We’re going to put a very quick and decisive end to this “Fifth Major” conversation that creeps in every year when The Players Championship rolls around.
Ask yourself — if you played this game as a youngster — did you ever stand over a six-foot putt in a competition with your friends and say: “This one is to win The Players Championship!”
It has forever been for The Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and to a much lesser degree — The PGA Championship.
Sorry PGA Tour, as much as you’ve thrown the term “Fifth Major” around for the past 20 years, this one will never be a major. And although the old saying goes: “Never Say Never” — we feel remarkably comfortable saying The Players will never be a major.
All that being said, it is, however, a very big deal.
It’s living proof that not all PGA Tour events are created equal. The Sheriff Of Nottingham (aka Commish Jay Monahan) and his Henchmen go above and beyond to make sure it is exactly that.
And just for good measure, the Sheriff has raided the treasury and this week’s total purse is a whopping, eye-popping, greed-inducing $12,500,000 and that’s enough to get the total attention of these golf millionaires. First place is a new record payout for any event — $2,250,000 — that’s a lot of cake, no matter how you slice it.
Last year, last place paid $20,000, will probably be $25,000 this year — not bad for failing miserably.
Which brings us to success and failure this week at the Stadium Course. This track plays so very different in March than May and the only man who has won this event in both March and May was quick to point that out on Tuesday.
“It’s cooler, the ball’s not going as far. It’s gonna get cool, it’s windy. It plays so much shorter in May than March. Eighteen, a three-iron nine-iron in May, today it was three-wood, three-iron,” said Tiger Woods, coming in off a bum neck that he says is just fine now.
“It’s not painful now,” Woods said. “I was gradually getting worse, starting in Mexico. As my neck got tighter, my putting got worse.”
Which brings us to Tiger’s putting. He decided to get a second set of eyes on his stroke and those would belong to Matt Cullen, who coaches Justin Thomas in the flat-stick department. “Matt has seen my stroke enough, I’ve listened to what has said said to J.T. I had been feeling that my stroke is off. I wanted to know where it was off, what did he see.” Woods pointed out. “I wanted him to take a look at it and he mentioned a few things.”
Woods didn’t get specific with those “few things” — he never does.
Woods also gave a bit of a hint as to what’s next on his schedule, but in true Tiger secrecy, he was vague. “Match play? Let me see how this event goes. If nothing flares up, I’ll play.” He was totally mum when asked about next week’s Valspar. It is unlikely he’d play both.
But first things first.
This is The Players in May — as Woods pointed out, slower, softer, longer and windy. Could blow steady at 15-20 on Sunday.
And that will make things very interesting.