In a funny way The Players Championship and the Olympics face polar opposite problems which – ironically – share the same solution.
The Players is desperate to hold major status with fans while Olympic golf – if it is to even survive – needs its status to be taken more seriously by the players.
World No.1 Dustin Johnson revealed on Saturday of The Players he had already ruled out teeing up this year in Tokyo and it seems likely he won’t be the only high profile player to skip.
Dollar signs, it seems, are valued more highly than Olympic rings in the upper echelons of men’s golf with Johnson citing the need to get from Tokyo to Tennessee for the following week’s WGC as his main reason for opting out.
While his announcement drew mixed reactions from fans and analysts alike, the issue for golf and the Games is the same dilemma raised by ‘The Players as fifth major’ debate. It’s generational.
"The argument by 2040 will likely be about whether an Olympic Gold is more or less treasured than winning the game’s fifth Major." - Rod Morri.
For Johnson and most golfers his era and older the Olympics has never been part of the game’s landscape.
The putting green games of youngsters in the 80’s and 90’s was holing out to win The Open or Masters, not Olympic gold.
But should golf remain part of the Olympic fold that attitude will change over time. A gold medal might never replace a green jacket but it will eventually take its place alongside that revered garment in the dreams of the game’s future stars.
Australian 2016 Olympian Su Oh is a prime example of how that change will take place.
The now 24-year-old was half that age when golf was reinstated to the Games and she remembers the moment clearly.
“I was on the putting green at Metropolitan when I heard about it and I remember being so excited that I might one day get a chance to play in the Olympics,” she told me several years ago.
One can imagine a similar reaction in others of her generation and assuming golf continues to be part of the Olympics (an outcome which won’t be helped by the likes of Johnson opting out) it will likely one day mirror tennis’ relationship with the games.
This same generational shift is true for The Players also, a tournament the PGA Tour is desperate to have held in the same esteem as the four Grand Slam events of the modern era.
Whether a supporter of the notion or not, every golf fan knows deep down the tournament has a strong case for inclusion as one of the game’s most important events.
And while the Tour’s not so subtle media manipulation of recent years raises the ire of most existing fans, there is a future generation who will recognise The Players as a Major (with a capital ‘M’) mostly because of its credentials.
There was a time when there was no such thing as a ‘Major’ at all and the four events we now consider to hold that lofty status are simply the construct of fans, players and media.
The annual event at Sawgrass already has a good deal of the players on side (it is, after all, their own event) and the Tour has bought off an important element of the media in recent years via TV.
That only leaves the fans to follow along and while it won’t happen for this generation the argument by 2040 will likely be about whether an Olympic Gold is more or less treasured than winning the game’s fifth Major.