• Thu. May 30th, 2024

Scheffler Surges at TPC Sawgress

ByJamie Lawson

Mar 24, 2023

The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida is often tipped as golf’s fifth major tournament. It has one of the largest purses in the sport, with this year’s prize total standing at $25 million. As a result, its attendance tends to include all of the world’s top players.

For that reason, it was this weekend’s absentees who dominated the pre-tournament headlines. Following the creation of the Saudi-backed golf league LIV, the PGA tour announced all LIV golfers would be banned from all PGA-commissioned events. As a result, Cam Smith, the defending champion, would not be returning.

Smith’s ban represented an awkward moment for the organisers, as Players champions are given a five-year exemption to play in the event following their win. In response to the situation, PGA commissioner Jay Monahan admitted the difficulty surrounding Cam’s absence but insisted it was a decision that the player himself had made when he signed for LIV.

To add to the drama, Smith was spotted playing ‘The Yards’ on Thursday, a nine-hole course just a mile from where the tournament was taking place, and well inside TPC Sawgrass’ grounds. The motivation behind this move was unclear, but indicated some level of bitterness or protest as Smith watched Scheffler take his undefended crown.  

For those playing this week, the talk continued to be around the battle for to be world number one. Pre-tournament it was Jon Rahm who sat atop the leaderboard after three PGA tour wins already this season, although both Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy could leapfrog him with wins. The organisers placed all three players into their marquee group for the first and second rounds, promising a great spectacle for fans.

Unfortunately, this marquee event was somewhat anticlimaxic in the end, with McIlroy missing the cut following some wayward driving, while Rahm withdrew after round one due to illness. The stage was clear for Scheffler to capitalise, and he did not disappoint. The current Masters champion put four sub-70 rounds together to claim a comfortable five-shot win over England’s Tyrrell Hatton. Hatton fired a record twenty-nine on the final nine holes to claim second place, increasing his earnings from $150,000 after hole nine to $2.5m by the time his birdie putt on the eighteenth dropped. 

However, at TPC Sawgrass, winning is anything but comfortable. The final three holes are riddled with potential danger, none more than the famous seventh par-three. It was an eventful week for the island green, which saw a record three holes in one as Chad Ramey, Aaron Rai and Alex Smalley all saw their names etched into the history books.The hole would have its revenge, however, with Englishmen Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood both finding the water when in position to challenge Scheffler.

For Scheffler, TPC Sawgrass served as another crowning moment in a fantastic resurgence. Without a win since his Masters triumph last April, Scheffler has notched two victories in the last four weeks and has proved anyone who called him a one-season wonder undoubtedly wrong. If for some reason there were people who did not already love Scottie, surely watching him embrace his elderly grandmother on the eighteenth hole finally got them on his side.

In terms of the race for best in the world, eyes now turn towards Augusta National and the Masters. For Scheffler, the Masters offers a chance to score back-to-back victories. For Rahm and McIlroy, the allure of that first green jacket awaits, with the added pressure for Rory of his long-awaited career grand slam. 

Image “TPC Sawgrass 17” by Craig ONeal is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.