It’s been an exciting year on the PGA Tour and it’s only March. For the first time in decades, fans have been able to see the top 3 ranked players in the world competing in the same event a few weeks in a row. The top spot in the world rankings was once again up for grabs this week at The Players at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, with Rahm, Mcilroy and Scheffler jostling for position and once again it was earned rather than lost. While Jon Rahm had to withdraw because of illness, and Rory McIlroy missed the cut, Scottie Scheffler seized the moment and delivered convincingly once again.
Here are a few takeaways from event:
Scottie Scheffler is a deserving World No. 1
Scheffler is back on top and deservedly so. Over the last year and change, he’s won six times on the PGA Tour, and has added a Players Championship to his Masters’ green jacket. Rahm may have been the hottest player on tour this year, but Scheffler has been better for longer. He is also right there with Rahm in terms of season statistics. Rahm leads in scoring average at 68.9 but Scheffler is right behind him at 69.1. Rahm has won three times and Scheffler twice, but the Players Championship is a bigger prize than anything Rahm has on his resume so far this year. And thanks to the cool $4.5 million Scheffler made from winning at TPC Sawgrass, he now leads the money list with over $10 million for the season already.
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The manner of his victory shows how tough Scheffler is mentally. He was one-over for his round and looked to be off his game when he chipped in for birdie on the 8 th . Then he birdied the next four holes as well to put the tournament to bed. It was a performance of a player in control of his game and himself.
Scheffler is also only the third player after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to win the Masters and the Players in a 12-month span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. When you are in the same sentence as Nicklaus and Woods, you must be doing something right.
McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Scheffler have all laid claim to the No. 1 ranking this year. It’s fair to say Scheffler has earned his way back to the top and shown that last year was not a flash in the pan.
The winning moment for Scottie Scheffler @THEPLAYERSChamp pic.twitter.com/rUOszAs6vT
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 12, 2023
Full-field events are better than limited-field events
Australia’s Min Woo Lee was tied for the lead after the first hole on Sunday. He eventually faded with a 76 to finish tied for 6 th , but Lee was lucky to be in the field at all. In fact, he was the last player to get into the tournament. Yet there he was in the final group on Sunday. That’s the beauty of golf. All these guys are good and anyone can win if they have a great week. On the other side of the coin, even the best players can have a bad week and miss the cut, like McIlroy did at The Players. That’s what makes golf different from the other sports. You don’t get paid just for showing Up.
Unfortunately things are set to change with the PGA tour announcing more limited field, no-cut events. That’s great for the players in the field but it not only takes away from what makes golf special, it also means the rich get richer. McIlroy revealed last week that in thenoriginal version of the plan he and Tiger Woods had come up with, they would havenhad 14 limited field, no-cut events, and they had calculated that 80% of the field would have been the same in each event. Coincidentally, 14 is the same number of events on the LIV Golf Tour.
Thankfully, that proposal was cut to eight events for 2024, but it still moves the PGA Tour closer to LIV Golf, and makes the sport a little less special than it was before.
The best players are still on the PGA Tour
A lot of noise was made last year about the players that had jumped to the LIV Tour. But that’s all it was – noise. The Players started with questions about the absence of defending champion, Aussie Cameron Smith, who now plays on the LIV tour; but once the golf started, his absence became irrelevant. The vast majority of the best players in the world still play on the PGA Tour and missing a few of them doesn’t change anything because 99% of tournaments over the year never featured all the top players in the world playing together anyway (admittedly, the Players does generally get the strongest field in golf).
Since LIV is a closed system each year, which means they won’t be any more players switching sides in 2023, this year will be the test for whether they can attract attention for the golf on the course rather than their actions off it.
LIV faces an uphill battle to capture sponsors for their teams, now that the excitement has died down over which players would move there.
Photo – Sky Sports