Last night Cameron Smith became the fifth Australian to win the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass, Florida. In a roller-coaster closing round of six-under-par 66 he fired 10 birdies, including five in his first six holes and four more to begin the back nine. Despite visiting the water on the last and making his fourth bogey of the day, he prevailed by one shot from India’s Anirban Lahiri. England’s Paul Casey finished third. The tournament ended in decent conditions but the 2022 Players Championship is likely to be remembered more for the nature of its weather than the name of its winner.
Tommy Fleetwood and Tom Hoge had shared the first-round lead after a rain-affected opening day, both shooting 66s on Thursday. To be fair, ‘rain-affected’ doesn’t do the situation justice. Those two still shared the lead when that round was completed around 2 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. In fact, Hoge didn’t begin his second round until Sunday morning. Welcome to the Sunshine state!
On Saturday morning local time, Dave Shedloski of Golf Digest had posted on Twitter: “Still raining in Ponte Vedra Beach. Tornado Watch in effect. Winds gusting up to 35 mph expected this afternoon. Temperatures dropping into the 40s. Locusts before sunset.” One recalled how some American golfers sometimes complain about the weather at the Open Championship. Lee Westwood noted: ”It is possible that on Sunday morning some people will have 7 holes of their first round left. I’m not sure I’ve seen that before.” In fact that was taking pessimism to an unnecessary level but at the time he wrote the comment it was not an inconceivable scenario.
The notorious par-three 17th, it of the infamous island green, provided perhaps the most vivid illustration of the problems. Of the 123 golfers who played the hole on Thursday or Friday, only four hit their ball into the water. On Saturday’s resumption, the first four golfers up all drowned their tee shots. And those four were far from being rookies: Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka and Collin Morikawa. “It [was] perhaps one of if not the most lopsided disadvantaged restart I’ve ever seen,” said Brandel Chamblee during television commentary.
Before this week, the Players Championship had been concluded on a Monday seven times in its 48-year-history. All those occasions were when the tournament, as now, has been held in March, the last time being in 2005. The event was shifted to May in 2007 as part of a reshaping of the PGA Tour schedule, but it was shifted back to March in 2019 in order to allow the moving up of the USPGA Championship from August to May. One wonders if that decision might be causing at least some second-guessing at the PGA tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach this morning?
However, I am sure there will be no such reflections from Cam Smith. The final one of those 10 birdies, by the way, came on the 17th.
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