PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — It almost seemed as if the PGA Tours middle class (and working) had a reminder for its stars during the opening round of TPC Sawgrass Players Championship.
The message: Were not so bad, either.
After Tuesdays announcement that it will hold eight events with limited fields, no cuts beginning in 2024, a number of players ranked below the top 100 in the world were in the top 10 at the tour’s flagship event.
Chad RameyHe is No. The worlds No. 225 golfer, posted an 8-under 64 to win the Stadium Courses first round. Canadas Taylor Pendrith, No. 114 in the world is just 3 shots behind, along with Ben GriffinAnd Justin SuhNo. 78 and respectively 102 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Suh still had three holes to play on Thursday, when play was stopped at 6:28 p.m. ET due to darkness
Griffin was working as a loan officer for a bank in financing residential mortgages when he died two years ago. Griffin was asked if he would have dreamed of competing in the Players as a former North Carolina star.
What a flop shot! @BenGriffinGolf 👏
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 9, 2023
Griffin stated, No, but I could see a homeowner signing a contract and we having to finance a loan. Thats it. It was two years ago that I was working a deskjob almost. Now, its a dream to be on the PGA Tour. Its a blessing to have sponsors who have helped me get back where I was. Its amazing to be able to give a push like that.
Some of the game’s most prominent names will have to push hard on Friday in order to stay for the final two rounds. FedEx Cup winner Rory McIlroyThe defending U.S. Open champion Matt FitzpatrickEach player shot a 4-over 75 and was 12 shots behind Ramey. Justin ThomasTony Finaue and Tony Finaue were 1 up, while Tom Kim, Hideki MatsuyamaAnd Will Zalatoris were 2 over.
They are all chasing Ramey, with 54 holes to play.
Ramey stated that it gives him the confidence and that deep down, he believes he belongs out here. I believe that I can beat them. Its a matter of proving it to everyone else.
The battle for No. 1
These are the three players who were No. The three players who have been No. Jon Rahm, Scottie SchefflerAnd Rory McIlroy— were paired together on Thursday morning in a marquee group, and Scheffler came out victorious after 18 holes. It took Scheffler a while getting started.
Scheffler, ranked no. Scheffler, ranked No. 2 in the world behind Rahm carded a 4-under-par 68. Scheffler made even par on the nine back holes, and had five birdies on the front nine. Scheffler was able to hit 10 fairways and 14 greens on 14 of the 14 fairways.
Scheffler stated, The rough was very dense. I dont think its crazy, crazy long. I think well see more at the U.S. Open. It may have been longer last week, but I think this week is the most healthy Ive ever seen. Theres a little bit of Bermuda there, and then its thickened with the overseed.
Rahm was also quite accurate off the fairway, hitting nine out of 14 fairways and doing a good job staying out in the rough. Rahm couldnt get much going on the green and finished 1-under 71. In putting, he lost more than 2 strokes. Rahm stated that he didn’t give himself enough chances. Rahm had a putt lip on the last hole.
Rahm stated, Well, it felt as a slap in my face on a day when I hit a lot putts and just kept burning edge to one that looked like going in. Its golf. Its what it is. I can only say that I made a lot of good putts out there. I will think about a few wedge shots today, around three or four out there. Some of them were not close to the green, and some were completely missed.
McIlroy made a double bogey at the 10th hole, and his round was never better. He had four bogeys and two birdies the rest of the round. He only hit six of the 14 fairways and ten of the 18 greens. McIlroy needed 31 putts and lost more than 2½ strokes on the greens. McIlroy didnt putt more than 4 feet.
McIlroy had a record-breaking opening round score of 81 in the event since his 4-over 76 at TPC Sawgrass in 2021 Masters. Since winning the 2019 Players, McIlroy is a four-time major champion. He has a combined 11 over in seven rounds at TPC Sawgrass.
McIlroy was an erratic driver off the tee. McIlroy began using a new driver last month at the Genesis. McIlroy has had enough of the driver he used last year.
McIlroy said that these driver heads can be so finicky that its hard for one to be exactly the same. Yeah, I understand. Im trying my best to get something as close to last years. Yes, I struggled a bit with the tee over the last few weeks.
This one is as close to the truth as it has been. It has a lot user error.
The trio will start their second round at No. The No. 1 hole will be played at 12:56 p.m. ET Friday (ESPN+).
A Cinderella story?
If RameyKelly, his wife, had just given birth to their first child. Kelly didnt sleep well for the past few nights, so it could be harder for him to catch up.
Ramey, whos No. With an 8-under 64, Ramey, who is No.174 in FedEx Cup Points, took the first round lead. It was the former Mississippi State players first start on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. In fact, he had never even stepped foot on the property before Monday. He made four birdies on the front and back and did not make a bogey over 18 holes.
Ramey stated, Not easy at any rate. Ramey said, It might have looked that way, but it was not easy. It was fun. [the]This is my first time shooting a score on an iconic course like this. Its all you can ask for.
Rameys meteoric rise was totally unexpected. He had struggled all season after winning Corales Puntacana Championships in the Dominican Republic in February 2022. He missed the cut in nine out of his 14 previous starts, including three consecutive weeks leading up to this week.
Ramey stated, The game has felt really close. Its been close, even though the scores haven’t shown it, Ramey said.
Ramey played the par-3 17th hole. He was able to get his tee shot very close, at about 2 feet, for easy birdie.
Ramey, 30 years old, said that he has been communicating with his wife, Nolan, and their newborn son, Nolan, via Facetime approximately three to four times per day. He hadnt spoken to them before Thursdays round.
Ramey stated that golf is less important than ever, and that maybe thats why my game is so much better today. Its less important now that my child is here, and I hate it Im not there with them, but Im just glad to be here to at least play well.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, there has been only one Players champion since 1987 who was ranked outside the top 100 in the OWGR: Craig Perks2002 (199th). Next, the winner was Si Woo Kim2017: (75th)
Ramey was not the only first-timer at The Players to make some noise on Thursday. Australias Min Woo LeeIn his first start at Stadium Course, Lee recorded a 4-under-par 68. Lee, who has twice won on the DP World Tour is making his 19th start on PGA Tour.
Lee is ranked No. Lee, ranked No. 50 worldwide, was 6 under after 13 hole before posting bogeys at three of the last five holes. His right calf began to cramp after he hit the 15th hole tee shot. He needed help from a PGA Tour official to finish his round. Lee claimed that he thought he had an allergic reaction due to electrolytes he used earlier in week. He then cramped up again after he stopped using them.
Lee said that the calf came out of nowhere and was a random event. I don’t want to show my face because it was so swollen and red. It was not ideal. It got so bad that Sunday was the last day I could go out on the course.
Oh my goodness, I just got cramped.
Leader Min Woo Lee is experiencing pain on his back in Round 1. pic.twitter.com/EWeofKKz7g
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 9, 2023
Lees older sister Minjee Lee, the reigning U.S. Womens Open champion and a two time major champion.
I will wear the same tees. [win]Lee said. Its close when she plays against the womens and I play against the mens. I think she would win a sprint. But she is so consistent. So, I think she would beat my 100 rounds because I can hit it sideways and she cant hit it off of the fairway. Its close, I think.