Saturday 26 May 2018

'The Players Championship should be made the official fifth major' - Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Jordan Spieth. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

James Corrigan

Jordan Spieth had been busy trying to convince the world's media about the attributes of The Players Championship before stepping outside to launch an even more impassioned plea for Major recognition for the PGA Tour's flagship event.

In perhaps the only quiet corner of a sun-strewn, blisteringly expectant TPC Sawgrass, the young American unequivocally outlined his argument.

"I think this should be a Major, I really do," Spieth said. "Given the calibre of player…. look the entire top 50 in the world is here and, when everything is weighed up, it is the strongest field in golf. And it also has that extra vibe, that aura that the other four Majors possess. Just the way the guys talk about this place… well it's different."

And despite its many detractors, the Pete Dye layout is, too. "These final holes are iconic which have made iconic memories," Spieth said.

"Among the pros, we think of it on the same level. As far as the purse and the extra levels of attention and intensity, it's right up there with the big four. "

Spieth has yet to win in Ponte Vedra. Granted, he is only 24 and Father Time can hardly be classed as heckling him in the manner of those Bud-inspired revellers perched upon on that bank behind the 17th, but he clearly does not appreciate the void.

Indeed, the Stadium Course could even be described as the Kryptonite for the boy wonder.

Spieth finished fourth at the first time of asking as a 20-year-old, but since then has missed three successive cuts, an unprecedented run of failure on his record-breaking results sheet. He does not quite understand it. "But I'll work it out," Spieth said. "I have to."

Of course, the USPGA Championship is the next tournament on his hit-list - for the very obvious factor that it is the only Major he has yet to win - but make no mistake what is inked in closely behind.

"Even if I became the sixth player to complete the career grand slam, my résumé in my eyes would still feel a bit empty without a Players title. Hey, I'd be happy with those five titles. I want to, yeah, but I wouldn't feel I 'needed' to win a World Golf Championship. I definitely do with The Players and maybe that shows why it should be a Major."

So why is it not? Why are the pros not expressing their displeasure with placards? The problem is where to protest? Unlike the LPGA Tour - which in 2012 arbitrarily decided the Evian Championship in France to be a female Major - nobody in the male game has the power to decree what is a Major and what is not.

"The only thing that stops it is people jotting down how many Majors players have won. But I'm telling you, if you win here, you can win anywhere. There is no added thing that any other tournament brings that this tournament doesn't have. Therefore, a guy like Rickie (Fowler), who gets flak for having not won a Major yet, has essentially won this tournament (in 2015) that's harder to win than a Major."

Spieth's assertions are well-timed. Last week, Rory McIlroy - with whom Spieth plays in the first two rounds - jumped spikes first into the rankings debate by stating that the Masters was the biggest tournament in the world above the Open Championship.

Predictably, eyebrows raised beneath visors, especially in the R&A clubhouse, but Spieth believes the Co Down man's comments owed as much to his own circumstances as to anything else. "Hey, I'm American and I grew up with the Masters being the Major I wanted before all others, so I don't find it surprising, no," Spieth says.

"But even if some were surprised, you have to look at it where a player is in their career and Augusta is the one Rory doesn't have. It's a bit like me having a big ring being around the (US) PGA.

"I know how special the Open is to Rory. I was there with him the night he won (at Hoylake) and you could tell that was a lifelong goal realised. Who knows, if Rory wins the Masters that might be something that'd change in his opinion."

The strange truth is that only the non-Major champions and the career grand slammers can be truly unbiased in their judgements.

Being announced as "the Champion Golfer of the Year" and seeing the names and legends from way back on the trophy, there is nothing like that. It's by far the greatest trophy in our sport."

The adventures of the Jug are always well recorded and are a staple of the champion's year, although Spieth has remained respectfully coy about his antics with that hallowed piece of silverware. Until now.

"No, I haven't done anything as wacky with it as John Daly might have, but I love margaritas and one of the first things I did when I got home was to take it to our favourite margarita spot and fill it up." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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