- Senior college football writer
- Author of seven books on college football
- Graduate of the University of Georgia
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — While Scottie Scheffler was running away with a 5-stroke victory at the Players to pick up his sixth PGA Tour victory in 13 months Sunday, there was still plenty of drama on the leaderboard.
With just two weeks left to crack the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking to earn an invitation to the Masters, the first major of the season, a handful of players had a chance to get comfortably above the line.
PGA Tour rookie Taylor Montgomery was 7 under to start the final round. He was 1 over through his first five holes, but then posted birdies on Nos. 7, 9, 11 and 14. He was tied for sixth and looking at a potentially nice payday as well. Fifth place paid $1.025 million; 10th place was for $681,250.
Then things fell apart for the former UNLV star. After making a bogey on the par-4 15th, Montgomery made a double-bogey 7 on the 16th. Then, on the iconic par-3 17th, he hit two balls into the water and ended up with a quadruple-bogey 7.
Montgomery finished in a tie for 44th. He is ranked 56th in the world rankings and has some work to do over the next couple of weeks.
Australia’s Min Woo Lee, who started the final round 2 strokes behind Scheffler, made a triple-bogey 7 on the fourth hole and double-bogey 7 on the 11th. He carded a 4-over 76 and finished in a tie for sixth at 8 under. Lee, who competes on the DP World Tour, had to finish fourth or better to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.
Lee, the younger brother of LPGA star Minjee Lee, moved up to No. 45 in the world and earned a spot in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in two weeks. He’s also in good shape for an invitation to the Masters.
“Yeah, I’m excited,” Lee said. “Hopefully, I can play well in the next few PGA Tour tournaments I play in and can play out here.”
It didn’t take long for the 17th hole at the Stadium Course to surrender an ace. Hayden Buckley, playing in one of the second groups out Thursday morning, recorded the 11th ace on the iconic hole.
England’s Aaron Rai made another one in the third round Saturday. It was the first time since the Players has been held at TPC Sawgrass that there were two holes-in-one on the 17th in the same tournament. Then former Duke player Alex Smalley added a third one, even with a more difficult pin position on the middle right of the green.
Smalley sandwiched his ace between a double bogey on the 16th and a bogey on the 18th. It was the first hole-in-one in his PGA Tour career. His parents and sister were near the hole when he made it.
“I saw them walking down the cart path on 17,” Smalley said. “They seemed pretty excited. Pretty cool. It was very neat.”
There were 13 more balls hit in the water Sunday, bringing the 72-hole total to 58, which was one more than last year.
PGA Tour Power Rankings
1. Scottie Scheffler
He won for the sixth time in 13 months at the Players, which came with a $4.5 million paycheck. Scheffler and Tiger Woods are the only players to win the Masters and the Players before turning 27. Scheffler will be the defending champion again when he tees it up at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, on March 22-25.
2. Jon Rahm
Rahm had to withdraw from the Players before the second round because of a stomach illness. It ended his string of 25 consecutive cuts made, the longest active streak on the PGA Tour.
3. Rory McIlroy
McIlroy’s game isn’t in great shape less than a month from the Masters. He isn’t happy with his new TaylorMade driver; he tied for 117th in driving accuracy this week, hitting just 13 of 28 fairways. He also lost nearly 2½ strokes to the field in putting.
4. Max Homa
Homa wasn’t in contention at TPC Sawgrass after shooting even par in each of the first two rounds. But he was 8 under over the final 36 holes to tie for sixth. It was his fifth top-10 in nine tour starts this season.
5. Tony Finau
Finau posted another top-25, his eighth in nine starts this season, by going 7 under over the final two rounds at the Players. He tied for 19th at 1 under.
6. Collin Morikawa
It seemed that Morikawa had figured out the Stadium Course when he recorded a 7-under 65 in the first round. He wasn’t nearly as good over the final 54 holes and tied for 13th at 7 under.
7. Viktor Hovland
Hovland hasn’t won on tour since the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in November 2021. But with three straight top 20s against strong fields, including a tie for third at the Players, his game seems to be coming around.
8. Patrick Cantlay
Cantlay might not be playing like the No. 4 player in the world, but he hasn’t been bad lately. His past three finishes were solo third at the Genesis, a tie for fourth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie for 19th at the Players, where he generally hasn’t played very well.
9. Xander Schauffele
Another player who hadn’t done a lot of damage at TPC Sawgrass, Schauffele put together two good rounds on the weekend to finish in a tie for 19th at 6 under. It was a good effort after a couple of so-so starts.
10. Tom Kim
Kim tied for 51st at the Players, which wasn’t much of a surprise in his first start in the event. But he won the Shriners Children’s Open in October and has three top-10s and five top-25s in 10 starts.
Hatton’s big day
It’s not very often that you’ll see a smile on Tyrrell Hatton’s face or hear him compliment a golf course. But the Englishman had plenty of reasons to be happy after finishing solo second behind Scheffler. He earned $2.725 million for his effort.
It was Hatton’s third career runner-up finish on tour. He tied the Players record (since it moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982) with a back-nine score of 29 on Sunday. He had seven birdies and no bogeys in the last nine holes.
“I mean, considering where I was at the start of the back nine, I was probably tied 34th or something like that,” Hatton said. “If you had said that you would finish second in the tournament or tied [for] second and you don’t have to play the back nine, I think you would take that.”
It was Hatton’s first top-10 in six starts in the Players. He had missed the cut three times.
“Yeah, it’s funny, sounds horrible to say something positive, I guess, but it’s one of my favorite golf courses,” Hatton said. “Although I haven’t generally, apart from this week and last year, I guess, I haven’t really done that well here in the past. There’s a couple of tee shots that I probably struggle with more than other lads that have a more natural right-to-left or drawers of the ball.
“But I think it’s such a pretty golf course, visually on the eye, I mean aside from 8. We don’t need 235 yard par-3s; that kind of ruins it a bit. I got to say something negative, obviously. But, yeah, I do like the golf course.”
One for the ages
Jerry Kelly, 56, qualified for the Players field by winning the Senior Players Championship on PGA Tour Champions last season. A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, Kelly made the cut on the number at 2 over after 36 holes.
Kelly became the oldest player to make the cut at the Players at 56 years, 3 months and 16 days. Arnold Palmer set the previous mark of 55 years, 6 months and 19 days in 1985.
Kelly carded a 3-under 69 in the third round and was even-par 72 in the last. He tied for 54th at 1 under after 72 holes. He collected $58,000, which was more than Justin Thomas and McIlroy combined to make.
Best of the weekend
Tom Hoge set the Stadium Course record with a 10-under 62 on Saturday. Nine players, including Greg Norman, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, held the previous record of 9-under 63.
England’s Aaron Rai became the first competitor at the Players to finish a round with a birdie on 16, ace on 17 and birdie on 18 on Saturday.
Homa took pin hunting to an entirely new level on No. 12 on Sunday.
Justin Thomas didn’t have a great week, but this was a good moment.
There wasn’t much Scheffler couldn’t do at TPC Sawgrass.
Min Woo Lee made nearly 300 feet of putts combined in the first three rounds.
Aaron Wise lived out a Tin Cup nightmare during the first round. He hit three tee shots in the water and carded a 10 on the par-4 18th hole.
Max McGreevy carded a 3-under 69 in the first round — and then was 20 strokes worse in the second. His 17-over 89 tied for the worst round in Players history; Michael Campbell was also 17 over in the first round in 2003. McGreevy birdied the ninth hole, his last, to avoid 90.
Best of social media
A hero in more than one way: Active Marine Matt Cutler saved Jordan Spieth’s weekend when a tee shot bounced off his knee on the fly on the ninth hole Friday, which prevented his ball from going in the water. Spieth ended up chipping in for an eagle and comfortably made the cut.
Give him an A for effort.
It was a home game for Trevor Lawrence.
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