TPC seems to have lost some luster

Many players downgrade it from status just below the majors

May 06, 2010

It wasn't all that long ago that the PGA Tour's annual arrival at TPC Sawgrass would reignite discussion as to whether The Players Championship deserves major status.

That debate has pretty much died off now. And in at least one pro's mind, golf's richest event may not even hold honorary "fifth major" acclaim.

England's Lee Westwood raised eyebrows at last week's Quail Hollow Championship when he suggested the maturation of the World Golf Championships series may have nudged The Players aside.

"I think it depends on whether you're a PGA Tour member or not," said the world's No. 4 player, who hasn't sought membership in several years. "I think (The Players) has actually stepped back from that. (The WGCs) have to go in now before The Players Championship.

"So what is it, eighth on the list now?"

An unusual number of absences this year also would seem to bolster that argument. Ryo Ishikawa, author of the first 58 on one of the world's marquee tours last week, opted not to make the trip. Nor did Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, a perennial top-50 player.

Even so, it seems that line is a lot shorter than those who still consider The Players as No. 5 — major or not.

"Strength of field here is second to none," said Jim Furyk, a two-time winner this year.

Said defending champion Henrik Stenson: "Whatever corner of the world you're from, you will have seen this event and know what great history it has."

Straighter Tiger: Tiger Woods made better use of the fairway during Wednesday's practice round at Sawgrass, putting just one ball in the water as he played the same back nine where he dunked five Tuesday.

Woods only found serious trouble at the par-4 14th hole, hooking his drive into the water and hanging his second attempt out to the right. With his ball perhaps six inches off the cart path, a planned hook curled too much and plopped into a greenside bunker.

Stats for the nine holes: Four of seven fairways, seven of nine greens in regulation.

Fun at 17: To liven up their practice round, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson swapped clubs — and turned around — for a shot at the island 17th. Mickelson swung right-handed; Johnson went lefty.

"Neither one of us hit the green," Mickelson said, unable to resist a little dig. "I at least reached the water; Dustin struggled with that."

Barry Shain

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