"A Masters-like aura"

PT-AF353_Golf1_20070504204023.jpgThe WSJ's John Paul Newport visits the home of the fifth of four majors, gets a personal tour from Commissioner Finchem, and uncovers some real nuggets. Where to start?

How about yet another variation on the tournament's name.

The tournament formally known as the Players Championship, played in March and viewed by the pros as a kind of warm up for the Masters, will henceforth be known simply as "the Players" and anchor its own month on the calendar, May. The first one is next week.

Any similarity between the new name and "the Masters" is purely intentional. And the PGA Tour, which owns and runs the tournament, will probably not object if, in an undisciplined moment, you happen to say something like, "Gee, it's almost like a fifth major."

Oooh, a slightly sarcastic fifth major reference. But more importantly, are we now not capitalizing the T in the? That's probably just a WSJ thing. Weakens the brand if I may say so myself.
Tim Finchem, the Tour's commissioner, knows he cannot simply wave a wand and decree that the Players is a major, but he and his compadres are doing everything they can to give the tournament, in his words, "a Masters-like aura."
And to do that... 
The primary design goal of the new, 77,000-square-foot Mediterranean Revival-style structure, one of Mr. Finchem's vice presidents explained, was to create a sense of "instant tradition." During the tournament, bagpipers will play at dusk every day from the two faux bell towers.

Okay everyone on three...one, two, three...Oy Vey!

In fact, there's a Disneyfied, made-for-TV quality to every aspect of the project, from the balustraded "presentation lawn" where the winner will receive his huge cardboard check to the "master storytellers" who will be stationed in the clubhouse lobby during the other 51 weeks of the year and regale visitors with tales of the tournament's legacy.

Those Jodie Mudd, Craig Perks and Stephen Ames stories ought to knock 'em dead.

One foursome at the course each day will be allowed to pay extra for a "PGA Tour experience." Its members can change shoes in the small locker room reserved, Augusta-like, for past Players champions, lunch in a PGA Tour members-only dining room called Pub 17 and stride down the fairways alongside white-bibbed caddies bearing the players' names on their backs.

Yes, I can really see the connection with Augusta and the Masters.

This isn't the way other tournaments became majors, but that's the world we live in today, and Mr. Finchem and his recently beefed-up corps of vice presidents are no slouches.

If the top pros in the world keep coming to the Players (it has traditionally attracted the best field in golf) and fans get used to seeing high drama play out in front of the clubhouse edifice, who knows? Maybe some other major, such as the PGA Championship, will begin to lose luster by comparison, and our children or grandchildren will come to think of the Players in the same hallowed way we think of the Masters. Majors come and go. Remember the Western Open, anyone?

I think it's the bagpipes that will really put it over the...top.