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PGA Tour: The Players, The Players, The Players

Andy Reistetter@GolfWriter59Analyst IMay 3, 2010

Featured Columnist Andy Reistetter is on site in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

There are players all around but only one THE PLAYERS Championship, arguably the world of professional golf's fifth major championship.

PGA TOUR rookie Rory McIlroy wins for the first time with a dramatic 66-62 weekend finish in the Quail Hollow Championship two days before his 21st birthday.

Japan's Ryo Ishikawa shoots a 58, the lowest score ever on a major golf tour, to win his seventh tour title in his homeland.

Another rookie, Rickie Fowler, shoots a Sunday 67 to quietly finish sixth at the Mini-Masters in Charlotte.

Where are they all heading this week?

Even the guy who shot 74-79 and missed the cut by eight strokes at Johnny Harris' "wanna host a major" venue and happens to be the No. 1 golfer in the world will be there.

Along with the four reigning major champions—Lucas Glover (U.S. Open at Bethpage), Stewart Cink (Open at Turnberry), Y.E. Yang (PGA at Hazeltine), and Phil Mickelson (Masters).

Players who have won twice on tour this year, namely Ernie Els and Jim Furyk, will be there.

Also the man known as "the best golfer to never have won a major," Lee Westwood.

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Other than Steve Stricker, who withdrew due to injury, all the best golfers in the world will be there.

Why are they competing at the home of the PGA TOUR on the world famous Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass?

The answer to all those questions is because it is the world of golf's fifth major, heralded as such or not.

Arguably, so let's argue…

THE PLAYERS is one of the strongest fields in golf, if not the strongest.

All the world's top-ranked players from 18 different countries competing in one of the largest fields in terms of numbers of golfers—145.

This year marks the year THE PLAYERS becomes one-half the age of the youngest major, The Masters.

The Masters recently contested for the 74th time, THE PLAYERS is showcasing its 37th rendition this year.

The Masters is played every year at the Augusta National Golf Club and is relatively young compared to the U.S. Open (110th in 2010), the British Open (139th ), and the PGA Championship (92nd ).

How did the Masters become a major almost immediately after being played first in 1934?

One answer, the only answer—Bobby Jones.

While THE PLAYERS lacks the ownership and branded excellence of a Bobby Jones, it does have the support of all professional golfers as it is their personal championship.

First played in 1974, THE PLAYERS has a pedigree of champions including its very first—the legendary Jack Nicklaus.

In fact Nicklaus won three of the first five PLAYERS Championships.

When Nicklaus won the tournament it was known as the Tournament Players Championship.

He won it on three different courses—the Atlanta Country Club in 1974, Inverrary CC in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in 1976 and at Sawgrass CC in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, in 1978. It was the second of five consecutive tournaments played right across the A1A highway from TPC Sawgrass.

Nicklaus is the all-time leader in majors won with 18.

Of those 18 major wins, six were accomplished during or after his three PLAYERS wins—two of his six Masters, one of his four U.S. Opens, one of his three British Opens, and two of his five PGA Championships.

Nicklaus won majors from 1962 through 1986, a span of 24 years.

His success in the PLAYERS occurred at the height, or slightly after the peak, of his competitive prowess.

After his second win he was inducted into the inaugural class of the World Golf Hall of Fame, which at the time was located in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Nicklaus is second on the all-time PGA TOUR wins with 73 though certain to be passed soon by Tiger Woods, who has 71.

On top of that he went on to win 10 times on the Champions Tour.

If Bobby Jones was the poster child for The Masters, the same could be said for Nicklaus in reference to the PGA TOUR.

In fact the PGA TOUR awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award to Nicklaus prior to the 2008 PLAYERS championship.

At that ceremony, a letter from Tiger Woods was read by Commissioner Tim Finchem that stated: "I count myself among the millions of fans who consider you to be the greatest of all time ."

What better reason to elevate The PLAYERS Championship to a major than the record of its first champion, Jack Nicklaus?

The majors are majors because they are played on historically noted and well designed golf courses, have a strong field, and simply produce great champions.

That's the end of the story, the end of the argument period.

THE PLAYERS is golf's fifth major championship.

Updated major count: Nicklaus 21, Woods 15.

To all the players at THE PLAYERS…

Play well!

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and The Golf Channel.

 

He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

 

He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to AndyReistetter@gmail.com

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