Major delusions of grandeur at PGA's showpiece event

EVERY year it's the same old thing, the same old spin. Whenever the PGA Tour plays its annual home game at the TPC at Sawgrass, we get bombarded by a publicity campaign telling us how and why the Players Championship is golf's "fifth major". It isn't, of course. It never has been and never will be.

None of which stops the PGA Tour from trying to convince us that golf needs just one more elite event. But even the players don't think we need one. As that diminutive master of rhetoric, former USPGA champion Jeff Sluman, put it so aptly: "When you go to Denny's and order the Grand Slam breakfast they don't bring you five things do they?"

Still, to put an end to this nonsense, here are the ten reasons why the world's fifth-biggest event will never make the jump from minor to major.

1 Given that three of the four real majors are already held in the one country, the last thing golf needs is another one in the good ol' US of A. Throw in the fact that the three "World" Golf Championships over the new few years are all going to be played east of LA and west of NYC, Uncle Sam's nieces and nephews can hardly complain if the rest of us take the wider view that enough is enough. After all, lack of travel narrows the mind.

2 While prepared to concede that, were the professional game starting over today, the Players would probably gain major championship status through being the biggest event run by the biggest tour - today's four majors should probably be the Open, the US Open, the Players and a travelling World Match Play Championship - it ain't going to happen, people. Not as long as those green-jacketed stiffs at Augusta and those plaid-jacketed sweater salesmen at the PGA of America have voices louder than they should be in this day and age.

3 The 17th hole at Sawgrass is very famous. It has an island green and, yes, it has produced a lot of mindless excitement over the years. But it isn't golf. Not real golf. It's a circus designed to appeal to the same sort of people who sit on hairpin bends at Grand Prix races waiting for cars to crash and people to die.

You can't punch the ball in low, you can't land it short and run it in, so every player hits the same high and straight shot to a target that accepts only that one shot. Real majors deserve better than to be decided on such one-dimensional rubbish.

4 Real majors have their own identity, they don't copy other majors. They don't start off being the Tournament Players Championship, switch to the Players Championship, then again to the Players, in a feeble effort to sound more like the Masters. Real majors don't have pro-ams, as the Players used to before the PGA Tour noticed that the Masters, US Open and Open manage to get by without shamelessly dipping into the deep corporate pockets of people who can't break 100 on their best days. Real majors don't change their dates because everyone pitches up thinking about the Masters. Only wannabe majors do those things.

5 In the days leading up to real majors, the big names scatter. Some like to play competitively. Others spend the week on the range with their swing coaches. Quite a few like to play social golf on courses similar to that they will find when the real major comes along. But what they do not do is congregate in one place, as happened last week when 19 of the world's top 20 contested the Wachovia Championship.

6 Real majors are worldwide phenomena. People in Australia get up in the middle of the night to watch them on TV. They are not just a big deal in America. They attract more than three representatives of the press from the UK and are not shown exclusively on Setanta Sports.

7 Real majors are designed to identify the best. They are not typically won by people called Jodie Mudd, Craig Perks, Fred Funk and Stephen Ames. And that's without me even bringing up Mark Hayes and Mark McCumber. For who's-who read who's that?

8 Tiger Woods, like history, cares about real majors, to the exclusion of all else. He goes to real major venues weeks in advance to take a look at the course, study its nuances and come up with a game-plan for each and every hole. Tiger Woods plans his year around real majors and never plays competitively in the week before any of them. Tiger Woods knows that his position relative to the great players of the past and future will be largely determined by how many real majors he wins.

Tiger Woods didn't visit the completely revamped TPC at Sawgrass prior to this week. He played last week. Tiger Woods, who has stirred himself enough to win the thing only once, knows that the Players Championship isn't a real major.

9 Real majors are not run by organisations that claim to have given over $1bn to charity when the reality is that they have done no such thing. Just so you know, it is the tournaments on the PGA Tour that do so much good for those in need, not the Tour itself, a subtle but important distinction.

Oh, one more thing, real majors really don't care how many Fed-Ex Cup points are available for a victory. Or who led the week in the "bounce-back" statistical category. Or who missed most fairways on the right.

10 The bottom line? The Players just isn't a real major. As that master of succinctness, US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, said last week: "It is not a career-defining win." Enough said. Now, can we move on please?