Every year the strongest field in golf gathers in gorgeous Palm Valley, Florida to attempt to claim the title of Players Champion. Last year’s defending champion Cam Smith was missing from the field due to his departure to the rival LIV Golf tour. This year, the field was capped off with some of the best players in the PGA like Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Rickie Fowler, and Rory McIlroy. With plenty of great talent, Thursday couldn’t arrive quick enough as TPC Sawgrass was in great shape and ready to provide a quality test for the pros.
Thursday was a bit of a shocker as it usually is. Chad Ramey, a former Mississippi State graduate and longtime tour pro jumped out to an early lead with an opening round 64 (-8). Those that tee off in the morning are usually fortunate to complete their rounds before the high winds start to pick up, and that is exactly what he did. While he was at the top, young star Colin Morikawa was quick on his heels with a 65 (-7) of his own. While tournaments cannot be won on Thursday, they can certainly be lost. Unfortunately, one of the favorites and previous Players champion, Rory McIlroy, did just that. A 76 (+4) on Thursday put him in danger of missing the cut and did all but completely diminish his chances of winning.
Friday came and went. Rory missed the cut as his first-round score would have suggested. Our first-round leader, Chad Ramey, fell back down the leaderboard with a 75 (+3). While certainly not the round he wanted, he was still in position to strike. The world number one ranked golfer, Mr. Scheffler, found himself also situated near the top with two solid rounds of 68 and 69, (-7) total, and with danger lurking at every corner, he was the favorite to take the trophy at the end of the week.
Saturday is moving day. Given its name, that is exactly what Scottie Scheffler did. A birdie on one and a short sided hole out for eagle on two is about as ideal a start as you can have for any Saturday. He continued to capitalize on the great start by finishing off the front at -5 and the back at -2 for a total of -7. While he was clear of the rest of the field, he was certainly not safe as another young Australian looked to raise the golden trophy at the end of the week. Min Woo Lee fired a smooth 66 (-6) to solidify himself a spot in the final pairing come Sunday.
And then Sunday came. All the preparation for the competitors had led up to this day. Scottie Scheffler was looking to add to his historic two year run, but would have to fend off a newcomer looking to win for the first time on the biggest stage. While it might not have been a runaway in the beginning, by the middle of the back nine Scottie had a 4 shot lead. Needing to hit the ball anywhere but the water on the final three holes, as you would expect, he plotted his ball around the last few which was made all the sweeter with a wild par on 18 to finish at -17 total, five shots clear of 2nd place and seven clear of 3rd place.
As the sun set in sunny Palm Valley, Florida, it was none other than Scottie Scheffler who lifted up the winner’s trophy. This is Scottie’s sixth win on the PGA Tour and comes at a time where players want their games to start to sharpen up prior to Major season after taking time off in the offseason. It’s safe to say after this victory that Scottie’s game needs little sharpening as he lengthens the gap between him and world number two. Congratulations to the 2023 Players Champion, Scottie Scheffler.
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