Fifth Major?

Originally posted May 16th/2011 –


For the fourth straight week, the PGA TOUR went into a playoff late Sunday. The sun was setting but the golf was just heating up, as David Toms and K.J. Choi returned to the island green of the TPC Sawgrass’ world famous 17th hole to decide a winner of the 2011 Players Championship.

Choi took it with a par on the first extra hole, but the quality of the other golfers chasing him and Toms should not be overlooked.

Featured on the leaderboard was the best golfer in the world right now, Luke Donald, young American stars Hunter Mahan and Nick Watney, and wily veterans Davis Love III and Steve Stricker.

The Players is contested on the same pristine course each year, admired for it’s difficult water hazards and closing stretch of holes that, since it’s a public course, haunt everyone from tour pros to high-handicappers.

It’s an iconic stop on tour with a huge purse and a world-class field.

Sounds like a major championship, doesn’t it?

But let’s be serious, it’s not.

There are four major championships in golf. It’s always been that way, and it always will be.

Shot-making, pressure, weather (both good and bad), and tradition are combined into spectacles of the game of golf that fans can enjoy four times a year: in April, June, July, and August.

The Masters: time stands still, and each year everything stays the same, yet changes. The men of the game keep it their way, and they do it well. (They should go easy on Rickie Fowler and his backwards hat, but that’s for another post…)

The U.S.Open: the ultimate open championship. Anyone with a 1.4 handicap or lower (and $150 in their pocket for the entry fee) can enter and try to take on the beastly layouts the USGA has in store each year.

The British Open: the oldest championship in golf played on layouts where the game itself was invented. The only time this year that men will wake up early to watch something happen inBritain(unless their wife/girlfriend/mother/daughter got them up for that other British event…)

The PGA Championship: long regarded as the ‘little brother’ to the other Majors, the tournament has given us some of the most thrilling finishes in golf. Some won by the game’s best, others, won by the most exciting of underdogs.

One week earlier than the Players, there’s a tournament played inNorth Carolinaon a course that one day may host a major, and continually gets rave reviews from the pros.

But it’s not a major.

One week later than the Players inEnglandis the European Tour’s flagship event that has had some of the greatest European winners of all time hoist its trophy, played on a Ryder Cup-worthy course.

But it’s not a major.

Then, sandwiched between the two, is the Players championship itself which, as mentioned, boasts the richest purse on tour along with a great field.

But it’s not a major.

The Players may remain as the crown jewel of the PGA TOUR and since it’s inception in the early 1970s has always drawn comparisons to the ‘Big Four.’ But, many of the game’s best don’t even make the trek toFloridato play.

There aren’t any other tournaments that are more or less deserving of the title “Golf’s Fifth Major” because, well, that title shouldn’t exist, despite how golf writers like to allude to it as such.

The Players is a great tournament indeed, but a great tournament only it will stay.


Dear Tiger – Come Back Soon?

Originally Posted April 17th/2011 –


After sitting through approximately six hours of Masters television coverage on Sunday, along with refreshing my Twitter stream every chance I had, I feel as though suffering through a Masters hangover that’s lasted until now is justified.

We had drama, we had intrigue, and we had suspense. We had shot-making, heart-breaking, life-changing.

And then, we had a winner.

Charl Schwartzel?

No disrespect to the man. It’s not like you can go around Augusta National like you had an actual hangover and win the green jacket. Schwartzel chipped-in from 100 feet on no.1 to make birdie. Then he stroked a wedge from 120 yards out for an eagle on no. 2.

Game on.

He made four straight birdies to end his round and ripped the green jacket from the clutches of seven men who held the lead at some point that Sunday faster than Shooter McGavin did to Happy Gilmore.

Globally, golf is at its strongest point ever. For the first time in the history of the game, since they were defined as such, there is not a single American who holds one of golf’s major titles. Two of the last three major champions have been South Africans, both products of Ernie Els’ elite school which trains potential South African golfers for greatness.

Kids of all walks of life are now taking up the game. It’s more accessible than ever thanks to some programs implemented around the world. But there was one man who was able to take golf and cross-generationally, monumentally, and inspirationally bring it to the masses.

Tiger Woods was right there on Sunday. He was almost back.

Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with updates as he took the lead at 4:00 pm. The last time he co-lead a major, I don’t even think Twitter was popular.

He did almost everything he needed to do to win, including shooting his lowest final round ever at The Masters (67) and pulled a whole group of non-believers back to the edge of their collective couches. He made golf interesting again for even the casual fan for a few glorious hours.

Tiger has never won a major coming from even one stroke behind, let alone seven. But before you know it, he’s shot a front-nine 31 and has fist-pumped and swore his way back into our hearts.

Earlier, I mentioned that golf was at its best, globally. But culturally? We need Tiger back. Out of the past 10 major champions, only one (Phil Mickelson) has gone on to win a tournament again. The past 10 major champions have also all been different.

No dominance.

No streaks.

A lot of question marks.

Take Schwartzel for example. To borrow a line from the legendary Rick Reilly – “[…] Who knows if we’ll ever see HIM again. He seems like a work in progress. Even his first name is unfinished.”

For every Tiger Woods, there is another Louis Oosthuizen. For every Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, and Jack Nicklaus there is a Paul Lawrie, Shaun Micheel, and Michael Campbell.

Look no further than television ratings and now, social media monitors. The world loves to see someone dominate, even if this past week was just a tease.

The days of Arnie’s Army and Jack’s Pack (I just made that one up, but it has a nice ring to it) were the first glory years of golf.

Then we had the first real taste of international success with Seve and José and Sir Nick and Bernhard and Norman and Price.

Then a skinny, half-African-American, half-Asian 21-year-old trumped The Masters field by 12 strokes in 1997.

“Hello, world” indeed.

Give me Tiger Woods beating the field by 15 against a Lucas Glover/Ricky Barnes playoff any day. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that.

Schwartzel can keep his jacket. But for the rest of us, we’ll keep those Sunday moments where, for just a little while, we could believe in dominance once more.