What kind of player does TPC Sawgrass favor? The contenders weigh in
While the Players Championship has produced a bevy of big-name winners over the last several years — Cameron Smith, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, to name a few — the tournament has also been notable for its somewhat quirky leaderboard.
With a $25 million purse up for grabs, the Players is the most lucrative of the PGA Tour’s Designated Events, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by checking the top of the leaderboard at the 54-hole mark, where Scottie Scheffler is the only top-ranked player on contention.
The dearth of big stars in the mix begged the question: What does it take to be successful on this golf course? After the third round, a few of the contenders offered their takes.
“This course can suit anyone or no one,” said Australian Cameron Davis, who trailed Scheffler’s lead by four shots heading into Sunday. “I mean, it’s not overly long, it forces you to take some shorter lines off the tees because you can’t cut a lot of corners and because the pins are cut in the way they are, good shots get rewarded, some almost great shots don’t. Sometimes it can be very hard to make pars even though you’re feeling like you’re playing well.”
Tommy Fleetwood, who was five shots back after Saturday’s third round, said success depended a lot on a player’s comfort off the tee.
“I’ve had my fair share of good rounds and bad rounds around here. I enjoy the golf course,” he said. “I think you don’t find anybody that doesn’t think it’s a great test of golf, that it’s a great golf course. I think it’s just so important to drive it well, and I’ve done that over the — anytime that I’ve played well, I’ve put the ball in play with the driver and felt comfortable off the tee. Give yourself the chance to hit a lot of greens.”
Tom Hoge, whose course-record 62 on Saturday launched him into T8, said it’s all about playing position-golf.
“It’s just a golf course that really doesn’t reward any sort of style of play,” he said. “You got to hit it in certain positions and go from there. I feel like it’s a golf course that’s always suited me really well, just being that distance isn’t as important; get the ball in play and then it’s kind of a second-shot golf course. So I think it really favors the guys who whose games are sharp and it tests all areas of your game.”
Scheffler, whose rounds of 68-69-65 gave him a two-shot cushion heading into Sunday, said that for him, success at Sawgrass comes down to course-management.
“I just think it’s a good test tee to green. I think what makes me a little nervous is the stuff kind of around,” he said. “You don’t really know if you’re going to get a good or bad break. Anytime you’re hitting fairways and greens out here it’s pretty scorable, but the minute you miss a fairway, depending on where you end up in one of these little hollows or pot bunkers or something like that you can get in weird spots pretty quick.”
So, with all that in mind, who’s most likely to prevail? It’s still anyone’s guess. But given the quirkiness that awaits the players on the back nine — namely, the famous, island-green par-3 17th — Sunday afternoon is sure to be drama-filled.