The Players Championship Looks To Cement ‘Fifth Major’ Status

    • Golf’s unofficial fifth major is the only sporting event to allow youth aged 15 and under to attend free of charge alongside ticketed adults.
    • $15 million prize pool is the largest in golf. 2019 generated a record $9.25 million for local charities in Northeast Florida.

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The Masters is famously known as “a tradition unlike any other.” The United States Open recently unveiled a new tagline, “From Many, One” as a nod to its 120-year major championship history as arguably golf’s toughest tournament. The Open Championship is not only the oldest golf tournament in the world, but is open to any golfer. The jury is still out on The PGA Championship, which was always known as the final major in the PGA Tour schedule until the tournament moved up to May in 2019.

Outside of professional golf’s most prestigious events, one has become the sport’s unofficial fifth major championship and a favorite for both fans and players. The Players Championship, with a $15 million prize pool – and winner’s share of $2.7 million – is the largest of any professional golf event in 2020. 

“Really, The Players Championship kicks off this season of championships, and that is being the first in a series of the signature events on the PGA tour schedule,” Jared Rice, executive director of The Players, said. “Thinking about the overall cadence of the season, that puts the tournament in a really special place, and it does stand on its own in terms of not only the competitive factors but what we can provide fans from an experience.”

Every visitor’s experience at a sporting event begins before they even enter the venue. With expected day sellouts on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday during tournament week, The Players has adopted mobile tickets into its business operations. One reason is so staff can be more predictive and communicative with visitors ahead of the event, Rice said. They will be paying closer attention when people are arriving and what type of tickets they are entering with to determine what kind of experience should be for them.

Fears of coronavirus have prompted organizers to keep plenty of hand sanitizer available, while encouraging fans to bring their own. Fans have also been warned that golfers may not be signing autographs, and the PGA Tour announced that it is establishing a task force to monitor the situation. The tournament is focused on maintaining minimal disruption and a smooth fan experience.

Before they arrive, fans will receive a mobile message that they have to download their mobile tickets and put them in their mobile wallet, Rice said. If they forget to, they will receive more notifications once they enter the on-site parking lots to have their mobile tickets ready. In advance, The Players have expanded its public Wi-Fi zones and added a mobile concierge provided by AT&T to assist any spectators who are experiencing technical difficulties.

For those who make their way through security, Rice expects a decent amount to be 15-years-old and under. The Players is the only professional sporting event to allow youth 15 and under to attend under the supervision of a ticketed adult. At the tournament, they can partake in kids-only autograph areas, a 2,000 square foot kids zone, and kids-friendly food across TPC Sawgrass, the host venue.

“These things in aggregate, I think, are illustrative of our desire to have and embrace young people and families to be out at an event of this magnitude,” Rice said.

Outside of watching major champions like Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas tee it up, fans can also enjoy entertainment from an unlikely source. For the first time in The Players’ history, a pop/EDM artist – The Chainsmokers – will perform at the Military Appreciation Ceremony on Tuesday, March 10, on TPC Sawgrass’s iconic 17th hole. 

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The Chainsmokers have a strong affinity and regard for the military, Marsha Oliver, The Players’ senior director of community outreach, said. The group has previously performed concerts and other tributes for the military. 

The Chainsmokers’ involvement at this year’s Players Championship is a part of the PGA TOUR’s Birdies for the Brave initiative, which was created in 2004 by Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, in collaboration with Glenn Cohen, to raise funds for combat-wounded veterans.

Oliver declined to comment on how much money Birdies for the Brave has raised since its inception, other than that the PGA TOUR donates millions of dollars to military-specific initiatives and organizations. She did add that The 2019 Players generated a record $9.25 million for local charities in Northeast Florida. 

“We are very committed to the communities in which we play,” Oliver said. “That requires us to engage and learn more about the needs of the communities where we are. Our goal is to be there, to help impact, and to be able to help organizations advance and bolster the things that are making a difference in the lives of community members.”

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From the military personnel on-site to the young families who will be taking in all of the action, Rice will be paying close attention to every person who has thoughts on their experience at one of the PGA TOUR’s flagship events.

“Whether they’re here as civic and community supporters, bucket-list sports event attendees, or even pure golf fans, we have something that applies to everybody,” Rice said. “It’s done under the umbrella of what we look at as the best golf event in the world. Period.”