The luck of the draw takes on a new meaning at the Players Championship

PONTE VEDRE BEACH, Fla. – Golf reflects life in that it often just isn’t fair.

We present this week’s Player Championship as evidence a.

Depending on which side the draw player was on, their start times very much determined their fate this week – good and bad.

Tommy Fleetwood and Tom Hoge, for example, were essentially fellows at TPC Sawgrass this week. Make no mistake, both deserve credit for the 6-under 66 they each scored during Thursday’s opening round to take part of the tournament lead after 18 holes.

Ditto for Joaquin Niemann, Keith Mitchell and Anirban Lahiri, who each shot 5-unders in their opening rounds.

But almost all of those players never had to hit a ball in the second round on Saturday, when weather conditions were the worst for the week.

Where their respective start times stood offered a massive advantage. Fleetwood and Hoge, for example, had start times so early on Thursday that they were among the few to finish their opening laps on time and were unaffected by weather delays.

Because the second round tee times were so late, Hoge didn’t need to play on either Friday or Saturday and Fleetwood played just three holes at the end of Saturday to start his second round, which he will complete on Sunday morning.

And none of Niemann, Mitchell and Lahiri started their second round on Saturday.

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This Players Championship was one of both survival and luck.

“That’s how golf works – it’s a weird thing in our sport, so silly that it’s even a factor, but that’s the way it is,” Keegan Bradley said Saturday.

“You get your good and you get your bad,” Rory McIlroy said of the draw. “You have to think they all even out over the course of a year or a career, I think.”

Saturday began with dangerous storms preventing play through midday and also accompanied by falling temperatures and sustained 25-30mph winds with higher gusts.

Wind is a golfer’s worst enemy and wreaked havoc on the field on Saturday as balls flew into water hazards at 20-handicapper rates.

Again, the luck of the draw – or in this case, the misfortune of the draw – came into play heavily for many players.

Some top players — like defending champions Justin Thomas, McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, and Scottie Scheffler — had to wrap up their respective opening rounds by playing the back nine at TPC Sawgrass, which is the toughest of the game two Pages.

TPC sawgrass
Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas stand on the 17th green during the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Patrick Smith

Then, when these players began their second rounds immediately after completing their first rounds, they started on the back nine, forcing them to make back-to-back drives through the most treacherous part of the golf course in the worst weather conditions.

The famous par 3 17th hole with its imposing island green was like a roller coaster ride in an amusement park, with the strong winds playing with the psyche of the players. Hitting the green with tee shots felt like a crapshoot. A total of 29 tees were flushed to 17 on Saturday.

Koepka lost two balls and five shots on par on 17, completely derailing his chances to make the cut en route to an 81 shot in his second round.

Scheffler, the last man to win last week’s US Open-style Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, was 5-under at The Players Championship as he headed into the tricky back-nine finishes his first round.

He bogeyed 17 and doubled 18 to end his first round, went 6-over at #15-18 in his second round and staggered off the court with 2-over and on the wrong side of the cutline.

Kevin Kisner called the conditions “brutal” and added: “In my opinion it’s sheer luck and some loss of tournament integrity [with] Balls are rolling on the greens and only 72 of us are playing on them.”

When Kisner was told that temperatures were dropping and wind was forecast for tomorrow morning – elements that players who have yet to play their second rounds will have to contend with – he smiled and said, “I hope it blows like that in the morning and they freeze their butts off for sitting at home all day watching us slaughter.”

While so many in the field were being stripped of the elements on Saturday, Hoge, Fleetwood, Niemann, Mitchell and Lahiri were able to watch the carnage on TV from the comfort of their hotel rooms.

“Whenever we play, until and whatever it takes… They just keep going,” Fleetwood said Thursday after his first round when asked about the upcoming weather issues in the forecast. “When it’s your turn to play, play. Just make sure you’re ready throughout the week. All are in the same circumstances.”

Not correct. The luck of the draw takes on a new meaning at the Players Championship


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