THE PLAYERS Championship — the PGA Tour’s unofficial fifth major — is complete.
Webb Simpson claimed victory, his biggest since winning the 2012 U.S. Open. But while he was the week’s only champion, he was not the week’s only winner. Justin Thomas didn’t win at Sawgrass, but he did officially claim a title that’s realistically been his for quite some time, now. Tiger Woods, meanwhile, reminded everyone that his comeback is still going strong.
View the latest golf scores and results of the 2017 THE PLAYERS Championship. THE PLAYERS Championship - 2017 Leaderboard - PGA TOUR To watch in a smaller size, scroll down while your video is. The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass (TPC at Sawgrass) is a golf course in the southeastern United States, located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, southeast of Jacksonville.Opened 41 years ago in the autumn of 1980, it was the first of several Tournament Players Clubs to be built. It is home to the PGA Tour headquarters and hosts The Players Championship, one of the PGA Tour's signature.
On the other side, big names like Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, and Rory McIlroy couldn’t even manage to play the weekend. Sergio Garcia did, but judging by how Saturday and Sunday went, we wonder if he wishes he didn’t.
The week at TPC Sawgrass had many winners and losers. These were the most notable among them.
Winner: Webb Simpson cruises to PLAYERS win
Simpson picked up his first PGA Tour win in nearly five years. In the process, he had one of the best performances in the history of THE PLAYERS Championship.
It’s one thing to win going away in a week with relatively high scoring. A golfer can have an exceptionally good week, catch some lucky breaks in terms of tee times, and end up running away from the field. But it’s much harder to do that in a week when the scoring is low. The best golfers in the world were putting up scores normally good enough to win this tournament, frequently going away. Yet, Simpson won in convincing fashion, tying the course record with a 63 on Friday in the process.
If this was the first tournament you ever watched, we wouldn’t blame if you for thinking that Simpson is the best golfer in history. He was simply that dominant this week.
Loser: Anticlimactic weekend at Sawgrass
Of course, Simpson’s dominant performance had one drawback to it. A tournament that normally at least has the potential for an exciting finish had essentially no drama over the finishing holes.
Sawgrass offers a lot in the way of short par-threes, reachable par-fives, and even some drivable par-fours. But because there’s a lot of water throughout the course, bad shots are punished. But with Simpson’s lead, he was able to take essentially all of the risk out of the course. Anything close to the hole was simply a bonus. Heck, even a double-bogey on the 72nd hole was nothing more than a minor speedbump.
It’s easy to be impressed with how well Simpson played. But candidly, we wouldn’t have minded if a few of those putts had lipped out to give us more of a suspenseful finish.
Winner: Justin Thomas becomes No. 1 in the world
For 64 weeks, Dustin Johnson held the No. 1 spot in the world. It’s the fifth-longest reign in the history of the ranking, trailing only Tiger Woods (twice), Greg Norman, and Nick Faldo. Thanks to Justin Thomas, that reign is now over.
Thomas made the cut on the number. He played well enough over the weekend to record a high finish, but not well enough to win.
A golfer like Thomas should always think about winning. Any time that doesn’t happen at a big event, it’s natural to be a little disappointed. But even without the win, Thomas’ finish was good enough to officially earn him a title that he’s unofficially held for more a year now — the best golfer in the world.
Loser: Phil Mickelson struggles through first round, misses cut
While low scores were common during the week, Lefty will tell you that Sawgrass still had plenty of bite. Mickelson was effectively out of the tournament after an opening round 79 which included four bogeys and three doubles. The second round was better, but five birdies weren’t enough to offset four bogeys and another double.
Mickelson not only missed the cut, but his 152 over the opening two rounds was tied for the eighth worst of the week score (not counting Sean O’Hair’s withdrawal).
Mickelson has unquestionably enjoyed a nice season in 2018. But his week at Sawgrass was a dud.
Winner: Brooks Koepka makes history on Sunday
Kopeka, who has dealt with injuries for much of the year, teed it up for only the third time in 2018. He didn’t win. But on Sunday, we saw a lot of the same form that won him the U.S. Open a season ago.
Koepka shot a 63 in the final round that included an exceptionally rare albatross on the par-five 16th (which you can see here). The 63 tied the course record and was the best final round in the history of THE PLAYERS.
Winning the 2017 U.S. Open seemed to be a potential breakout for Koepka. Unfortunately, a wrist injury in 2018 has really kept him from building off the big breakout from a season ago. But while he didn’t claim victory, the 2018 PLAYERS should serve as a reminder that Kopeka is as talented as anyone out there.
Loser: Rickie Fowler misses cut at site of greatest win
Fowler was grouped with Mickelson and Woods for the first two days. Much like Mickelson, Fowler just never found his game.
The 2015 champion didn’t quite have the disastrous showing that Lefty did, but he struggled through two bogeys, a double, and only two birdies in the opening round. Six birdies in the second round were not good enough for Fowler, who also made a bogey and consecutive doubles while missing the cut.
Three years ago, Fowler put together one of the most impressive stretches of golf we’ve ever seen at THE PLAYERS to win. But in a week where low scores were there to be had, Fowler too often struggled to get out of his own way.
Winner: Xander Schauffele back on track
Schauffele’s 2018 hadn’t gone especially well. But at Sawgrass, he looked very much like the man who was the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year Award winner in 2017.
Schauffele fired three rounds in the 60s and another 71. Were in not for a stellar performance from Simpson, Schauffele would have finished in a playoff at THE PLAYERS. While so many of the week’s top players were struggling on Sunday, made only one bogey on his way to a 67.
This will definitely be a player to keep an eye on as the PGA Tour gets into its summer season.
Loser: Rory McIlroy
As low as the scoring at Sawgrass was, some of the best golfers in the world really failed to take advantage. That group includes McIlroy. The man who entered the week ranked No. 8 in the world couldn’t make it to the weekend at THE PLAYERS.
Things started relatively well for McIlroy when he fired a one-under 71 in the opening round. By comparison, that was one better than Tiger and four better than Spieth. But McIlroy backed that up with a second round 74, which included four bogeys and a double on the famed 17th.
McIlroy was going to have a hard time winning with an opening round 71. But it was certainly good enough to have him in the mix over the weekend. Obviously, it was not meant to be.
Winner: Did Harold Varner III have a breakout week?
Varner entered the week ranked No. 199 in the world. He had six missed cuts on the year and finished no better than tied for 38th anywhere in 2018. That changed at Sawgrass.
Varner was rock solid all week, firing two rounds in the 60s and all four under par. He finished at 12-under and tied for seventh. Varner has been something of a journeyman through his career. But it’s important to remember that he’s only 27. While guys like Jordan Spieth, McIlroy, and Justin Thomas have broken out in their early 20s, most golfers don’t hit their primes until their late 20s or early 30s.
We’re a long way from saying that this will be a breakout performance. But this certainly gives him a lot of confidence.
Loser: Sergio Garcia loses his form over weekend
Garcia did make the cut at Sawgrass. But it’s fair to say that his week at THE PLAYERS Championship was disappointing. Despite making double and a bogey at the 17th in the opening two rounds, Garcia fired two rounds in the 60s and entered the week at seven-under. Given how strong Simpson was playing, that was probably not good enough to win. But there was every reason to believe that Sergio would compete through the weekend.
Garcia made only three total birdies over his final two rounds, shooting a 75 and 76 in the process. Excluding the golfers who missed the 36 and 54-hole cuts, Garcia finished ahead of only one player.
Sometimes, playing four rounds is a win, especially when it’s a tournament that requires a 54-hole cut. But given how well his week started, we weren’t expecting Sergio playing four rounds to be the only positive that we can really draw from the week.
Winner: Jamie Lovemark turns disastrous start into positive week
In a way, Lovemark was the polar opposite of Sergio this week. He made three bogeys and two doubles in his opening round to shoot a 76. For all intents and purposes, it looked like Lovemark was going to have a short stay at THE PLAYERS.
Then, he shot a second round 67 to make the cut on the number. He followed that up with a 68 on Saturday and another 67 on Sunday, spending much of the final round on the first page of the leaderboard.
By the time things were settled at Sawgrass, Lovemark didn’t come that close to winning. That said, he deserves a ton of credit for hanging around in a tournament that, 18 holes in, looked to be a lost cause.
Loser: Jon Rahm wants his third round back
Rahm was eight-under over his first, second, and fourth rounds at Sawgrass. His third round 77, though, kept him from contention.
Rahm made six bogeys and one double. As strange as this sounds, if Rahm is going to shoot a round like that, we actually expect more over par scores. At least then, Rahm would be making more than just one birdie. Rahm can still be something of a raw golfer. So, we expect some big numbers. But he’s also one of the most talented players in the world. So, we expect more birdies as well.
Regardless of how the 77 happened, or how it should have happened, it provided a rather significant downer on an otherwise solid week.
Winner: Tiger Woods starts slow, finishes on fire
After such a nice start to the year, Woods had gotten a little cold. In his last two tournaments, he finished tied for 32nd at the Masters and tied for 55th at the Wells Fargo Championship. Tiger made the cut on the number at Sawgrass and appeared en route to another pedestrian week.
That changed on Saturday. Casino bonus free. Tiger fired a 65 in the third round, tying him with Jordan Spieth for the lowest score of the day. He then backed that up with a 69 on Sunday (despite a shaky finish).
Tiger has work to do to get back into the winner’s circle. He certainly has work to do to get to the level that he was at for so long. But if you thought that his comeback efforts had stalled after a bit of a cold patch, the week at Sawgrass did a lot to put those thoughts on hold.
It really doesn’t matter whether or not you think of this week’s Players Championship as golf’s “fifth major”, it’s switch back to March from May last year repositioned the annual trip to Florida’s Ponte Vedra Beach as the first serious gathering of the game’s best players on the schedule and there’s a lot to like about that.
That the flagship event on the PGA Tour returns to TPC Sawgrass’s Stadium Course designed by the recently departed Pete Dye every year is about the only predictable thing about this tournament with a record $15 million purse that dwarfs the actual Majors.
Dye’s brilliant design, with no two consecutive holes playing in the same direction, has been described as the ultimate risk-reward course, capable of delivering low scores and some horrible numbers in equal measure.
The rollercoaster ride of the three closing holes helps to ensure that no player has ever gone bogey-free in all four rounds since The Players was added to the schedule in 1974 (moving to TPC Sawgrass in 1982).
With an unlikely list of champions to have negotiated this outstanding but fair test of golf over its 7,189 yards, picking a winner is no easy task. Paddy’s paying 10 places so we at least have a fighting chance. Here are 4 pointers to picking the winner.Paddy’s paying 10- places at Sawgrass and the latest odds are over at PP.com
1. FEELING RIGHT AT HOME
Jim Furyk’s runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy last year should have come as no surprise given he lives just around the corner in Ponte Vedra Beach, but TPC Sawgrass can stir as many bad memories as good ones and just a couple of nightmares.
For every nine-under-par, course-record 63 that lies out there on the Stadium Course there also lurks an 80, often for the same player. Jason Day laid the foundations for his 2016 victory with opening rounds of 63 and 66 having missed the cut 12 months earlier with a second-round 81.
That the sadly absent Tiger Woods would have been the only multiple Players champion in the field this week (2001, 2013) and no player has ever successfully defended their title at TPC Sawgrass, tells you that this is a tournament that does not lend itself to familiarity when it comes to picking a champion.
Nor does that fact that of the last five champions (2015-19), only 2017 winner Si Woo Kim had not missed a cut at The Players prior to his victory, the Korean having won at just his second attempt. That said, there may be interest in the following table of Sawgrass form horses.
Best Players’ records last five years
Rory McIlroy (2019 first): 1, MC, T35, T12, T8
Jason Day: T8, T5, T60, 1, MC
Adam Scott: T12, T11, T6, T12, T38
Hideki Matsuyama: T8, MC, T22, T7, T17
Tommy Fleetwood: T5, T7, T41 (only 3 apps)
Other champions in last five years
Webb Simpson (2018): T16, 1, DNP, T66, MC
Si Woo Kim (2017): T56, T63, 1st, T23
Rickie Fowler (2015): T47, MC, T60, MC, 1
2. FEELGOOD FACTOR
Great form and good vibes are obvious benefits going into any tournament but never more so than arriving at a familiar course that requires an all-around game firing on all cylinders.
While only two of the last 10 winners of The Players Championship pitched up at TPC Sawgrass with a victory in their previous five starts that season (Jason Day in 2016 and Tiger Woods in 2013 had both won twice), eight of the last 10 champions had recorded multiple top-10 finishes in the preceding weeks.
The outliers in this scenario are Si Woo Kim in 2017 and Tim Clark in 2010, who both could boast only a best performance of a T22 in their most recent five starts before The Players. Last year’s winner Rory McIlroy arrived at the Stadium Course with five successive top-six finishes under his belt.
Of the market leaders heading to Sawgrass, the clear form horse is world number one Rory McIlroy, who since missing the cut at last July’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush has only finished outside the top-10 in two of his 13 starts, a T19 at the BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup play-offs in the USA last August and T26 in the Alfred Dunhill Links a month later.Paddy’s paying 10- places at Sawgrass and the latest odds are over at PP.com
3. THE COURSE
With its tight fairways, numerous water and sand hazards, and visually intimidation from the tee boxes placing a premium on driving accuracy, its small greens rewarding skill around the greens and a demand for nerveless putting, Pete Dye’s Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is like Augusta National in the challenge it places on every facet of our contenders’ golf games.
The list of former winners and the variety of playing strengths it showcases strengthens that perspective with relatively short hitters like Webb Simpson and Tim Clark rubbing shoulders alongside bombers such as defending champion Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in the last decade.
Picking out key PGA Tour statistics for the season so far: Greens In Regulation, Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, SG: Approach The Green, Scrambling and SG: Putting, these are the men in The Players field who featured in the top 10 in most of those categories through to the Honda Classic.
4 – Xander Schauffele: GIR – 6th, SG: Off Tee – 9th, SG: App Green – 8th, Scrambling – 4th.
3 – Rory McIlroy: SG: Off Tee – 7th, SG: App Green – 3rd, Scrambling – 1st
3 – Webb Simpson: GIR – 10th, SG: App Green – 7th, Scrambling – 10th
2 – Patrick Cantlay: GIR – 3rd, SG: App Green – 2nd
2 – Tommy Fleetwood: GIR – 8th, SG: Off Tee – 5th
2 – Hideki Matsuyama: GIR – 7th, SG: App Green – 6th
2 – Jon Rahm: SG: Off Tee – 8th, SG: Putting – 5th
2 – Kevin Na: Scrambling – 7th, SG: Putting – 6th
4. THIS YEAR’S CONTENDERS
Rory McIlroy – 13/2 fav
The defending champion has been a model of brilliant, all-around consistency since his 2019 victory at TPC Sawgrass and without the baggage that follows him into majors is in the form to make his return to The Players the first successful title defence in tournament history.
Jon Rahm – 12/1
Has the game to tame the Stadium Course but his weekend return of 64-76 last March will be a tough lesson to overcome this time around.
Tpc Sawgrass Golf Course
Justin Thomas – 14/1
A couple of missed cuts disrupt some lovely form coming into Sawgrass, including victory at the season-opening Sentry Tournament of Champions but JT will need to rediscover his touch at the Stadium Course, his best finish being a T3 in 2016.
Webb Simpson 20/1
The 2018 champion is ticking all the right boxes two years on. Finished T16 last year in defence of his title and is back in the world’s top-10 rankings thanks to victory in Phoenix earlier this year.Paddy’s paying 10- places at Sawgrass and the latest odds are over at PP.com
Adam Scott 22/1
Won The Players in 2004 aged 24 and has not finished worse than T12 since 2015. Goes into this week’s event in great nick with a victory at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera last month.
Hideki Matsuyama 22/1
Another with solid recent form backed by strong showings around TPC Sawgrass. Matsuyama finished T8 behind McIlroy last year and has two top-six finishes in recent weeks.
Tommy Fleetwood 22/1
Tpc Sawgrass 2017 Winners
Ignore the Azinger jibes after he missed out at the Honda Classic, Fleetwood is in fine fettle and has been building nicely since his 2017 Players’ debut, returning T41, T7 and most recently a T5 finish. Could be in line for another pay increase in 2020.
*Prices correct at time of publishing but can change