Things are looking up for THE PLAYERS Championship, at least that’s according to star competitors Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in their pre-tournament press conferences.
“We look at this tournament up there in about equal value with the major championships,” said Spieth. “The only thing that holds it away from being a major is simply people jotting down how many majors people won. I mean, it is one of the toughest tests in golf with potentially the best field in golf. I think it is the best golf in all of golf. If you win here, you can win anywhere else. There is no added thing that any other tournament brings that this tournament doesn't have.”
Thomas echoed those sentiments.
“All of us on the Tour feel that this event can stand on its own,” he said. “It's not like it's another event, and it's no disrespect to the other events, but this is our championship. This is THE PLAYERS Championship. This has a very major-like field, has a very major-like feel, air to it. The roars are very similar.”
That parallels the sentiment expressed by Davis Love III at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year when he said that next year, THE PLAYERS would be “the first major of the season.”
As far as playing the golf course, Thomas has had better success over his short career than Spieth has had. Thomas has participated three times; Spieth has done so four times.
Spieth finished third in 2014, his debut at THE PLAYERS. But he has missed the cut every time after that.
“I don't have a great history the last few years here, but I also have played the course really well before and had a chance to win,” said Spieth. “I love this place. I love the golf course. But if you're not on — there's a lot of small areas, small areas to hit your tee shots, small areas to hit your second shots, and you've really got to think through the place and let it come to you. This is not a place to go out and try and force birdies, and I think that's kind of where I've gone the last few years that's got me in trouble.”
Thomas shot two 65s in his PLAYERS Championship history, but even he respects the nasty Pete Dye design.
“You have to be in total control of your ball,” Thomas sad. “You have to be working it one way off the tee, working it another way into the green, have your distances down to where you're putting from the right spots. You can't short-side yourself. You have to be good around the greens and around the par-5s in two. It really is a total package golf course, and I've always said I love this design.”