PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The Players never had a back to back champion and it wont this year with the defending champion Cameron SmithPlay in the LIV Golf League.
The PGA Tour has plenty to celebrate this year with its new model and $25 million purse. This is the largest prize in tour history. The weather forecast is also much better than last season, when heavy rain and thunderstorms wreaked havoc.
Who is going to win? Its likely to be one of the unusual suspects. Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, etc. Another cast of unheralded stars finished in the top ten in 2022. Anirban Lahiri, Doug Ghim, Russell KnoxAnd Adam Hadwin.
Here are the top stories at TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course this week:
Somebodys getting paid
The Players winner will receive $4.5 million. This will be a new record in PGA Tour history for the largest winners share. Smith of Australia won the so-called fifth major last year and was awarded $3.6 million. It was the largest prize in the game prior to LIV Golf.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the first $1 million paycheck in PGA Tour history went to Jeff Maggertfor winning the 1999 WGC Match Play. McIlroy received $2.25 million for winning the Players in 2019. This sum has more than doubled in four years. In the history of the tour, McIlroy has held the record for the largest winners award 17 times, 11 times at Players.
LIV Golf pays out $4 million to each winner of each of its 14 events this year, but this weeks prize is even higher than that. Its not a coincidence.
The battle for No. 1
McIlroy, Scheffler, Rahm and Rahm all spent time at No. Rahm is currently at No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. If any of them win The Players, theyll be the No. Sunday night, theyll be No. 1. There are many other options for the trio that could be No. If someone else wins, the trio can be No.
As I said, there are more 100 possible scenarios. @McIlroyRory & Scottie Scheffler to recapture No.1 from @JonRahmpgaSo this is only a small selection.
As the tournament continues, we discuss the details. pic.twitter.com/EEfqYtxx8v
— Nosferatu (@VC606) March 7, 2023
With a victory at the Stadium Course, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Rahm would become the first PGA Tour player since Jack Burke Jr. in 1952 to collect his fourth victory of the season by March 12.
McIlroy would be the seventh player to win at least two Players Championships. Jack NicklausIt was won three times: 1974, 1976 and 1978.
TPC Sawgrass 17th hole is par-3 and, depending on the wind, one of the most thrilling holes for golf fans. According to ESPN Stats & Information, there were 27 balls hit into the water on No. 17 were hit in the second round of last years tournament. This was the fifth-highest total in ShotLink tracking since 2003.
Last year, play was halted by heavy rains and thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday. The first round did not resume until 12 p.m. ET on Saturday. Scheffler, Brooks KoepkaAnd Xander SchauffeleThey were the first to be impacted by the par-3 17th. The results were as you would expect from 35-mph gusts. All three players hit their tee shots into water.
Schauffele was 4 under when he reached the 17th tee box. He made bogey, then scored a quadruple-bogey 8. In two holes, he went from a tie to play ninth to a tie to play 90th and missed the cut.
7 on the Par-3 17th😬 pic.twitter.com/VbLhsQq2qD
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 12, 2022
Yeah, 17 is amazing. Schauffele said Tuesday that 18 was even better. I think [caddie] Austin [Kaiser]He showed me the stat from his phone. Thats why I stopped using social media. But I think he showed it to me as a first to go from being in the top 10 to being outside the top 100 in just one hole. My team is all about reality checks, and I got one.
Can Rahm get his mojo rediscovered?
Rahm is the most popular golfer on the planet. He won five times in his nine previous international starts, including three times at the PGA Tour Sentry Tournament of Champions, American Express, and the Genesis.
Rahm looked good on his way to four victories since January, when Rahm took the first-round lead with an impressive 7-under 65 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. But then things turned sour. After carding a 4-over-76 in the first two rounds, he shot even par on Sunday to tie him for 39th at 1 Over. It ended his streak at 10 top-10 finishes in global starts and was his worst finish after tying for 55th in Julys Genesis Scottish Open.
Rahmbo was human for at least three days.
Three days? Rahm joked with a reporter about his performance at Bay Hill on Tuesday. I shot even par on the last day. Its not an easy course. I moved up the leaderboard. That was quite good, I thought.
Rahm reminded reporters he hit five balls in water, four of which were off the tee. He stated that all of them could have been dry with a good bounce.
Rahm stated, It would be very simple for me to overthink the situation and think that something has to change. If I were able to eliminate most of these shots, wed be talking close to top 20, Its shoulda-coulda-woulda, right? But what if I had been playing at? [Riviera Country Club]Torrey [Pines]Or, all of those shots could have been made at a different venue. I could have managed my golf game around.
Rahm acknowledges that it was likely time for his luck turn.
He said, Its just the game of golf. I believe that when things are going so well, the golf gods decide its time to humble you a bit. It was my turn to feel that way for a few days. Just keep going. There is nothing, nothing to look at, really. Its golf, and a few bad days.
Rahm has won all over the world, but he has not yet won a title in Florida. He has only one top-10 finish in five Players appearances, a tie for ninth place in 2021.
Fowler is on his way back
Rickie Fowler’s career was capped by the 2015 Players. In which he erased 5-shot deficit to win, it was undoubtedly the highlight. Sergio GarciaFor Garcia to force a playoff, the last six holes must be played. Kevin Kisner. Fowler and Kisner won a three-hole aggregate playoff. They then headed to the island green 17th for sudden deaths.
Fowler made a birdie to defeat Kisner in the playoff and final round.
Fowler has had a difficult three years, but there are encouraging signs that things are changing. He now has three top 10s with a new swing, one less than he had in all 60 starts during the past three seasons. He is 14th in strokes won: total (1.204), and 10th in strokes earned: approach (.820).
Thomas said, Itd be great. Its clear that this trend is evident. He is playing solid, consistent, and really good golf. Its easy to tell that he is a different person from the time I play with him on practice rounds or at home. He has more confidence, swagger and swagger. His expectations are different. Its funny to see how a couple of tournaments or perhaps one shot or week here or there will affect your expectations.
Fowler has used Thomas and his good friends Thomas. Jordan SpiethHe has been as helpful as a sounding board as he has tried to find his way back.
Thomas stated that he wanted Thomas to play better but that he just wanted to be there as an ally. I think sometimes the man in us doesnt necessarily want to ask our friends for help. You know what I mean. Its not cool. But I mean, its something Ive done. Ive spoken to many friends, about different golf stuff and thought processes, whatever it may be.
My thing to Rick? Im like, Dude, if ever you ever need or want anything, its me as much or as little as I want. … Sometimes, this can be lonely. It can be lonely, even with your family, spouse, girlfriend, or whatever else you have on the road with, when youre not there between your ears.
The middle class is being saved
If the original plan for the revamped PGA Tour model was adopted by the circuit’s policy board, there would be 14 events with fields of between 50 and 60 players competing for higher purses. Models indicate that about 80% of top 50 FedEx Cup players would have remained in this scenario.
This model was first suggested by McIlroy during a meeting of around 20 players. Tiger WoodsBefore the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Wilmington, Delaware, August.
Spieth stated, I can confidently state that its not two separate tour as that might be perceived. In Delaware, the initial presentation was essentially two separate tours. They had to give some room to ensure that every card holder could play in every PGA Tour event. It was the right thing to have.
Future seasons of PGA Tour will have seven events with fields of 70 to80 players, and the Sentry Tournament of Champions which will have a field of approximately 50 to 60 players. None of these tournaments will feature a 36-hole cut. The Tour hopes that the model will result in about 60% retention among top 50 players.
Jay Monahan, PGA Tour commissioner, stated that that was an important element of the changes were making. We wanted to ensure that there was real consequence, theres genuine promotion, and theres actually relegation.
Monahan said that the tour wanted to make it possible for players not in the top 50 to be eligible for the elevated events. The qualifying criteria includes the top 50 players in points over the previous year, tournament winners, the top 10 in points for the current season, and the top five points earners in a cluster of non elevated events between the elevated ones.
Thomas stated that there is no model that will make everyone happy. Its a simple fact. However, at the end, every one of us signed up for golf. You knew that the better your game, the better tournaments we were going into, and the worse our play, the less money you would have to work. This is not changing.
Its a mindset issue with some people that are upset. Or, do you want to say, I want to play at that table or I want to participate in that tournament?
McIlroy to win (+900), top-10 finish (+120).
David Bearman: I picked Rory last week in this column, but came up just short of McIlroys finish as runner-up: one shot back. Even though he had a first round of 73, he was still in the lead by Sundays close. He was only 8 shots behind the pace. Rory is very close to the top and this tournament will allow him to prove himself again in the world of golf. He won the 2019 tournament, has three other top-10 finishes, and enjoys playing Pete Dye courses. He will need his A game to this course and the top field, but he was second at Arnie’s place without top stuff.
Bradley top-10 finish (+450
Bearman: The usual suspects (Rory Scottie, Rahm), will be in action this week. But dont overlook one of the hottest players Tour has to offer. Quietly, Keegan BradleySix of his finishes this season were in the top 21, including a T-10 at the API, a runner up finish at Farmers and a win in October at the ZoZo. Hes been to TPC Sawgrass six times in the last year, the longest active streak. The last four years were all in the top 30. +450 is a good payout.
Max HomaTo win (+2200), top-5 (+450), and top-10 (+230).
Anita Marks Although it is not a California course Max Homa could still win it. He was T-13th last year, finishing with a closing score of 66. He is also 1st in shots won over the last 24 rounds. This is a key metric for the TPC Sawgrass course. He is a great fit for this course, being in the top 10 in almost all stats categories.
Jason DayTop-10 finish (+280).
Marks: Jason Day continues to make a comeback with another top-10 at Bay Hill last week. He now has nine top-25s in his last 10 starts. He loves Pete Dye courses. He is a former winner, having won the title in 2010. He also has three other top tens.