The PGA TOUR’s flagship event at TPC Sawgrass delivered plenty of delight and drama but one player – Scottie Scheffler – stood head and shoulders above the rest and can now lay claim to being the best in the world.
Scottie Scheffler’s star continues to rise
Scottie Scheffler cruised to his sixth PGA TOUR title – and his second this year – with another brilliant display of golf that ultimately ended in a five-shot victory over nearest challenger Tyrrell Hatton that was rewarded with a cheque for US$4.5m.
With victory he also returned to the World No. 1 spot ahead of Jon Rahm who was forced to pull out of the event due to sickness while fellow ranking rival Rory McIlroy failed to make the cut.
Not that the man himself is that bothered having downplayed the honour to the media.
“It’s tough to rank professional golf,” he told reporters on Saturday, “and the OWGR [Official World Golf Ranking] has done a good job of that over a long period of time but at the end of the day, for me, it’s just an algorithm.”
It’s hard to argue against his elevated status given his insane level of consistency over the last year or so with Scheffler having also notched 14 top-10 finishes in that period – and some are even suggesting he is just getting started.
Notably, he also becomes just the third player to have held both the Masters and THE PLAYERS titles at the same time joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Illustrious company.
The 17th will always deliver joy and pain
Heading into THE PLAYERS, there had been just 10 holes-in-one at the iconic par-3 17th hole but this year’s Championship served up THREE!
Hayden Buckley notched the first at the hole since Shane Lowry’s memorable effort last year thanks to a 125-yard pitching wedge that landed 20ft away before spinning back into the hole.
Aaron Rai was the next to card an ace with his 122-yard gap wedge also finding the green before spinning towards the cup.
And on Sunday, Alex Smalley sent his ball towards the island green with a sand wedge and looked on as it one-hopped off the rough and into the hole.
All three were understandably greeted with delight from the players and fans – but they were the lucky ones. A total of 58 balls also found the water over the course of the four days.
Sawgrass can be tamed – just ask Tom Hoge
After struggling to a 6-over 78 in Thursday’s opening round, Tom Hoge booked a flight for Friday night thinking his challenge for THE PLAYERS crown would be over following his second round.
He rebounded with a 4-under 68 that left him right on the cut line at 2-over and only found out that he would be playing the weekend when the delayed second round was completed on Saturday.
He took full advantage of the reprieve with a course-record 62 in the third round with his 10 birdies propelling him up the leaderboard and into the record books – beating the previous mark of 63 that had been carded by nine players.
“I didn’t even know it was a course record until after we got done in the scoring there,” Hoge said post-round, before admitting the conditions had played their part.
“Today was going to be the day to do it if you were going to because it was soft with little wind, so you felt like you could make birdies and keep trying to make birdies. So, I just felt fortunate and tried to take advantage of it the best I could.”
Hoge would round out his challenge with a fourth round 70 that was good enough for a T3 finish and a US$1.475m pay day.
But be careful, the Stadium Course can bite back
While Hoge could certainly lay claim to taming the sometimes treacherous TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course for monetary gain, others were not so lucky.
It was all going so well for TOUR rookie Taylor Montgomery with a string of birdies midway through his final round taking him to 10-under. He looked set for a major payday and even after a bogey on the 15th, three pars would have still bagged him over a million dollars.
Disaster would befall him first at the 16th where he carded a double-bogey seven without hitting a ball in the water. It was the opposite on the world-famous 17th where he put two in the water on his way to another card-wrecking seven.
He steadied the ship with a par on the final hole but it proved only good enough for a T44 finish and a US$75,000 cheque. Ouch.
Keith Mitchell is one of us
Keith Mitchell may not be the most well known or popular player on the PGA TOUR but he will have earned himself a few more fans over the weekend.
During Friday’s second round, Mitchell sent his tee shot on the 5th into the water down the right and reacted, just as many of us would, by slamming his driver into the tee box.
To add to his frustration, and the comedy of the moment, there was the sounding of the horn to signal a suspension of play due to bad weather and an equally amusing exchange with his caddie – listen below.
A clip of the wayward shot and his reaction soon went viral on social media before it was removed due to a rights infringement and most likely a request from the PGA TOUR – but Mitchell himself re-posted it soon after while also taking a shot at officials for their action.
Mitchell was subsequently celebrated by ‘golf Twitter’ for his refusal to be silenced and his enviable ability to laugh at himself.
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