Out of the Rough: Where does The Players rank?

You'll hear the worst moniker in professional golf this week. And, you'll hear it a lot.

"The fifth major."

The PGA Tour's hype machine dubbed The Players Championship that wretched name years ago. It's nauseated people like me for a long time.

It's not the fifth major. There are four majors and that's all.

There's the argument. If the governing bodies of golf wanted a fifth major, and don't think the PGA Tour didn't try, there would be five. But there aren't, there are four.

See, the PGA Tour doesn't run any of the four elite events in men's golf.

Augusta National owns the Masters. The USGA runs the U.S. Open, while the R&A is in charge of the British Open Championship. The PGA of America has the PGA Championship.

The PGA Tour is shut out. That's why the marketing machine purrs loudly this week every year. That, and the fact that the PGA Tour owns the TPC Sawgrass, make this its flagship week.

This space won't house a lashing of The Players Championship. Aside from its misguided nickname, The Players is a very important event. It boasts one of the best fields of the year, even better than the Masters, U.S. Open or British Open.

The Players Championship doesn't have open qualifying like the U.S. or British Open. It doesn't allow 65-year-olds in the field like the Masters.

It may not have always been this way. One of the shrewdest moves in recent memory was when the tour moved this event from March to May. It took advantage of the post-Masters, pre-U.S. Open lull and it's paid off, although not unconditionally.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that this week doesn't deserve major status has to do with the season's previously crowned major champion, Masters winner Bubba Watson.

He announced on Thursday, via Twitter, nonetheless, that he was skipping The Players to spend more time with his son Caleb.

That's as noble as you get, but does Bubba pass on the U.S. Open? Doubtful. The British? Maybe, who wants to fly all that way? The PGA? Probably not. A big-time golfer can skip this week.

Another factor that's hurt The Players has been the general indifference Tiger Woods feels toward the event. That's more venue-related, but this event was a lightning rod just 12 months prior.

Last year, both Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood skipped the trip to Sawgrass. Theorists among us believe it had something to do with McIlroy getting passed over for the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, but until Oliver Stone makes a movie, we won't know. All we know is that the most prominent European Tour stars didn't care enough to play.

It's a decision at least one of them regrets.

"I mean, looking back on it, it wasn't one of my brightest moments," McIlroy admitted on Tuesday.

See, it's not a bad event. The world No. 1 just told you so.

But, if we had to pick a "fifth major" on tour, what would it be, keeping in mind my mortal opposition to this idea (I'd put it in my will for my son to keep fighting against this, if his mother wouldn't think it was ridiculous).

My vote would go to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Its position on the schedule in late February would preclude this from really being a major, but is there a better indicator for determining the best in the game than the top-64 ranked players in match play?

Yes, the Match Play gets its fair share of WDs. Guys don't love the format or see the upside in traveling to the desert for possibly 15 holes of work for the week, but if it was designated a major, you bet they'd be more on board.

But the same could be said for The Players Championship. If you call the Greater Itchynose Open a major, they'd show up with their finest duds.

The moral of this story is: there isn't a fifth major and there won't be.


- Bubba's decision to skip this week to be with his new family is a no- brainer. You can never criticize an independent contractor for missing anything if family is the reason.

- Paul Lawrie, on the other hand, can be criticized. He announced he was passing on the U.S. Open Wednesday at the Spanish Open. "My record in the U.S. Open is not good and I understand that it is a major, but I feel I have more chance of playing well at the BMW International Open the week after. I know people are going to be surprised ... but I stand more chance of earning Ryder Cup points at the BMW in Cologne than in the U.S. Open in California." That is weak, and it's weak the same way it was when Kenny Perry did it in 2008. The Ryder Cup is important and amazing, but you should never, ever skip a major championship. Lawrie's playing well. Who's to say he wouldn't contend at Olympic Club? I guess Lawrie is saying that.

- Rickie Fowler's first win was impressive. He hit an amazing shot to beat the best player in the world, fellow tot Rory McIlroy. I never got the Fowler thing. He seemed like a haircut dressed like a highlighter who was over-hyped. His comeback win against Edoardo Molinari at the Ryder Cup was big-time, but it was tiresome hearing how great he was without winning. All that is done now.

- Tiger Woods is a mess. Another missed cut at Quail Hollow and now he has to go to Sawgrass, where he's only won once? Tiger is in some trouble. It's been almost two years with Sean Foley and the progress just hasn't been made. This is not to advocate a coaching change, but it's just a fact worth pondering.

- Donald Trump, yep that Donald Trump, was awarded the 2017 U.S. Women's Open. Actually, his course, Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey was, but this will mark Trump's first major at one of his courses. Say what you will about the man, but he has always been big for women's golf. This will go to his head for sure, especially in his quest for a men's major, but it would be unfair to snub him because of his ego.

- Movie moment - Missed "The Avengers" this weekend. And I will for the next ... well every weekend I'm alive. Not my scene.

- TV moment - While watching my infant son, I've developed a routine and it involves four, yes four, consecutive hours of the Game Show Network. I fully believe I could guide anyone on the planet to the top of the "$25,000 Pyramid."