The Players Championship – The Fifth Major

The Players Championship is not considered one of the "big five" tournaments in Pro Golf. Should it be?

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The 2012 Players Championship begins May 10th in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and as usual the discussion of its place in golfing has been hotly debated. Is the Players Championship the “Fifth Major?” There are some strong reasons to think that it is. 

Not only does this year’s Players Championship have the largest purse of any tour event this year at $9.5 million, but this year’s field includes nine of the world’s top 10 players. This combination of outstanding talent and an eye-poppingly large prize combine to provide excellent competition and lots of great golf. These certainly seem like th elements of a Major, but some aren’t convinced. 

Forbes magazine comes right out and says it: “The Players Championship is not the fifth major, but it’s still a great tournament.” Forbes is responding to the idea, pushed by the PGA Tour at various times over the 38-year history of the Players, that the Players was a tournament on par with the Masters, the US and British Opens, and the PGA Championship. As time has passed and the game of golf has expanded to include more tournaments with prizes upwards of $8 million, it’s harder for some to see what sets the Players apart that would warrant its inclusion in the group of traditional “majors.”

What about the history of the golf actually played in the Players Championship over the years? It’s certainly worth noting that three of the first five Players Championship titles were won by Jack Nicklaus, one of the best known games in golf history. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, two current luminaries at the very top of their game today, are also among the past winners of the Players.

If you look at the whole list of Players winners, one fact sticks out: most of the players who have won a Players Championship have also won at least one major championship in their career. Clearly, it takes championship-quality play to prevail at the Players, and that suggests that the tournament belongs in the same esteem as the five traditional major tournaments. Even if it is never classified as a “major,” though, it will continue to attract the best and brightest golfers from around the world, and remain an important win to attain. 

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