What. A. Week. The Player’s Championship is the PGA Tour’s flagship event. Aside from majors, it’s the most sought after title and well known event on Tour. Every year, the best of the best gather to battle it out at TPC Sawgrass. This year was maybe even more memorable than most. We had it all: a prolific superstar, an old legend, the world #1, young studs gunning for a marquee win, and worldwide representation on the leaderboard. There was no shortage of drama, with the tight knit leaderboard voyaging through arguably the best finishing stretch in golf with the biggest purse of all time on the line. If you tuned in this week, especially on Sunday, you can see why this event is so prestigious. The course is fair and challenging, with danger everywhere, the crowds are some of the best on tour, and the closeness of 16 green, 17 tee, and 18 tee make sure everyone is aware of what is going on by the swing.
In the end, arguably the best player in the game right now took home one of the most coveted trophies. After putting himself in contention again and again, Rory Mcilroy finally got over the hump. He had to earn this one, though. After starting slow and failing to garner momentum, he found himself a stroke back of Captain Jim Furyk, who put on an epic display of golf to finish at -15. Sitting at -14 after a poor bogey on 14 and in the fairway bunker on 15, Rory made what he said was “the best swing of the day”. A pure strike that ended 15 feet from the cup seemed to turn the tide. After rolling that in punctuated with a big fist pump, the Rory strut was on. He pumped the longest drive of the day on 16 to set up an easy birdie, and stared down the water on 17 and 18, hitting beautiful shots to make easy pars at both holes, and captures the Players Championship with a score of -16. It was a huge win for Rory, and one that tested every element you could think of. Even the weather changed throughout the week, giving the field a different look over the weekend than what they had seen Thursday and Friday. Given what we’ve seen so far this year from Rors, him finally finishing off a tournament almost assures he will be the favorite or in the top 2 at all 4 majors this year. Rory is looking like he could have a year that puts him squarely back in the legendary figures of the game talk. Aside from McIlroy’s victory, there were a few other takeaways from a great week in Pontre Verde:
1) Captain Jim turns back the clock: Jim Furyk was a great story throughout the first 3 days. The wily vet still has some good golf to play, and his contention showed the fairness of Sawgrass, as any style of play can get it done around here. But that’s where the Furyk convo stopped. Until it couldn’t be ignored. Furyk put on a Sunday display, eagling #2 and chipping in on 5 to get some momentum in the right direction. With the leaders faltering, Furyk’s birdies at 10&11 put him tied for the lead, and after a bogey at 15 and bounce back at 16, his dart on 18 even gave him the solo lead for a little bit. Even though Rory spoiled a storybook ending for Furyk fans, it was still awesome to see a grinder like Furyk show what was possible in this game. It only takes one week of stellar play to make a year, no matter who you are.
2) Beware of the world #1: Prior to the start of the tournament, DJ said this is the best he feels standing over the ball since before that brutal slip down the stairs pre 2017 Masters. The year he won 4 times before April! With a win already this year, it would be smart not to doubt him. While the move to March certainly helped Dustin’s prospects, he backed up his talk by posting a t-5 at a place he had never bettered 12th. And he left some shots out there. DJ missed an astounding 18 putts from inside 11 feet this week, which seemingly only him and Rory could do and still finish well. For comparison, Rory missed 12 such putts and Furyk missed 6! While he sure has to be lamenting a missed opportunity for a W, I wouldn’t doubt DJ will be in contention numerous more times in the near future.
3) Rahmblow–up: Unfortunately for Rahm fans, this week was the ultimate batch of what he can provide. After a tantalizing 64 on Saturday, Rahm looked out of sorts from the start on Sunday, making poor decisions and missing putts throughout the front 9. After going against his caddies thinking and trying a hero shot that ended up in basically the middle of the water, his hopes basically faded. He ended up shooting a 76, 12 shots worse than the day before. It’s no secret Rahm plays the game with a fire and will unlike many others, but it’s also pretty clear that can get in his way sometimes. Finding the perfect balance will do wonders for him down the line.
4) Fleetwood stalls again: Another week on tour, and another weekday barrage from Fleetwood where he looked ready to capture his first tour victory. Then the weekend happened. After totaling a 2 day score of -12, Tommy could only manage a -1 total over the weekend and settled for t-5. There’s nothing not to like about Tommy’s game, but I think it’s another case of seeing how hard it is to win out here on Tour. It takes 4 days of dialed in performances, or else someone will come in and steal the prize. Much like others before him, there is no doubt Tommy will get his initial tour win, and once he does, don’t be surprised if he racks up a few more quickly after.
5) Pepp and Vegas steal the show: 17 at Sawgrass provides fireworks everyday. But there’s something about Sunday’s hole location that makes everything even more dramatic. Perched on the far right side of the green, there is no bailout for a realistic birdie chance. Players have to either stuff it close, or go for a swim. Well, neither hit it close. But in about a 30 minute window, 2 incredible putts took place on 17 green. First, Eddie Pepperall drained a 50 footer to get to 14 under and give himself a legit shot at posting the clubhouse lead, which he would do with a par at 18. Then, Johnny Vegas stepped up and made an all-time long 70 foot birdie putt that sent the crowd into a. frenzy. At -14 as well, Vegas unfortunately missed a 6.5 footer on 18 to get 1 better, and had to settle for the clubhouse lead with Pepperall. While their scores wouldn’t hold up, it was an amazing scene in one of the most famous holes in golf.
Alas, we must move on from this week and head to the Valspar, where the players will be met with another great 3 hole stretch in the “Snake Pit”. A solid field plans to tee it up this week, highlighted by Dustin, Sergio, Day, Casey, Bubba, Kisner, Furyk, and many others. It should be a great week in Tampa, so be sure to tune in, and I’ll cya next Monday. Best of luck with your brackets as well!