Before the lack of actual golf became the primary theme of golf’s “fifth major,” the Players Championship felt like any other PGA Tour event, rife with rumors and conjecture about potential announcements from other circuits. Little has changed as this week at TPC Sawgrass progresses into next week at TPC Sawgrass.
The talk of a potential Super League has taken on the tone of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh,” in which a misbegotten gang of barflies (like Jimmy Tomorrow) are perpetually promising improvement that never comes. Unlike O’Neill’s saloon clientele, it’s possible—even likely—that the Saudi-funded proposal will gain traction, or at the very least create noise. The whispers in the Players Championship hallways remain like herpetic hypothesis: on who might still jump, what Phil Mickelson will do next, and how the Saudis will pivot.
The Crown Prince’s coat holders are rumored to be arranging a tournament with a massive prize pool that could eclipse the $20 million awarded at the PGA Tour’s flagship stop in rainy Florida. The goal would be to engineer litigation by inviting Tour members to compete while hoping that commissioner Jay Monahan denies the necessary permission, presenting an opportunity to challenge Monahan’s control over where members play, or at the very least jeopardize the Tour’s tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization.
This rumor is similar to hundreds before it, plausible on paper but unproven in practice. Years later, the Saudis’ main positive contribution is that they have provided a fresh supply of rumor to ease the boredom of days-long rain delays (though many players in the locker room would pat them on the back for unwittingly deconstructing Phil’s veneer).
On another front, we’re waiting for the Players’ drama to begin in earnest around the time it was supposed to be wrapping up. No matter how long it takes, a winner will be determined here. The PGA Tour’s premier event will not be reduced to 54 holes, and the Super League’s non-existent tournaments will not be extended beyond that. (Surely they are joking when they hire a front man who, if majors were played like this, would have won a grand slam and a couple others in 1986.)
It hasn’t been altogether joyless as this week’s Players Championship transitions to next week’s. It shouldn’t be remembered for the high winds, high scores, and high blood pressure of its competitors, but for what happened before a shot was struck or a horn sounded, when Tiger Woods was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the PGA Tour’s new ‘Global Home,’ an architectural marvel whose diaphanous design suggests a transparency that belies its occupant, no matter how many suns set between the first and final rounds.
Woods’ spontaneous statements on Wednesday night provided a rare insight into the guy behind the public persona. He didn’t highlight the numerous achievements for which he was being honored, instead focused on the people, teachings, and events that had marked his path. Woods displayed some well-known characteristics, such as a genuine appreciation for those around him and unfiltered emotion when discussing how much they mean to him, as well as some that were only recently apparent, such as a genuine appreciation for those around him and unfiltered emotion when talking about how much they mean to him.
Golf was once again a stage upon which great performers play and are honored, rather than a hive of in-fighting, intrigue, prevarications, persuasion, arm-twisting, money-grubbing, lies, and litmus tests of allegiance, for those few minutes in an otherwise drab week. That atmosphere, like this tournament, has lingered for far too long. Because Greg Norman is equipped with more of someone else’s money than his own sense, we may expect more of the same.
The PGA Tour’s nature dictates that we do it all over again the next week, and that has never been more true: same players, same tournament, same venue, same goal—crowning a champion at the Players Championship. Next week, the Tour’s ostensible adversary will do it all over again, whether in public or in secret, promising progress, huge announcements, and troops on the ground. “They’ve got a touching credulity concerning tomorrows,” one of O’Neill’s “foolosophers” observed of his ragged drinking mates.
Leave a Reply