It’s the PGA Championship, so let’s take a look at the venue and the players to watch who could win the 101st playing.
The Players Championship is a major. To paraphrase Ron Swanson, I think you thought I said, “The Players Championship should be a major.” No, it’s a capital ‘M’ Major. It is the premier event of the most influential governing body in golf with the strongest field and second largest purse. Yet, it is not officially recognized as a Major by anyone, including the organization that puts it on- the PGA TOUR.
The TOUR is not regular golf, nor is it the vast gradations of amateur and professional golf that exists below it. It is best they receive their own rules and technology. This is accepted in every other major professional league and their minor league and amateur offshoots with very little conflict or none at all.
2018 was a year of transition. I moved away from the classroom after nine years, my family moved to Nashville (again), and I started writing freelance with articles published by The Florida Writer, The Golfer’s Journal, Men’s Journal, and G&E Magazine. Currently, I write for AnchorofGold.com, the Vanderbilt SBNation affiliate, about Vanderbilt sports, mostly football and non-revenue sports like soccer, cross country, and golf.
I piped my drive down the right side. One of my compatriots had to lay up. I won’t say who, but it’d be ironic if you I told you. The other nutted a two hybrid in front of the green. I hit four iron to nine feet on the short side of the left pin. You can always tell when your putt is worth something because it gets really quiet on the green. No jabs or sarcasm. Just fear, and it wasn’t mine.
You know Sweetens Cove. It’s a diamond in the rough; the gem in East Tennessee; the little course that could. It’s a top 100 course in the world. It also is the course that was on the front end of the Neo-Classical architectural revival, where elite golfers and persimmon heads make pilgrimages annually.
This week marks the best week of golf every two years. It is like the best of all four majors combined into one event. It has the international feel of the Open, the competitiveness of the US, the small elite field of the Masters, and the bonkers scoring of the PGA (and the crazy fans of the Players #5thMajor).
You’ve heard it. It comes a millisecond after the crack of the driver likely cackled out by Golf Guy. He’s wearing a white belt and golf shoes. He looks around for a fist bump because, “You da man” isn’t about the golfer, it’s about Golf Guy. Fans hustle down the fairway to get away from the words lingering heavy in the air like a fart in spacesuit.
Certainly, this is a mountain top, and we cannot live on that. However, there was not a moment that passed during that day where I took it for granted. I hugged Merv as much as I could. When I wasn't, I was thanking him. When he kept going and I wore out, I was still thankful. When he met new people and I was determined to just chill out, I was thankful. I was drinking it all in, this life giving experience, reminded that there is good in this world. Even a place with a sordid history, even a champion with a difficult past, even with legs that were borderline cramping, there was incredible beauty and joy.
We rolled into town and straight onto the red carpet, parking directly across from Magnolia Lane. The C-suite was supplied with couches, 4K televisions, food, and beverages for everyone. My personal favorite were the golf themed donuts. The grass we were on was some sort of lush rye strain. I'm talking thick, and I debated taking my shoes off and cruising around barefoot; maybe even rolling around in it for a while. Probably would've made a scene, but how often do you get to roll around in lush thin bladed grass in front of a bunch of wealthy people?
I went down to the ground post Tiger scrum just a few yards from Rory. I love Rory. His swing, his power, his Ryder Cup performances. He is magnetic and energetic and enigmatic. I’ve been worried about Rory since last season. My group texts with my golf friends often have #PrayforRory in them during Thursday and Friday rounds.