What we learned from the 2023 PLAYERS Championship.
Lesson 1: A strong field does not necessarily mean a stacked leaderboard.
The Players Championship may offer the strongest field of golfers in the world, but the leaderboard was largely filled with surprises this weekend.
OWGR number 207, Chad Ramey, took the first-round lead, and OWGR number 52, Adam Svensson, took the second-round lead before Scottie Scheffler took the reins from the 54-hole mark on.
By the time we reached the 72nd hole on Sunday, only 3 of the top 10 golfers in the world could grab a spot in the top 10 on the leaderboard.
Lesson 2: A large field at the Players Championship in March means delays.
Since the schedule change to March, the logistics of getting 144 players around 18 holes when you have less than 12 hours of light is already going to be a problem; this problem is made worse when you add in poor weather.
At the 2022 Players Championship, the first round finished on Saturday, the second round finished on Sunday, whilst the third and fourth rounds were both finished on Monday. We were a bit luckier this year, but poor weather and low light still caused a number of delays.
Lesson 3: A successful back 9 on Sunday can earn you millions of dollars.
Taylor Montgomery was stood on the 15th tee at -9, cruising towards a top-10 finish and a likely pay cheque of around $1,000,000. Montgomery played the next three holes at +7 and had to settle for $75,035.71.
Conversely, Tyrrell Hatton stood on the 10th tee at -5 and a projected payday of around $167,000. Seven birdies later, Hatton bags a solo second-place finish and gets cut a cheque for $2,725,000.
Lesson 4: The new-look 2024 PGA Tour Schedule may just make sense.
Despite some concern from critics, next season’s Designated Event model will see some of the biggest tournaments have limited-field, no-cut events. This announcement understandably causes concern for golf fans and golf professionals alike, but may also be the solution to ensuring that golf’s biggest names are battling it out on Sunday afternoon.
Lesson 5: Iron covers aren’t always to be ridiculed.
Imagine the scene: you are standing on the tee of the iconic 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, you glance across to your right at the 16th green to read the wind from the pin, you glance at the tall flags behind the 17th green to get another wind read, you agree the shot with your caddie, the crowd goes quiet as you take the club from their hand, and then you pull off the iron cover.
England’s own Aaron Rai cuts an unusual image of a professional golfer by wearing two gloves and using iron covers, but no one was laughing when he made an ace at 17 on Saturday.
Lesson 6: Rickie Fowler is making a charge.
Fowler’s T13 finish has seen him climb 12 OWGR places in just one week as he continues his charge into this year’s majors.