Golfer Index: Stock up (Grandma Scheffler) and down (Rory’s Zooms) post-Players
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Don’t call it a comeback … because it wasn’t one. At any point. No, Scottie Scheffler’s victory on Sunday at the Players Championship was as thoroughly and utterly predictable a tournament victory as we’ve seen in a long time.
Scheffler’s victory first seemed likely when he surged toward the top of a relatively anonymous leaderboard on Thursday and Friday afternoon. By the time he arrived with a two-stroke lead on Sunday morning, his re-crowning as World No. 1 felt like an inevitability. The only question that remained was how many strokes he’d win by. (The answer, it turned out, was five.)
But don’t be mistaken, Sunday did prove comeback time for someone at TPC Sawgrass, and that someone was the PGA Tour.
After a strange 12 months in which the Tour has been under siege, the establishment circuit charged into the 2023 season with gusto at the Players. That’s where we’ll start this week’s stock report.
Players Championship stock report
The PGA Tour – A wild week began with the Tour announcing its designated event changes. No cuts, limited fields, better scheduling and one fewer event. “Consider this stat,” Jay Monahan said Tuesday. “Our best players play against each other on the PGA Tour 40 percent of the time.” The new format is meant to change that. The new format will change that. Not everyone was happy with it, but the sport got better this week.
Min Woo Lee’s driving iron – Those of us with an affinity for golf’s simpler pleasures could be found on Sunday guffawing at Min Woo Lee’s tee shots. The sheer violence with which he strikes his 18-degree Callaway 2-iron has earned a special place in my golf soul. “There’s not many places where I hit more 2 irons than here, which that’s why I like this course,” he said. “Yeah, I like that club.” Us, too.
Tyrrell Hatton’s bank account — Five straight birdies, and seven on his last nine holes, were good enough to earn him a solo second place finish and $2.7 million. Golf’s most endearingly erratic player cashed a HUGE check on Sunday, and a well-deserved one after a few weeks of quietly good play.
Joel Dahmen – Turns out, starring in a show available to 231 million people is a good thing for visibility. Who woulda thought? Dahmen was one of the unquestioned stars of tournament week — a darling of the Sawgrass faithful. “The reception on 17 tee today was ridiculous,” he told me. “I said to Geno, ‘I feel like Rickie Fowler.’” It’s weird to see Dahmen shoot to such levels of golf fame, but pretty awesome for one of golf’s all-time good guys.
Geno Bonnalie – Joel wasn’t the only Netflix star fans were yelling for this weekend. Geno has easily earned his way into the upper echelon of Tour caddie fame, and it was pretty sweet to watch his genuine excitement to interact with fans. Those two are going to be a smash-hit for a long time.
Rickie Fowler — Rickie didn’t get the career-redefining victory he set out to achieve at the start of this week, but he capped off a T13 finish in a tough event with some of the most impressive golf wizardry I’ve seen in a minute. After his drive on the 18th went into a storm drain, Fowler took a drop and plunged his approach through a laptop-sized gap to 15 feet. He made the birdie putt and walked away close to $500,000 richer.
Holes in one — There were — count ‘em — three aces at No. 17 this weekend, capping off one of the busiest years on record for the island green. I hope the course maintenance team kept close measurements of those hole locations, I wouldn’t mind seeing them again next year.
The weather — After last year’s miserable weather forced me to pack a winter jacket to this year’s tournament, I was relieved to find Florida weather at its best for most of this week. JAX, you’ve won me over again.
Scottie Scheffler’s grandma – If you thought Scottie’s performance on Sunday was impressive, you shoulda seen Grammy Scheffler hauling around the property, walker in tow. My esteemed colleague Claire Rogers even learned that Grandma was serving dessert on Sunday night.
Tacos — Somehow, I’ve been coming to this tournament for the better part of the last decade without ever making it to TacoLu in Jax Beach. I will do you a favor and recommend you not make the same mistake. There’s something for everybody, from the Marg Maniacs (me) to the die-hard foodies (…also me).
Scottie Scheffler’s caffeine intake — The guy says he’s an addictive coffee drinker … except for the days in which he plays golf. I don’t care if you’re the best player in the world, nobody needs any help being grumpy on the golf course.
Rory McIlroy’s Zoom calendar — Rory McIlroy has seen more Zoom waiting rooms than a Fortune 500 CEO since the start of the 2022 season. It seemed like it finally caught up to him at the Players. “I’d love to get back to being a golfer,” Rory said after a missed cut on Saturday. “It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and honestly, it’s been a busy six or eight months. It should obviously quiet down from here.”
Jon Rahm’s GI tract —The longest made-cut streak on the PGA Tour ended on Friday when Jon Rahm (who was well inside the cutline) WD’d with a stomach bug. As someone who fended off a touch of media center food poisoning this week, here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.
James Hahn’s meeting attendance — Those who know me know I’ve been a staunch supporter of Comrade Hahn’s push for equity in golf, but it wasn’t a very good scene for him to miss Tuesday’s players meeting discussing those very changes!
Fast golf — The pace of play over the first two days at TPC Sawgrass was glacial. For the fifth straight week, the Tour was forced to doll out a Saturday cut. And worse yet, Tour lead official Gary Young threw up his hands at the idea the problem could soon be fixed. “We’re a membership organization,” he said. “We just understand that we will, unfortunately, have to finish sometimes on Saturday morning. That’s just the way it is. The numbers are the numbers. It’s a mathematical equation. You can figure it out.”
Xander Schauffele’s streaming habits — Xander has not watched Full Swing. He does not intend to watch Full Swing. “I’m more of a murder-mystery guy,” he told me. (Xander, if you’re reading this, we welcome your thoughts on season 1 of Poker Face.)
Paul Azinger’s hopes of Scottie Scheffler returning to earth — It sounded at times on Sunday’s NBC broadcast like Azinger was trying to speak a close Players finish into existence, warning viewers constantly that Scheffler was “one bad hole” away from coming back to the field. Perhaps he forgot that Scottie hasn’t blinked in 13 months … and never gave any indication Sunday he intended to change that.
This Kid’s forehead — No, Justin Thomas said, he would not sign one fan’s forehead for the second time in two days. The primary issue, it seemed, was that the Sharpie had not yet worn away. “Dude, you’ve gotta wash it first,” he said. Fair enough.
Cameron Davis’ bank account (and James Colgan’s interviewing tact) — I did something very stupid on Saturday at the Players. I asked Cam Davis if he’d ever hit into the devilish Sunday pin at the island green 17th. He gave me a pained look. “No. This weekend’s the first for me, so hopefully I’ll make it a good run around.” Davis, as perhaps you saw on Sunday afternoon, did not make it a good run around, putting his tee shot in the water and making double bogey on the hole. It was still an awesome weekend for the supremely talented Aussie, who finished T6 and earned some $736,000, but a par on the 17th would have given him a $1.47 million payday. (I’m very, very sorry, Cam.)
Keith Mitchell’s sanity —The buzzer-beating water ball on Friday was golf’s worst break in 2023, and though Mitchell handled it in good fun, we would hardly blame him for lost sleep as a result of the endeavor.
Tom Hoge’s leg room — The man cashed a $1.47 million check on Sunday afternoon and flew American Airlines home to DFW, naturally, in coach. Never change, TH.
Brown noise/my keyboard/my coworkers’ perceptions of me — See below.