Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Players Championship

Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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When Wyndham Clark’s birdie putt lipped out of the cup late last

Sunday at Ponte Vedra, it was not exactly a downer, especially for his

Banker since Clark got a grand total of $1,981,667—say $2 million dollars

for his week at the Players Championship.


Not every tournament rewards as handsomely as this brainchild of

former tour commissioner, Deane Beman, who came up with the concept of

this event, boldly espousing that The Tournament Players Championship

could become golf’s fifth major.

Beman felt that the Players would draw the strongest field in golf and

that would allow the tour to make headway with the fifth major idea. That

has not come about and based on the scuttlebutt you hear out on the tour

is that if there ever is a fifth major, it won’t be a tournament in the U. S.

If money were to dictate the next major, the benevolent and altruistic (

Saudi Arabians (tongue in cheek) might claim that the fifth major should be

in Riyadh where they give away camels for holes in one unless you prefer a

Rolls Royce.


By the way, do you remember when the idea of the Senior Tour came

about? It really didn’t get traction until Beman took it under the PGA Tour’s

wing and brought about organizational structure and sponsorship money to

the table. Now it is flourishing.

Then along comes Greg Norman who gets takes up with the sheiks

and what do we get? The LIV Tour. Guaranteed money to cover the gap

that exists from the time you can’t win very much on the regular tour, which

is about age 40, until you reach your 50 th birthday.

Saudi money will not only cover that period, but it will also throw big

bucks at you to where you don’t have to work at your game to fatten your

bank account. You get all that guaranteed money when your game goes to

seed as it does for so many.

I can remember the first Players championship, which was played at

the Atlanta Country Club over Labor Day weekend in 1974. Even though

most everybody’s attention was in tune with the start of college football, the

tournament was a big success with the Atlanta Classic Foundation

hierarchy expressing regrets that the organization would not be able to host

it again the following year.


That was Beman’s plan—move the tournament around until the Tour

could build the Tournament Players’ Club to host the event on an annual


Look what has happened. The Tournament Players’ Club has

become the place to be in March each year, the first big tournament of the



The total purse at the first event in Atlanta was $250,000. This past

weekend it was $25 million dollars. Jack Nicklaus got $50,000 for first

place. That was considered top dollar for winning in that era.

Since 1974, it has been my good fortune to see each of the Players’

championships but two, getting to Ponte Vedra becoming a challenge to

manage with other priorities on the schedule.

With the tournament moving to May, it did not fit. To begin with, it

was too hot even though it gets much hotter in North Florida in the summer

months. Even with ideal weather the championship played in May just

didn’t “feel” right.


There were other reasons why the fan base did not enjoy the Players

in May, and it was a welcomed decision when it returned to its traditional


March dates. It has never been better received by area golf fans than this

past weekend.

While I was not on the grounds last Sunday, I am sure that the LIV

Tour had to be smarting from the success of the PGA Tour which was its

old dominant self.

It was a terrific tournament to watch. The golf course gleamed in the

bright sunshine, the crowds were overwhelming and enthusiastic. The

competition reminded you of one of those scintillating Sunday finishes we

often get at the Masters.

Perhaps the PGA Tour can’t provide that every weekend, but

whatever it offers is a heck of a lot better than whopping gobs of

guaranteed money, 54 holes of lackluster competition and competitors

playing in shorts.

The LIV tour is way ahead of the PGA Tour when it comes to

gimmickry, but for the best in golf, last Sunday at Ponte Vedra was as good

as it gets.