the order in which they take place – for now. More on that later.
In order of importance and chronology, it goes like this:
- U.S. Open
- British Open
- PGA Championship
People will argue based on which one they like more, or which major holds more importance for the players who compete in them. But for the audience watching at home, this is it. The ratings and amount of coverage back it up year after year.
The Masters is not only the most watched, it’s what most casual fans think about when it comes to the golf equivalent of the Super Bowl. We know the winners, the course, the history, and the green jacket is the best “trophy” in sports next to the Stanley Cup.
The Opens are close to each other at 2 and 3, and depending on the venues in any given year, they flip flop. Sure, European players will say the British is better, and Americans will argue the U.S. Open is the real deal. But I’m talking about what’s important to us, not them.
Also, both Opens are special for their democratic nature. More players can qualify and technically “win” than can the Masters or PGA. And they beat the others in the history department. The British is the oldest, and for one of the greatest wins in history, we need look no further than Brookline MA. That’s where Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open in one of the most unlikely upsets in any sport.
That leaves the PGA Championship, which has long been treated as the red-headed stepchild of the majors. It simply lacks the caché of the others, and when Sports Illustrated polled tour pros in 2012 and asked what one major they’d most like to win, the PGA came in last with – get a load of this – 2% of the vote. Hell, forget about what’s important to us. It’s not even important to them.
Now, some of the problems with the PGA Championship will be fixed when it moves up on the calendar starting in 2019. It’ll be played the weekend before Memorial Day, helping to bridge the gap between the Masters and U.S. Open. That’s good news for golf’s 4th major, but bad news for anyone trying to be the 5th. Especially the Players Championship.
Starting next year, the Players will be held in March, before the Masters. Farewell to any thoughts of it being thought of as a major championship, since the invitational at Augusta has long been thought of the “real” start of the golf season. Not to mention it’ll have to compete with March Madness. What will you be watching Thursday, March 14th through Sunday, March 17th? My guess it’ll involve a large orange ball, not a small white one.
But most of all, the thought of just “adding” a major is silly. The LPGA did it in 2013 with France’s Evian Championship. What, you didn’t hear about that? Right, because it’s an obvious marketing ploy that fell on deaf ears.
I realize that calling the Players Championship an unofficial 5th major is mostly about marketing too. But before anyone gets any bright ideas, let’s remember that golf is doing all it can to support the 4 they already have, and let the Players be what it is; an outstanding tournament on a premier course with a top field.
Shouldn’t that be enough?
— By Rob “Hardy” Poole, 98.5 The Sports Hub
You can hear Hardy’s thoughts weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ET on the Zolak & Bertrand program. As well as the Sports Hub Golf Club every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET during the season. Follow him on Twitter @HardyRadio.