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Is the Players Championship the 5th Major?

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Coming off the back of all the excitement of Sergio Garcia’s win at The Players Championships at Sawgrass, there have been repeated calls to acknowledge this event as the 5th major. Already billed by some as the ‘unofficial’ 5th major, there is an increasing clamour from the games modernizers that this be made official.

Of course traditionalists could not disagree more, arguing that to add another major would water down the achievement that is winning a major; something that should be the crowning glory of a career. They also say that it would short-change those who build their season around the 4 events that we currently call majors and that the Players Championship does not have the tradition associated with a major (even if this was the 89th time the event has been held).

I use the phrase ‘events that we currently call majors’ as it might surprise some that the events that we currently recognise as majors are now are not the original majors that the likes of Bobby Jones would recognise. The original majors were The Open, The Amateur Championship, The US Open and The US Amateur Championship (the first two normally being known as the British Open and the British Amateur Championship). When Bobby Jones held his 1930 grand slam of all four majors in a season, it was these events he won – not the Masters (which didn’t exist until 1934) or the PGA (which had only existed for 16 years at that point).

As an aside, for someone like Sergio including two amateur championships would finally allow him to lose the tag of most talented player never to win a major having won the British Amateur in 1998 and Tiger’s total would be boosted by 3 US Amateur Champs. But while they remain highly regarded events, the restriction to amateur players means that they will never regain the prestige that they once had and will certainly never count as majors again.

The selection of the four events we know as the majors is generally ascribed to Arnold Palmer in 1960. Having won the Masters and the US Open, he is said to have commented that if he won the British Open and the PGA he would have a grand slam to equal Bobby Jones. While Palmer’s comment was the first time that the events were mentioned as majors, they must have been known as the most prestigious events for some time for him to say that. This selection has now hardened into one of the central tenets of golf.

That the definitions of majors have changed once in the past obviously means that however unlikely, it could possibly change again. But assuming that the Players was accorded the status of a major, how would it happen – would the Players go in as a 5th major or would it replace one of the current ones?

Adding it in as the 5th major would be the easiest route as it still would not take away from the current ones. But as I mentioned earlier, would this not dilute the achievement? And why stop at adding one event, what about adding in others like the Australian Open? It is a great example of an event with excellent pedigree and a roll call of illustrious winners with the added bonus of being outside the US and therefore more appealing to the global market? Would it not create the possibility of two tiers of majors where you have your major-majors and your minor-majors (if that doesn’t sound too Gilbert and Sullivan)?

If you choose the other option and say that one of the current majors were demoted, which one would it be? While it’s only my opinion, one of them does look far more vulnerable than the others. The Open has too much tradition and an international outlook with the closest links back to the origins of the game to ever be demoted. The US Open is always set up as the toughest test in golf with the idea being that the winner should be the only person on or near par. The Masters has the pomp and ceremony (or affected gravitas and snobbery if you see it from the other side), and it has Augusta; arguably the most beautiful and demanding course in the world. That leaves the PGA somewhat sucking hind teat.

The PGA Championship used to be the grand hurrah of the season. With the increasing length of the professional golf season, this is no longer so and the addition of the end of Tour competitions on the US Tour (the Fedex Cup) and European Tour (the forthcoming Dubai World Championship) has taken away some of glare of the spotlight. Added to the perceived lack of distinctive personality of the PGA and the sensation that the winners’ roll of the PGA does not always reflect the best golfer as the lucky journeyman, then you might think that the PGA is ripe for replacement.

But you’d be wrong.

The personality of the PGA is far more subtle than that of its colleagues’. It was and is primarily a competition by the professional golfer for the professional golfer – originally at a time when professional sportsmen were nowhere near as venerated as they are now. It reserves a large proportion of its places for club professionals, rather than the touring professionals that we are used to seeing, and while this might be slightly anachronistic, it shows a refreshing independent from the moneymen. Something that was noticeably lacking at the Masters when invitations went out to players a long way down the world ranking purely because their home countries are ones where golf is a fast growing sport.

It became a major for a reason. It still attracts the highest calibre of players and while maybe not all the courses it visits could be seen as classic major venues, a vast majority are and it is held right across the country offering the chance for many people to see a major in their home town.

In some ways the PGA would not have lost some of its distinctiveness if it had not stopped being a match play event when it changed in 1958 to stroke play. In this age of television coverage, this makes a lot of sense as it allows constant golf to be seen. In match play the final day is often just the last two competitors and maybe a play-off for third and forth place. Done correctly, match play is a superb, in fact it’s possibly the best format in golf with the Ryder Cup is the most prominent example of that. Were the PGA to switch back, it would immediately have an identity that would separate it from the rest of the majors. It would also open up the chance of one of the club pros causing an upset, something that would guarantee excitement.

Whatever changes the PGA Championships does or doesn’t make to ensure its significance as a major, the question you need to ask is whether any of the winners of the PGA (or any of the others majors for that matter) would swap that victory with winning the Players. The unanimous answer would be no. The Players has a fantastic amount going for it; tradition, pedigree, a superb course and let’s not forget the enormous winner’s cheque but it does not have that certain something that will vault it up a level and into the majors and that, for the moment at least, is the way it will stay.

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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the Albertsons Boise Open

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GolfWRX bypassed the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship in the early part of the week (we made it there Thursday!) for the road less traveled this week: The Korn Ferry Tour. Specifically, we have a full buffet of photos from the range at the Albertsons Boise Open, including a full plate of WITB looks.

Here are 10 interesting photos from the Albertsons Boise Open.

This spread of Scotty Cameron Circle T putter covers will have enthusiasts drooling

Is this tee marker edible?

Name a better-dressed pro than Morgan Hoffmann…

Brandon Crick’s Pingman-stamped Glide wedge

The TaylorMade Boise Open headcover features a Boise St. blue turf background

D.J. Trahan’s Grateful Dead dancing bear headcovers are money

J-Gore! Cheers to the 2002 champ!

Sweet orange paintfill on Kevin Doughtery’s PXG 0311T 4-iron

Idaho (potato) fries aplenty on Scotty Cameron’s superb Boise Open headcover

I was unaware Will Zalatoris nickname was Beavis. But a look at this wedge and a look at this photo have me pretty convinced it is

All our galleries from the Boise Open

General galleries

WITB, special galleries

 

 

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Morning 9: Rory offers simple slow play fix, isn’t sure about TC format | Brooks favors the Euro plan | Sunjae Im!

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

August 22, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Rory’s simple slow play fix
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard reporting...”The Northern Irishman has always been one of the most outspoken players when it comes to pace of play on the PGA Tour but enough is enough.”
  • “I saw [the European Tour] released a four-point plan, but I only read the headline. I didn’t go deeper into it. I’ve had enough of the slow play stuff,” McIlroy said. “I had two hours of it last week at the [player advisory council] meeting, and that came to nothing.”
  • “Although he didn’t know the details of the new European pace of play policy, McIlroy did offer a solution for slow play when he pointed out that pace of play won’t be an issue at this week’s 30-man Tour Championship.”
  • “Seriously, it’s like traffic, right? You get 156 in the field, and it’s hard to get those guys around quickly. Even last week, 70, there was no mention of pace of play,” McIlroy said. “I’m in a privileged position that I can say that because I’m going to get into a field of 30 or 70. Obviously, guys that are not quite in my position would disagree with that. [But] if you want to speed up play, cut the field sizes.”

Full piece.

2. Rory unsure regarding new Tour Championship format 
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”While saying Wednesday that he understands many of the reasons for the new format, he also said “come back to me Monday and I’ll tell you whether it’s worked or not.”
  • …”If we’re at the PGA Tour trying to do the season of championships, where it starts at the Players in March and goes through the four majors and culminates with the FedEx Cup in the end, if the FedEx Cup really wants to have this legacy in the game, like some of these other championships do, is people starting the tournament on different numbers the best way to do it?” McIlroy said Wednesday at East Lake Golf Club.”
  • “That’s my only thing. I get it from a fan experience point of view. I get it from giving guys that have played better throughout the year an advantage. But at the same time, it will make it sweeter for a guy that starts at even or 1-under par and goes all the way through the field and wins. Or if Justin Thomas shoots the tied low score of the week and doesn’t end up winning. … I don’t know.”

Full piece.

3. JT wants the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup
Good to hear he didn’t endorse finishing third if it’ll secure the cup…JT isn’t keen for a repeat of 2017
  • AP report…”Justin Thomas lived it two years ago when he capped off his best year by capturing the FedEx Cup with a runner-up finish in the Tour Championship. Thomas was thrilled to win the cup and its $10 million prize, but felt like a loser in the immediate aftermath because he was second in the Tour Championship to Xander Schauffele.”
  • “As the No. 1 seed, he starts Thursday at 10-under par with a two-shot lead under the staggered start. It’s possible that Thomas could finish the most under par and win the FedEx Cup, even though he doesn’t have the lowest 72-hole score.”
  • “And yes, he will be paying attention…“You guys probably won’t believe me, but, yeah, it will irk me,” Thomas said of such a scenario. “I want to beat everybody every week I play.”

Full piece.

4. Can anyone really win the FedEx Cup? 
Shane Ryan investigates…
  • “…a player starting at even par has to overcome a 10-shot deficit against the top player, but he also has to overcome a variety of smaller deficits against 25 other players. That compounds the problem, but one way we can try to answer the question is by examining other big comebacks in PGA Tour history. A look at final-round comebacks shows us that one player, Paul Lawrie, managed to take back 10 strokes in a single round, though it did require Jean Van de Velde’s infamous collapse at the 1999 Open Championship”
  • “…But Stewart Cink also roared back from nine shots down, and eight players have managed the feat on Sunday from eight shots back. In some respects, the task facing the “start-at-even” crew in the Tour Championship this weekend is much easier. First, they have 72 holes, not 18, to overcome a 10-stroke deficit. Second, the competition is 29 players, not the 70-or-so who typically make the cut at a “normal” event. They have a longer time to beat a smaller number of players, and by that reckoning, chipping off 2.5 shots per round seems far from impossible.”

 

5. In case you missed it: U.S. Prez Cup team top 8 set
Brooks Koepka
Justin Thomas
Dustin Johnson
Patrick Cantlay
Xander Schauffele
Webb Simpson
Matt Kuchar
Bryson DeChambeau
6. Olesen pleads not guilty
BBC report…”Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen has appeared in court charged with sexual assault and being drunk on an aircraft.”
  • “The 29-year-old Ryder Cup winner has also been charged with assault by beating…He indicated he would plead not guilty when he appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.”

Full piece.

7. Brooks favors the European plan? 
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…“Koepka has been an outspoken critic of slow play, calling for stiff penalties against lallygagging PGA Tour players. He was asked about a policy announced this week by the European Tour that cracks down on idlers by imposing stroke penalties, not the meaningless fines used this side of the Atlantic.”
  • “Perfect. We should adopt it,” Koepka replied. Then came the surgical insertion of the needle.
  • “I think you’ll see some urgency to play. It doesn’t matter how quick you walk. It doesn’t matter how quick you do anything.”
  • “The “quick walk” argument – that hoofing it to one’s ball faster excuses taking more time than permitted to execute the next shot – is the flaccid defense of Bryson DeChambeau, a notorious laggard and someone with whom Koepka has sparred on the issue.”

Full piece.

8. Cole Hammer time…for you to win the McCormack medal
Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington…“On Wednesday, the USGA and R&A announced that Hammer remained the No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and thus had secured the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the leading men’s player at the end of the summer.”
  • “With the honor comes exemptions into the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and the 2020 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, so long as Hammer remains an amateur when playing in the majors.”

Full piece.

9. Alone in anonymity?
Sungjae Im has hardly gotten the recognition he deserves this season…
  • Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“One of the tour’s premier talents walked East Lake in anonymity Wednesday afternoon. Hard to do, given there are just 30 players at this shindig. When he passed a group of fans, necks strained to see the name on the bag, followed by a common chorus of whispers. Who’s that? … that’s not Hideki, right … wow, pretty nice shot. The man would nod as he made his way through, paying no heed to their ignorance. He doesn’t even blame them.”
  • “Hey, I’m surprised I’m here too,” Sungjae Im says with a laugh.
  • “In the Year of Young Guns, from Cameron Champ’s auspicious start to the torrid summers of Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland, only one-Im-is standing at the Tour Championship.”
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Thorbjorn Olesen pleads not guilty to sexual assault; will face trial next month

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On Wednesday, Thorbjorn Olesen indicated that he would plead not guilty to the charges of sexual assault, being drunk on an aircraft, and assault by beating, and he will now face trial in September.

Sky Sports broke the news that the Dane appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday where he confirmed his name, address, date of birth and nationality as well as his not guilty plea, and he has since been released on unconditional bail.

Olesen will now face trial at Isleworth Crown Court on 18th September which is the day before the European Tour’s Flagship event – the BMW Championship at Wentworth.

The 29-year-old was arrested on 29th July at Heathrow Airport and released upon investigation after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman and urinating in the aisle of a first-class cabin.

Olesen is currently suspended from the European Tour while the case is ongoing.

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