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Saturday, May 3, 2014
Updated: May 5, 4:41 PM ET
Making a major case for the Players

ESPN.com

It's Players Championship week with the biggest purse in golf -- $10 million -- on the line at TPC Sawgrass.

The PGA Tour's marquee event is often referred to as the fifth major by the brass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. So how does a tournament achieve such lofty status? And what do the world's best golfers need to do this week to grab that hefty winner's check?

Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.

1. What would The Players Championship have to do to become considered a major?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Honestly I don't know. Why did the Masters become a major? The Open is the oldest. The U.S. Open is ours. The PGA Championship would be considered the professional golfers' (even though it has morphed). I guess it becomes a major when all the players call it a major and the media acknowledges it as well.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass needs to be the eighth hole. It's too contrived to come in such a pivotal place in the round. But then the Players wouldn't be the same event.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Nothing. There is nothing The Players Championship can do to be considered a major. One of the great things about the men's game is that the four majors evolved over time. We've got an entire history of the game based on them. It will never be recognized as anything but the next-best thing to a major.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Shed some of its reputation and write some impressive new history, neither of which is an easy thing to do. Then again, becoming a major shouldn't be simple. The quirky winners (see Perks, Craig and Funk, Fred) and the fact that it's only been around since 1974 don't do it any favors.

Majors are supposed to be octogenarian-old, so maybe in time this will change. Ultimately, though, it's the players themselves that deem events "majors," which is why when guys such as Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy skipped this event a few years ago, it proved it's not at major status ... yet. Think anyone decides to pass on the Masters? Me neither.

2. Biggest key to a top-10 finish this week at The Players Championship?

Collins: Find the fairways. Everything starts from there at this course. It's a definite second-shot course, so you've got to find the short grass off the tee to have any chance.

Evans: In 2013, Tiger Woods was 12 under on the par-5s, en route to his second win at the Players. He played the rest of the holes 1 under. If golfers can take advantage of the four par-5s and play the other 14 holes carefully, a top-10 finish is easily doable.

Harig: Hitting greens. The course has always been known for its equal-opportunity winners: long hitters, short hitters. But all of them hit greens and with all of the hazards that course presents, that is the biggest factor to contending.

Maguire: Handle adversity. The course conditions will be challenging after a rough winter and Pete Dye's design is never easy. That being said, if you're hitting into these greens from the rough, making birdies in bunches just isn't happening.

3. What surprised you the most about J.B. Holmes' victory at Quail Hollow?

Collins: That fact that he wasn't scared to hit driver anywhere, anytime. When you thought he had a bad or dead lie, he muscled it out onto the green and had a chance for birdie. Others would've been making bogeys or worse. It was impressive to watch him drive with no fear.

Evans: Holmes, never known as a great course manager, handled himself very well around Quail Hollow under a great deal of pressure. It's hard to believe, really, considering he had not won a tour event since the 2008 FBR Open.

Harig: That he did it with his short game. Long known as one of the game's biggest hitters, Holmes did just enough -- especially on the greens after making a testy 3-footer at the last hole -- to secure his third PGA Tour title.

Maguire: That the big bomber can putt. Everyone expected him to blow away the field with 334 yards per drive (which was No. 1 for the week), but did anyone think the guy who until a week ago was still trying to lock up his card for the rest of the season would finish fifth in strokes gained putting on Quail Hollow's greens?

4. Give us one word to describe Stacy Lewis' performance Sunday in Texas.

Collins: Dominant. To put up six birdies and an eagle when only 14 other women broke par on the day (and of those just three were better than 2 under) should put the fear back in everyone when they see her name near the top of the leaderboard. Stacy Lewis can dominate you on a golf course when she's on.

Evans: Dominant. Lewis made the case with a 6-shot win against a quality field that included Michelle Wie, who finished third, why the major champion is the best American women's golfer. Her win was the largest margin of victory in an LPGA event since Jiyai Shin took the 2012 Women's British Open by 9 shots.

Harig: Relentless. After a series of near misses going back to last year, Lewis left no doubt Sunday, piling up the birdies to cruise to an easy victory.

Maguire: Gutty. Lewis hadn't won since her impressive finish to the Women's British Open at St. Andrews last year. That's not to say she wasn't playing amazing golf -- Lewis had 13 top-10s in 17 starts. But being so close so often without breaking into the winner's circle can be taxing on the mind. She put all that behind her with a dominating 6-shot win in Texas.