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Does The Players Championship Deserve to Be Called a Major?

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The Players Championship, played every year at the TPC Sawgrass with its famous island-green No. 17, is called by some golf's "unofficial fifth major."

But there are also some people who believe The Players Championship should officially be recognized as the fifth major, joining The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship as major championships.

As Phil Mickelson said in 2005, "We obviously have strong fields at the majors but, player-for-player, this is the best field we have all year, the biggest purse we have and one of the toughest tests of golf we have."

Others disagree, however. In 2003, Ernie Els said this: "The four majors are the most important. Obviously the Players Championship is our championship. The tour runs it. ... But it's not a major. Never will be."

What every member of the PGA Tour agrees on is that The Players Championship is the most important tournament outside of the four majors. And the PGA Tour itself has been pushing the idea for some time that The Players Championship deserves major status.

Has this tournament's importance grown to the point where it will become known as a major itself? Let's take a closer look.

Background on the Debate

For years, the PGA Tour has been making statements to push the idea of The Players Championship as the fifth major. Some people even used to say that The Players Championship should replace the PGA Championship as a major (although that kind of talk is much harder to find these days).

The reason the Tour and its members (the golfers) are so committed to The Players Championship is because it's their tournament. The USGA runs the U.S. Open; the R&A runs the British Open; the PGA of America runs the PGA Championship; Augusta National runs The Masters.

But the PGA Tour runs The Players Championship. "It's our tournament," you hear PGA Tour players say.

The Players Championship was born in 1974 (Jack Nicklaus won the first one), when it was known as the Tournament Players Championship, around the time the PGA Tour was breaking away from the PGA of America.

The PGA of America had always run the professional tour events. But over time, the tour players started demanding more of the PGA's attention (and more money and better conditions). The PGA created a "Tournament Players Division" to keep the tour players happy. It worked for a while, but then in the early 1970s the touring pros finally broke away completely, forming the PGA Tour organization.

And when the PGA Tour was formed as a separate organization from the PGA of America, the PGA Tour started its own tournament - The Players Championship. It was only natural for touring pros to consider it an event of great importance. And with golf's other governing bodies (plus Augusta) staging their own majors, the PGA Tour wants one, too.

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