Gary Player: The Players shouldn’t ever become a Major

What wonderful achievement it was for 21 year old Si Woo Kim to win The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass last month, following in the footsteps of fellow South Korean K.J. Choi, who won the tournament at the age of 40 in 2011.

I predicted in Worldwide Golf many years ago when the Korean ladies began to dominate ladies golf that it wouldn’t be long before the men started to catch up and make their mark on the game.

Y.E. Yang made the breakthrough by becoming the first Korean to win a Major, in 2009, and Sang Moon Bae is a two-times winner on the US PGA Tour. Earlier this year 21 year old Jeunghun Wang won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in a three-man play-off in his debut at the event. Si Woo Kim triumphed at Sawgrass in some style. He closed with a three-under-par 69 to become the youngest winner of the tournament, which featured 48 of the world’s top 50 players. His score of 10-under 278 was three strokes better than Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen. It was Kim’s second win on the US PGA Tour, having won the Wyndham Championship last year.

He comes across as a very likeable young man but if he isn’t able to speak good English he will find it difficult to make the most of his undoubted talent as a highly-marketable up-and-coming star.

It always annoys me when I see The Players Championship being referred to as golf’s ‘Fifth Major.’ The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida is a fine course and the tournament is well contested, but there are just four Majors. It’s not merely the course or the prizemoney that defines a Major – it’s the history that surrounds it.

The Open Championship, for me, is the most prestigious of the four Majors, due to the well established links courses that host the event and the fact that The Open is steeped in tradition as the oldest of the four. If a fifth Major were ever to be introduced it would totally ruin the history of the Majors. No doubt a sixth and seventh Major would soon follow and the Grand Slams would lose all significance.

As for prizemoney, I see that the winner of this year’s US Open Championship will pick up $2.1 million. I don’t begrudge the enormous prizemoney players can earn in today’s game but wouldn’t it be good if a percentage of their winnings was used to fund a ‘Young Man’s Tour,’ enabling promising youngsters to have the money to cover their living costs while competing at a high level?

I was pleased to see Ian Poulter playing so well at The Players Championship and his runner-up finish will certainly give his confidence a boost. He was a very happy man before heading for TPC Sawgrass having been informed that he had not lost his Tour card on the US PGA Tour as he first thought.

Fellow Tour player Brian Gay had discovered that a mathematical mistake in the points calculations meant that both he and Ian retain their fully exempt status for the remainder of the 2016-17 season. What a relief it must have been for one of the heroes of The Ryder Cup and one of the game’s great personalities.

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