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Aug 07

Majors Ruining Tour?

Non-Major Weeks Losing Clout in Evaluating the Greats

In my childhood as a golf fanatic, I waited for the majors with great anticipation, but I didn’t starve for golf in between, because every single event on the calendar had importance. Part of the reason was that each event and each course had its own distinct charisma. I can remember as far back as the Los Angeles Open. I can remember oohing and aahing over the Pensacola or the Greensboro coming around for the next week. I remember the Buick and the Bob Hope. The majors were the highlights, but it wasn’t all about them.

day Since the emphasis has shifted over the years to the number of majors won, my enthusiasm has changed along with it. We are no longer impressed with those who win a lot of non-major events, and almost consider it a character flaw to win with some regularity, but find it impossible to break through in a major.

I still try to pay attention, however, and remain impressed, just like I used to be. What the tour represents to me is not a majors race between Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, but rather a literal tour, like a travel itinerary. This week, I’m traveling with the pros to such and such, and in September, we’ll all be in such and such, even if it’s only through television. It’s a travelogue, whether we travel or not, complete with all the joys and attractions of specific locations.
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There used to be a lot of tournaments that were considered a big deal, and still should be. One of them was played last week, in fact – the Canadian Open. I remember that tournament as an event Arnold Palmer rarely missed, and the same went for the other greats. Has the Canadian faded because it’s sandwiched in between the Open and the PGA, or is it just not commanding attention because it’s not a major?

There’s a parallel reality that goes along with the troubles experienced by the Canadian in our changing, major-oriented brains, at least this year there is. The tournament of 2015 was won by Jason Day. Day is one of those guys who has consistent top ten talent, but never seems to emerge in the big ones on Sunday. He’s not a choker or anything similar, and has played well in fourth rounds – but still, no deal. At one point, he finished as runner-up in two consecutive majors, and has found himself in that spot on other weeks as well. By winning the Canadian, he has pocketed his fourth win on the PGA tour, and yet he’s considered a disappointment.
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The charisma of a tournament is largely a result of marketing and history. If you can associate an event with a culture and/or a bygone era, then attach a piece of memorabilia to it, such as a green jacket, you can plant a better and more alluring institution in a fan’s brain. I guess that the Pensacola, Greensboro, and the Canadian failed to do that in some sense. It used to be the location and the personalities, but those don’t seem to light things up anymore. We play everywhere, no big deal.

So, here we have a winner and a tournament that barely jiggled the Richter scale of the game, unless you’re over the age of fifty. We older addicts are as major crazy as anyone, but we have kept the nostalgia for the whole tour, not just the big four. Maybe it was Tiger who, in the beginning of his triumphant era, decided that winning on the off weeks just wasn’t what he was about. It wasn’t part of his calling – and maybe we bought into that. I suggest that we buy out of it, and start following each event on the larger tour according to its particular qualities. And for Heaven’s sake, bring back the Canadian as a big deal. It’s good to have important dates to circle on our calendars.
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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.