Should We Care If The Players Is Deemed A Major Or Not?

The Players Championship typically boasts a stellar field. In fact, if ranked with the four majors, it places 4th between the US Open and Masters.

Ironically, the Strength of Field stats have little to do with prestige–the PGA Championship is always last ranked when players are asked what major they’d love to win while the Masters is easily the first.

Brandel Chamblee (pro) and John Feinstein (con) engaged in a healthy debate on whether the event truly should be a fifth major–and why should anyone care.’s Alan Shipnuck reports.

The Chamblee–Feinstein kerfuffle sucked in casual fans and paid commentators alike. It was fascinating not for the content of the debate — arguments for and against the fifth major calcified years ago — but the intensity with which it was waged and what that says about the golf industrial complex. Why do we care so much if the Players is considered a major? What unseen forces are fueling the debate? And what is the golf media’s role in all of this? 

“The reason Golf Channel and NBC promote the Players as a quote-unquote major is because the Tour pushes them to do it,” says Feinstein. “Golf Channel was in a panic the last few years that they’d lose the broadcast rights to Tour events, so they bent over triple-backward to keep the Tour happy. I was on air for Golf Channel and used the old Jeff Sluman line: ‘When you go to Denny’s and order the Grand Slam, they don’t give you five things, do they?’ The producer in my ear yelled, ‘John, stop! You can’t say that here!’ ”

Parries Chamblee, “John likes to think there are nefarious forces at work, but I’ve argued for a long, long time that the Players should be a major. I came to that idea uncoerced by anybody. It’s just a logical conclusion.” Chamblee cites the Players’ strength of field, which is annually the strongest of any tournament, to which Feinstein says, “Yes, the bottom half of the field is deeper, but anybody who really matters is at all of the majors.”

When Gene Sarazen won the second Masters, in 1935, no one pounded him on the back and said, Congratulations on your first major championship, old boy. In those days the Western Open was far more prestigious. Bobby Jones’s Grand Slam in 1930 included the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur, but it’s been half a century since those events were considered a big deal. It wasn’t until the early ’60s, when the dawn of the TV age coincided with Arnold Palmer’s and Jack Nicklaus’ dominance at Augusta, that the Masters came to be seen as an equal to the Open Championship, U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

I’ve always been philosophically aligned with Feinstein, having been grossed out by the Players hype peddled by the Tour. But now, with Chamblee’s help, I’m realizing that elevating the Players’ status might affect my own. “Want to be a myth-maker, too?” he says, in the tone of a fairy-tale baddie offering a poisoned apple. “If you lead the charge to make the Players the fifth major, generations from now you could be celebrated like Herbert Warren Wind.” So tempting!