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Major status of Players under discussion

The PGA Tour believes it needs backing from the players and the media for the Players Championship to be regarded as a major, even if it's the fifth one.

But it also requires support from the other major golf organizations, and that remains divided.

Augusta National offers the winner of the Players Championship a three-year exemption to the Masters, saying that reflects the importance the PGA Tour and its players place on their showcase event. The other three major champions get a five-year exemption to the Masters.

The Open Championship gives a five-year exemption to the other major winners, and a three-year exemption to the winner of the Players Championship and the BMW Championship, the flagship event in Europe.

"We think it's a wonderful event, magnificently organized with a great field,'' Royal & Ancient Secretary Peter Dawson said over the weekend. "So, it's well worthy of its status.''

The U.S. Open gives five-year exemptions to major champions, and it recognizes the Players Championship by giving its winner a one-year exemption from qualifying. Players not otherwise eligible must win two PGA Tour events to be exempt from qualifying.

USGA Executive Director David Fay said a longer exemption has not been part of any discussion over the last several years, and he doesn't know what would happen if the topic was broached.

"Let's face it, how an event is perceived requires a number of components,'' Fay said. "What the players think, what the press thinks, and whether the public buys into what the players and press are saying, which is not always the case. At this point in men's golf, you're talking about four (majors).''

The PGA of America treats the Players Championship no different from any other PGA Tour event. Every winner on tour is exempt into the PGA Championship, which perennially has the most players from the top 100 in the world ranking.

Chief Executive Jim Awtrey is quick to point out that the PGA Championship is the most accommodating to PGA Tour players because it's the only major that recognizes any tour victory, and it takes the top 70 from the money list, more if needed to fill the field.

"When you look at that, there's no other reason to give anything (to The Players Championship winner),'' Awtrey said. "The champion is always in.''

Awtrey said it is not the role of other majors to define what a major championship should be.

"We shoot for the top 100 (in the world ranking). We ensure we get the top 70 (on the money list). We invite a player that might not otherwise qualify,'' he said. "It's the media and the players and history that must decide what the final status is.''


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