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LPGA's announcement 'major' only as an embarrassment

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hanging on one of the many VPs' walls in the offices of the PGA Tour is a copy of an Associated Press golf story from 1974.

It's framed, and based on developments Wednesday, it probably should be gilded in gold.

It's a news story that includes comments from former commissioner Deane Beman, who gushed optimistically about the establishment of what was then called the Tournament Players Championship, now known as the Players Championship.

Evian director Jacques Bungert called it 'a very special ... moment.' LPGA head Mike Whan called it 'a historic day.' (Getty Images)  
Evian director Jacques Bungert called it 'a very special ... moment.' LPGA head Mike Whan called it 'a historic day.' (Getty Images)  
"The players are resolved to make this tournament the fifth major championship," Beman said the day the event was announced in Atlanta.

So, refresh my memory again. How did that one turn out?

Confirming what had been rumored for several days, the LPGA on Wednesday took the unusual step of designating the Evian Masters in France as its fifth major starting in 2013, a move that was quickly met with predictable amounts of suspicion, derision, contempt and skepticism -- the Grand Slam of marketing meltdowns.

It was predictable not because fans and media are a bunch of mindless sheep that tend to follow the flock. But because this is the most transparent thing we've been sold in years, other than bottled water itself, and it smacks of a Grand Sham orchestrated to keep a title sponsor happy and an organization on semi-solid footing.

Well, it has become a slippery slope now, isn't it? Let's take this informal survey as a means of underscoring the faulty reasoning behind this move purely from a practical standpoint.

1. Please circle the item that doesn't have four components:

A. Grand Slam in men's tennis
B. Grand Slam in women's tennis
C. Denny's Grand Slam breakfast
D. Baseball home run with three base runners
E. Grand Slam in men's golf

Trick question. Because all five have four primary parts. As the PGA Tour learned a few years ago, when it wisely elected to stop pimping and positioning the otherwise hugely popular Players Championship as the fifth major, history best happens over time, and no amount of lobbying can speed up the process in a sport with centuries of tradition.

Apparently in some circles, checkbooks trump history books. Said LPGA commissioner Mike Whan on Wednesday: "Today is a historic day." For all the wrong reasons. Evian tournament director Jacques Bungert described the day as "a very special and very emotional moment."

Yeah, color me verklempt. All that's special about it is that, years from now, it will represent the day the sport officially and ceremoniously created a "major" strictly for money and scheduling stability. According to the mutual announcement in France, the tournament will move to September -- the Evian Masters is being staged this week -- and will be played as the last of the five majors. Like the record books, the course will be renovated.

It will be renamed "The Evian."

How nice. I am reminded of comedian Dennis Miller, who had a hugely popular HBO show years ago wherein he routinely took a bottled water onto the stage with him. One day he noted that Evian spelled backward is "Naive," which is a darned apt way to describe this bit of bottled, manufactured, pre-packaged news.

No matter how it's defended, it lacks fizz. Oh, a Perrier joke. Perfect.

Golf fans know their history and most are a conservative lot. When they are force-fed questionable fare and told that it's caviar when it's really a jar of salmon eggs best used for fishing bait, there's not just blowback, but outright recoil. For instance, every time hype-master Donald Trump calls one of his courses "the best 18 holes on the planet not named Augusta National," or issues some such self-indulgent proclamation, plenty of aficionados laugh and issue their mental demerits accordingly.

Translation: Status will never be bought and sold like a day-old baguette.

Coincidentally, on Wednesday, the U.S. Golf Association announced Oakland Hills will serve as the host venue for the 2016 U.S. Amateur, a tournament with an actual pedigree, unlike the Evian, which has been an LPGA event since 2000.

As any righteous golf fans knows, the U.S. Am decades ago was considered part of the men's Grand Slam. But then the professional game took over and the Slam morphed into its current configuration.

In fact, it wasn't until 1960 that the Slam took root in the mind of the sporting public, after Arnold Palmer was flying across the Atlantic to play in the British Open and said to a fellow passenger, "Wouldn’t it be great if golf had a Grand Slam like tennis?"

Lo and behold, the notion took root -- organically. It evolved. The women's majors have changed several times over the years as tournaments folded and sponsors bailed. But were they bought or sold beforehand like a commercial product?

Unlike the cap on a bottle of Evian, no amount of spin can seal this product for me. Unlike the Champions Tour, which has five majors and stands as a circuit that only the players truly take seriously, the LPGA is by far the most important women's circuit in the world.

Thus, the quips were flying as fast as fingers could type them.

European Tour star Francesco Molinari, a member of the 2010 European Ryder Cup team, quickly busted this one out on his Twitter page: "What's all the noise about ladies fifth major? We have five, too. Everybody knows the Italian Open is the fifth major."

On the other side of the Mediterranean, they were hoisting glasses and toasting this so-called major, decided by proclamation, not acclamation.

Viva la France?

More like viva la farce.


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