A return to normal and yet a record-setting Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 11: A general view of the 17th green is seen during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 11, 2023 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) (JARED C TILTON, 2023 Getty Images)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For the first time in four years, The Players was contested over four days with full galleries and one of the top players in the world taking the title. It felt like a return to normalcy, but in some ways, it was an extraordinary tournament.

Let’s start with what seemed familiar. Last year, the tournament was plagued by rain and forced to finish on a Monday. The year prior, the tournament was played in front of limited galleries in reaction to the pandemic, which canceled the tournament after one round in 2020.

You have to go back to 2019 to find the last “normal” Players Championship. A four-day tournament played in front of crowds with no restrictions. And it happened to be won by Rory McIlroy, who finished that season as the number two-ranked player in the world.

Scheffler entered this week ranked No. 2, but will depart Ponte Vedra Beach as the top-ranked golfer in the world. His win at The Players fits in with the impressive list of previous winners of the event, which has been dominated by major champions and top-ranked players in its 49-year history.

But not everything was “business as usual” at The Players this year. For example:

  • Tom Hoge became the first man to shoot 62 at the Stadium Course during The Players. He set the course record on Saturday during the third round.
  • Hoge wasn’t the only man to go low in the third round. As a composite, the third round was the lowest-scoring round in the history of The Players, an average of 69.573, nearly two and a half strokes under par.
  • Tyrrell Hatton shot 29 on the back-nine on Sunday during his final round 65. That’s nine-hole record at The Players.
  • There were three aces on 17 during the tournament (Hayden Buckley, Aaron Rai and Alex Smalley). There had never been more than one hole-in-one on the famed island green in any Players Championship in history. Smalley was the first to do it in the final round of The Players since Fred Couples in 1997.
  • Jerry Kelly became the oldest golfer to make the cut at the age of 56.

These were numbers worthy of historical note.

And it all happened in the first Players Championship played after the launch of LIV Golf, which took some big-name players out of the field. Despite that, The Players delivered as it always seems to. Sometimes the course is the star, and sometimes the champion is the star. This year, Scheffler certainly gets top billing, but the rest of the field deserves honorable mention all things considered.