'LIV Golf Has Ended The Players Championship 'Fifth Major' Tag'

LIV Golf fields have become stronger and stronger, and this week's TPC Sawgrass showpiece is a lesser event without the likes of Rahm, Koepka and co.

Jon Rahm at the top of his backswing on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Players Championship has traditionally been known as golf's 'unofficial fifth Major' but that tag is now gone after the inception of LIV Golf.

The PGA Tour's flagship event is hosted at one of professional golf's most iconic courses that has history and prestige as well as a giant prize fund - but the lack of LIV Golfers simply can't be ignored.

The men's Majors arguably benefitted from golf's fracture, with the four big events suddenly becoming the only ones where the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka teed it up alongside Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland.

And now, with the loss of Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, and the form being shown by Joaquin Niemann, the Players Championship has been weakened further. A tournament that doesn't feature Rahm, DeChambeau, Johnson, Koepka, Hatton, Niemann, Cameron Smith and co. simply can't live up to Major status.

The PGA Tour enjoyed one of its star names finally winning at Bay Hill, when Scottie Scheffler captured the Arnold Palmer Invitational following a run of outsider winners. It was a much-needed boost for the US circuit, which would also love the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Viktor Hovland, Max Homa, Tommy Fleetwood and Rickie Fowler to start contending more.

LIV Golf, on the other hand, has enjoyed a strong start to 2024 with two wins from Joaquin Niemann and a Dustin Johnson victory before Abraham Ancer prevailed in a tightly fought Hong Kong tournament. Greg Norman must be overjoyed with how things are going on the 54-hole circuit, and that's without the added intrigue of Anthony Kim, too, who shot five-under-par in his sixth round back on the final day.

It can no longer be argued that LIV fields are weak, and they've now become so strong that the PGA Tour is really starting to feel it. This week's showpiece event at TPC Sawgrass is still the PGA Tour's best event, with 72-holes, a 36-hole cut, all its best players, a captivating, stadium-style golf course and a $25m prize fund that matches LIV Golf's purses and is bigger than all four of last year's men's Majors.

All golf fans, though, want to watch the strongest of fields - which this event previously had. If golf does find itself coming back together again, and hopefully that's exactly what Jay Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan are working on behind the scenes, the Players will once again be the men's game's 'fifth' Major.

It's a tournament that we've all grown up watching and looking forward to each and every year. Don't get me wrong, I'm still very excited for this week's event but it's a shame to not see it at its potential. Can Scottie go back-to-back? Will Rory be able to continue his excellent driving and putt a little better? Will Lowry, Clark and Zalatoris keep up their great form? There's plenty of captivating stories to follow, but it just could be incredible with all of the men's game's top names.

Until golf does sort itself out, the Players remains the PGA Tour's best tournament but is sadly some way off of the product offered by the Majors.

Let's hope we get a good tournament this week.

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV