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Teed Off (May 17, 2015)

Update: May, 17/2015 - 00:31

with Robert Bicknell

Tiger is gone, Cheetah is back... According to a British newspaper, Tiger Woods admitted to cheating on his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn, which was the cause of the breakup. (Funny, I seemed to have suggested this same thing in last week's column...) It is obvious that Tiger's father had the wrong cat in mind when he gave his son a nickname. It should have been Cheetah.

In the US, "Deflategate" was the big story with the NFL (National Football League) laying on an absurd penalty on the New England Patriots (US$1 million fine, plus loss of two draft pics) and their star quarterback, Tom Brady was hit with a four game suspension for "probably knowing about" having underinflated balls during the game with the Indianapolis Colts.

Apparently, both Tiger Woods and Tom Brady have the same preference for having their balls deflated. BOOM! OK, onwards to the other big story in the news, Ricky Fowler's fantastic win in the Player's Championship. The kid played some great golf, especially after other Tour Pros suggested that the two most overrated players on Tour were Ian Poulter and... wait for it... Ricky Fowler.

Well, that should shut them up for a while, but it should be remembered that, although the PGA Tour would like everyone to think of the Player's Championship as a "5th major", the fact remains that it is NOT a major, so Fowler still has some work cut out for him in the future.

Still, he proved he can win a big one under pressure, so it's just a matter of time before he takes the Claret Jug (Open Championship), the Green Jacket (Masters), Wanamaker Trophy (PGA Championship) or the US Open Championship Trophy – which for some perverse reason doesn't have a name... Why is the Player's Championship not a major?

Well, if you think about it, The Open Championship and the US Open are conducted by their respective national golf associations, specifically, the R&A and the USGA. The PGA Tour has no say in how either event is organized.

The Masters is organized by Augusta National GC and, again, is not part of the PGA Tour, nor the respective golf associations. It is an "Invitational" event.

The PGA Championship was established for the purpose of providing a high-profile tournament specifically for professional golfers at a time when they were generally not held in high esteem in a sport that was largely run by wealthy amateurs.

It is the only major which reserves a large number of places, 20 of 156, for club professionals.

Since December 1968, the PGA Tour has been independent of the PGA of America. The PGA Tour is an elite organization of tournament professionals, but the PGA Championship is still run by the PGA of America, which is mainly a body for club and teaching professionals.

So, in regards to the event Ricky Fowler won, it began in 1974 as the Tournament Players Championship. The Players Championship field usually includes the top 50 players in the world rankings, but unlike the three major championships staged in the United States, it is not an official event on the European Tour.

In a nutshell, Tour Commissioner of the time, Deane Beman, decided he needed another way to increase TV ratings and visibility, so he developed a championship just for Tour players, as if they needed another pat on the back.

Interestingly, when it was the Tournament Players Championship, US players won every time from its inception (1974-86) until Sandy Lyle (Scotland) took home the trophy in 1987. Changing name and format to the "Players Championship" in 1988, US players have only won only 16 of the last 26 events.

If you ask US PGA Tour pros, it's a major as far as they are concerned. If you ask European Tour pros, the WGC (World Golf Championships) is an equal to the Players Championship and both are a notch below a major.

Eventually both the Players and the WGC might become a major, but I sincerely hope not. We already have four majors and that is enough. If this continues, the prestige of being a "major" would be watered down to the point of it being just another event.

The Players Championship is a big deal to PGA Tour players and, for Ricky Fowler, that is enough for the moment. — VNS

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