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Archive for Friday, May 11, 2007

Commentary: TPC falls short in major discussion

May 11, 2007

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— Two years ago, Phil Mickelson sat under a tent, took a couple swigs of water and began talking about the plight of the PGA Tour.

Mickelson was at the Par-3 Shootout in Gaylord, waiting for the arrival of his playing partners after their round at Treetops. Mickelson was alone, so for several minutes reporters got a rare chance to get his thoughts on golf.

The thing I remember most about Mickelson's comments that day was his candid explanation about the PGA Tour's identity crisis.

"We're the only sports league that doesn't own its own championship," he said. "It would be like the NFL not owning the Super Bowl or Major League Baseball not owning the World Series."

It's true. Augusta National runs the Masters, the U.S. Golf Association runs the U.S. Open, the Royal and Ancient runs the British Open and the PGA of America runs the PGA Championship.

That leaves the PGA Tour with only two marquee events: the unofficial Presidents Cup and the Players Championship. At the time, Mickelson said something needed to be done. But he stopped short of saying the Players should be considered the fifth major.

He was right. Every year there's a debate about whether the Players deserves to be the fifth major on the schedule. With this year's schedule overhaul, the Players was moved from its traditional slot in March to this week in May - the only month from April to August without a major. Some thought that was the chronological underpinning needed to hoist the Players into the realm of golf's major championships.

But it's apparent May is the wrong time on the sports calendar for the Players, which has to compete with the NHL and NBA playoffs. Plus, the reason the Players received plenty of attention in the past was that it was held during the Florida swing and was considered the big event leading up to the Masters two weeks later.

Now, much like its famous 17th hole, the Players finds itself on an island. I've never covered the Players, but I asked two reporters who regularly covered it if they were going to cover it this year. One said he was too busy and the other just laughed at me. Do you think - with everything else going on in sports - that even if Tiger Woods wins the Players on Sunday that all those sports-talk roundtable shows on Monday will devote much attention to the Players?

And yet I still understand and sympathize with Mickelson's comments. The PGA Tour deserves its own major. The problem with the Players is that it's fighting an uphill battle against the tradition of golf having only four.

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