Sights, sounds, superlatives from a memorable Players Championship

Scottie Scheffler celebrates with the trophy after winning during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 12, 2023 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) (JARED C TILTON, 2023 Getty Images)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – With The Players Championship coming to a close on Sunday with a dominant performance by Scottie Scheffler, let’s take a look at some of the more memorable moments and superlatives of the event.

What in the hole?

Never before has The Players seen two aces on No. 17 in the same tournament. Well, how about a third? Alex Smalley aced the iconic island green on Sunday with one of the most impressive shots of the week.

Smalley’s tee shot one-hopped on the edge of the green and went straight into the cup, a thing of beauty. And take another look at that ace. Chef’s kiss!

On Saturday, Aaron Rai had a hole-in-one on No. 17. His ace followed Hayden Buckley’s hole-in-one on Thursday. Both of those shots hit the green roughly 15 feet from the hole and rolled back into the cup. For a shot of the tournament, we’ve got three to choose from, but Smalley’s gets it. Not often you one-hop it into the cup on one of the most iconic holes in golf.

There had been just 10 aces at the iconic 17th before before this week. Now, there’s been 13.

And another record

Nine golfers had carded rounds of 63 at The Players since it has been played at TPC Sawgrass. No one had gone lower than that — until Saturday. Tom Hoge had a 31 on the front and a 31 on the back (five birdies, no bogeys) on each nine for a record 10-under 62.

That’s low!

Tyrrell Hatton picked up the pace on Sunday, including a wicked back nine. Hatton had a 29 on the back nine, tying a course record. And he still finished five strokes back of Scheffler, which tells you how good of a round the winner had.

Lawrence a fan of The Players

Trevor Lawrence was a common sight at The Players. The Jaguars star quarterback attended the event several days and was a popular person at the Stadium Course. Lawrence was routinely spotted in the venue by the 17th hole. And when fans spotted Lawrence and asked for pictures or autographs, he would often oblige.

The weather decision

The horn sounded at 4:27 p.m. on Friday to signal a suspension due to weather. Traditionally, that means a watch-and-wait approach to let the weather clear up. Minutes after the round was suspended, The Players announced that play was suspended for the day. Having sat through many weather delays and radar watching, the decision to call the round then instead of forcing golfers to wait around and see if getting back on the course, even for a few minutes, was the right one.

The LIV cloud

For the last three years, the talk of outside things dominated The Players. In 2020, the pandemic was blanketing the world. The first round of the tournament went off but the remainder of the tournament was canceled. In 2021, the tournament had limited attendance. That year and 2022 also had significant questions about LIV Golf.

Rory McIlroy said this week that changes made by the PGA Tour to combat some of the issues brought up by LIV have helped quell some of the recurring head butting between the tours.

“Look, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and honestly, it’s been a busy sort of six or eight months. But as I said at the start of the week, everything has sort of been announced now and the wheels have been put in motion, so it should obviously quiet down from here.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.