Majors losing lustre

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:06 PM ET

Over toast and coffee at a neighbourhood breakfast establishment last week, a bleary-eyed morning person asked about the term "unofficial fifth major," a mythical title applied to the proceedings that concluded yesterday at TPC Sawgrass.

That nickname worn proudly by The Players is a contradiction in terms since being official is the only way to define a true major nowadays. It seems that almost every week, the tournament of the day is said to have the feel of a major, thanks to the overwhelming force that is the PGA Tour buzz machine.

The upper tiers of the tour's hierarchy are getting so squashed together that you can't see daylight between them anymore and, while majors are the standard for this generation, the danger of so many marquee events running so closely together is that they will all start to look the same in the future, if not right now.

Tradition, outstanding golf courses, a star quality to the fields and a big purse are factors that once defined a major, but these days, there are a lot of events that fill many of those prerequisites. It's easier now to figure out what isn't than what is a major.

The Canadian Open -- with its difficult date, no title sponsor and forecasted mediocre field in 2007 -- is definitely not a major, even though it was considered close to that status at one time. While much has been written about the plight of such tournaments, the top of the heap is becoming generic, too.

The "unofficial fifth major" was once a fun name to call what was The Players Championship until last year, with its massive purse and the infamous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. It at least has some kind of a history after it was first played in 1974 as the Tournament Players Championship.

The same can't be said for the Wachovia Championship, an event with all the trappings of a major after 29 of the top 30 players attended two weeks ago at Quail Hollow, a course that has been embraced by tour players. That $6.3-million US special was first played in 2003.

For two consecutive weeks, we've heard about the feel of a major at each of those events and it's still early. Similar adjectives will fly outside of the real majors during the crowded, new schedule this summer.

Of course, the tour will be actively promoting the FedEx Cup points race all season, something that hardly has become the conversation around the water cooler so far.

The points go toward qualifying players for more big events such as the playoff tournaments leading to a new, muscled-up Tour Championship.

So, we'll hear the same "feel of a major" line in late August that we are hearing now and it's mostly a mirage.

Marquee players might shift the tournaments they play each year, but it's unlikely they will add any more to the number of events they already attend, so it's tournaments like the Canadian Open that suffer.

About all the majors have going for them now is tradition and we know what that means to the PGA Tour after its diminishing of the Canadian Open, a tournament with more than 100 years of history. Majors should be like Christmas or birthdays or even Mother's Day yesterday. When those occasions come around once a year, they're special, but they would lose their glitter if they were held every week.

THE SHORT GAME

Ontario Golf Hall of Fame member Irv Lightstone, the longtime director of golf at Maple Downs, is opening a golf academy with his partner Doug Warner, a former Canadian Tour player and a member of the Canadian PGA for more than 30 years. The Lightstone-Warner Golf Academy will be at Richmond Hill's Bathurst Glen. For more information, call Lightstone at (416) 953-7536 or Warner at (416) 737-0668 ... One of the new events on the Canadian Tour this season will be the Jane Rogers Championship of Mississauga, which will be played in late August at Lakeview Golf Club. The late wife of Elliott Kerr of Landmark Sport Group was a fan of the game and a tough lady, raising funds for her cancer clinic at Mississauga's Trillium Hospital, while battling the disease herself. Proceeds from the event will go to the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada and the Trillium Hospital's Oncology Unit.


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