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The PGA Tour has long retained the tagline that The Players hosts the “best field in golf.”

But that controversial statement is being scrutinised more than ever this week in the second successive year without LIV golfers at TPC Sawgrass.

Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka – two current major champions – aren’t in the field as they are indefinitely banned from the PGA Tour due to their defections to the Saudi-funded league.

Notable absentees at Ponte Vedra Beach also include Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and the in-form Joaquin Niemann.

• Opinion: Is The Players in danger of losing its ‘fifth major’ tag?

• Interview: ‘In my mind I’m a two-time major champ,’ says David Duval

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan reiterated on Tuesday that the “greatest players in the world” are competing on the Stadium Course, but the missing LIV players has called the prestige of the tournament into question.

Billy Horschel, who grew up near Sawgrass in Florida, sees The Players as a ‘fifth major’, but believes LIV players must be welcomed back by Monahan to restore the showpiece to its full potential.

“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have some of the best players in the world here,” Horschel told Sky Sports.

“I did have a conversation with Jay about a year and a half ago about if the majors were going to let the guys that went to LIV, shouldn’t we maybe let them in?

• Jay Monahan issues update on PGA Tour’s PIF talks

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“If we see ourselves as a fifth major, which I believe we are, shouldn’t we, maybe put out a little bit of olive branch? We had a great conversation about that and I understood his side of it and the PGA Tour side, but I think personally it’s tough to say that we don’t have all the best players in the world here.

“Take out the world rankings, take out everything. Everyone knows by the eyeballs test who the best players are in the world and I think, hopefully, a year from now we will have all the best players back here again playing.”

While the PGA Tour “accelerates” talks with the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) which bankrolls LIV, Horschel hopes an agreement can bring together the game’s divided talent pool again.

“I think for the game of golf to get back to where it needs to be and for the betterment of the game of golf – and take all the personal feelings aside – we need to do the right things,” he added.

“Hopefully that does come with the deal with PIF and everything, so there’s a path that the best players in the world are playing again at – what I believe – is the fifth major.”

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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