The best move by any pro tour in the last decade was the LPGA's decision to make the Women's British Open a major. The Senior tour would be wise to follow the LPGA's lead and make the Senior British Open a major too. This year's Senior British, a European Senior tour event, will have Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and, for the first time, Jack Nicklaus. "I consider it a major," says Palmer. "Whether anybody else does, I don't really care."
Player, who has entered the event every year since its inception in 1987, winning three times ('88, '90 and '97), is of a like mind. "It's the most important major because it's played on the toughest courses," he says. " Royal County Down is way tougher than any course we play in America."
Most tour players feel the Senior PGA and the U.S. Senior Open are bona fide majors. Moving the 64-year-old Senior PGA from PGA National in Florida to a variety of classic venues (Ridge-wood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., this year; Firestone, in Akron, in '02; and Aronimink, outside Philadelphia, in '03) has given the event credibility among the players. The Senior Open, inaugurated in '80, doesn't have the Senior PGA's tradition, but it has the USGA's imprimatur and is played on top courses too. This year the tournament was at Salem (Mass.) Country Club, and its future venues include Inverness and Bellerive.
The other two Senior majors don't measure up. Bad weather and poor attendance have hurt the 13-year-old Tradition, at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., while one veteran says this about the Senior Players: "It has the biggest purse on the tour, but so what? It's on a dead-flat piece of property between office buildings, a Nicklaus humpty-dumpty track that Hale Irwin ate alive two years ago. This event has no tradition, just money."
Nicklaus entered this year's Senior British Open because, like Palmer, he has never played Royal County Down, and while he dismisses the event's pedigree—"It was an IMG production for years, and that's all," he says—he acknowledges that it has grown in stature. "The R&A has accepted it," he says. "Someday it could be a Senior major."