Monday Rap: 18 Parting Thoughts From Scottie Scheffler's Dominant Win At The Players Championship

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The first four designated events of the PGA Tour each produced highly compelling finishes in which the outcome remained in doubt until late Sunday afternoon. Scottie Scheffler, however, saw no need to make it a fifth straight nail-biter. The big man from Texas overcame a meh start to his final round with five straight birdies to take the Players Championship by the throat. He never let go, winning his second event of the year and his sixth in the last 13 months to return to world No. 1. Here are 18 parting thoughts from a rather quirky Players Championship. 

1. Scheffler and Jon Rahm have now combined to win four of the first five designated events of 2023, and in the process they have put some distance between themselves and everyone else in world golf. Those two and Rory McIlroy have each held the world No. 1 ranking this year, but it does feel McIlroy is a half-step behind the top-level consistency of Scheffler and Rahm. Both the Texan and the Spaniard are big boys who hit the ball a mile—distinctly modern characteristics. But they’re both refreshingly old-school in the way they approach the game. They cut their teeth playing against older players and doing the majority of their practice on-course rather than on the driving range. Chipping contests, money matches with friends, trying crazy shots for crazy shots’ sake. Both have, in turn, developed highly creatives short games and excel at manufacturing good scores when they aren’t hitting it particularly will.

You also won’t find neither Scheffler nor Rahm’s swing in any instruction books. They are unconventional motions, to say the least.

“You can’t teach that,” Rahm once said of Scheffler’s unique move. “If you try, you’d probably end up hurting people.”

Yes, Scheffler looks like he’s going to tear ankle ligaments every time he hits driver, his foot sliding away from the ball and then jerking back toward it. Rahm was born with a clubfoot on his right leg—that limited his mobility and is the basis for his short backswing, which hardly ever stretches past his ribs. Neither swing will satisfy all those P1, P3, P5 checkpoints, and both players had to resist coaches trying to change their swings to something more conventional. But both held firm, trusting the ball flight and their feel as their ultimate guides rather than any lines on a swing video or any numbers on a launch monitor. 

“I haven't actively tried to change my swing in over 10 years,” Rahm said in 2021. “I have the swing I have … I think that is one of the keys to why I'm consistent. I don't change it. I play with what I have and try to improve from what I have.”

Scheffler’s similarly uninterested in aesthetics. Both players have had the same coaches since they turned pro—Scheffler with Randy Smith, Rahm with Doug Phillips, though you’ll hardly ever see Phillips on a PGA Tour range—and both those coaches have instilled a deep belief in their players that what they do is more than good enough, no matter how it looks. There’s a lesson there: optics are overrated, both for the amateur and the professional. Need proof? Looks at the two best players on the planet. Whatever works. 

2. After finishing his round on Saturday, Scheffler revealed that he woke up at 4 a.m. to prepare for a 7 a.m. restart. So I asked if he drinks coffee on those early mornings as a pick-me-up. 

“I make myself coffee every morning at home, but I don't do it when I play.”

Wait, what? You drink coffee every morning when you’re not at a tournament, and then not at all when you are?

“Yeah, just no need. It's kind of my like routine at home. I started doing it after the Open last year. I just got an espresso machine and started learning how to use it, and it's fun. So I just do that in the morning and sit there and read and start my day.”

That doesn’t give you a headache?

“Nope…maybe I’m making my espresso wrong or something like that?”

I couldn’t wrap my head around this—drinking coffee every morning and then going cold turkey on tournament weeks? I’m hardly a human when I don’t drink coffee, and the notion of feeling like that while trying to win a golf tournament baffles me. 

But it seems he’s not alone. I had a number of people reach out to say that they, too, follow that same pattern: they drink coffee in normal life, but not during golf. I guess it makes sense—professionals often seem to be moving in slow motion. They think things through, wanting to make sure they consider all variables before a decision. They’ve got syrupy tempo with every club other than driver and they have great touch on the greens. Coffee, in theory, would make it harder to maintain that deliberate rhythm. Still, though, I’d be struggling with a headache. A buddy of mine who played in college summed the decision up nicely: “I’d rather make four-foot putts with a headache than three-jack all day.” Hmmm. Guess I’ll have to try the non-caffeinated strategy soon. 


3. Pace of play has reemerged as a topic of conversation. It wasn’t too long ago, back before the pre-LIV universe, when slow play was Public Enemy No. 1 on the PGA Tour. As a response, the PGA Tour enacted a new pace-of-play policy that would, in theory, speed things up. It hasn’t worked, at all, but we’ve been too distracted by all the LIV talk to notice. 

Until now. There was precisely zero chance the Players finished its second round on Friday even if it had never rained. Saturday-morning cuts have become the norm on the PGA Tour—there hasn’t been a cut made on a Friday since January. Granted, some of that has been due to weather, but Genesis week had no weather delays and only a 120-man field and still couldn’t finish its second round on Friday. 

The culprits are multiple. Purses are higher than ever, which means each shot is worth more than ever, so you won’t find guys mailing it in when they’re well back of the lead. Players are also instructed by sports psychologist to check-out when it’s not their turn to hit. The thinking there: no person can stay locked in for five hours, so you disengage and then reengage when it’s your turn. That surely helps performance but it kills pace of play—especially when so many pre-shot processes involve time-consuming methods like AimPoint. All that, combined with the tour’s unwillingness to issue slow play penalties, means that five-plus hour rounds for a threesome have become standard. The final twosome on Sunday needed 4 hours and 45 minutes to finish. A twosome! The PGA Tour seems to find no issue with this. 

“We're a membership organization,” said Gary Young, the tour’s chief referee. “We try to maximize the starts for our members. That's always been a priority, and we just understand that we will, unfortunately, have to finish sometimes on Saturday morning. That's just the way it is. The numbers are the numbers. It's a mathematical equation. You can figure it out. There's just, you know, at times there is too many groups. So we're comfortable with that, and until that changes, we will continue doing that.”

I’m not buying it. If a mathematical equation doesn’t give you the intended answer—finishing the second round on Friday—wouldn’t you just change the variables of that equation? Less groups? Or enforce a faster pace than 5 hours for a threesome? The glacial pace isn’t just bad for the TV product; it sets a poor example of junior and amateur golfers, and it puts the players who have to come back at the crack of dawn to finish at a competitive disadvantage. The good news is this shouldn’t be an issue with next year’s designated events and their 75-man fields. 

4. Self-deprecation seems to be all the rage these days. Joel Dahmen’s been the king of this for a long time—he’s a big fan of downplaying his own abilities as he did throughout his Netflix episode. But he’s not the only star who seemed to miss the only-positive-self-talk part of orientation. 

On Wednesday, I asked Sahith Theegala what it feels like to be one of the top 30 players in the world rankings.  (He entered the week at No. 29). 

“I’m not,” he said with his signature sheepish smile. “I’m overrated. You’re telling me there’s only 28 guys better than me? No way. There are parts of my game that are good. But then there are other parts that suck.”

He then proceeded to tell me that he feels he mishits shots more than any of his peers and, later that afternoon, sent me a Data Golf graphic showing that he bails out right—defined as a 30-yard miss to the right when there’s trouble left—12.6% of the time, the most of anyone on tour. There’s such a wide range of comportments on the PGA Tour; Justin Thomas, for example, carries himself like someone who doesn’t just think but knows he’s the best player in the world. And then there’s Theegala and Dahmen, both quick to highlight their weaknesses. There’s no one perfect attitude for this game, just as there’s no one perfect swing. 

5. There did seem to be a certain randomness to the leaderboard for the majority of the week. The average world ranking of the top 16 players after two rounds was 92.2. Cam Davis, who wound up finishing sixth, came in off five consecutive missed cuts. Min Woo Lee also missed the weekend in his previous start and contended all week. On the flip side…last week’s winner, Kurt Kitayama, and the two runner-ups, Rory McIlroy and Harris English, all missed the cut. Water approached its level by the end of 72 holes, and the average rank of the top 5 on the leaderboard by Sunday’s end was a more normal 18.6. Still, predicting the Players remains a fool’s errand. That’s been treated as a positive in recent years, TPC Sawgrass often cited as a track that doesn’t favor one type of player but instead identifies who’s playing best that week. Jordan Spieth sees the randomness differently. 


“I don't particularly love this place. When you say it like that, that's not exactly a good thing I don't think. Do you think? I mean, I guess if you're not playing well, you could always say, hey, this course yields an opportunity. But you'd like to see people who are in form, shots get rewarded…It's extremely tricky. There's not really one shot that's not tricky because even the ones that seem so basic, if you don't hit it into that section, it just starts to -- everything kind of funnels away from holes here, and that just gets really odd.”

Odd…a pretty perfect word for the leaderboard all week. Apart, of course, from Scottie. 

6. Scottie Scheffler is the 14th winner in the past 16 Players Championships to have played his first two rounds in the early-late wave. It’s a pretty curious trend, as you’d think weather patterns would even out over a large enough sample size. This week’s early-late group got a clear break when play was suspended on Friday afternoon—the wind was whipping when the horn sounded and the course was playing its most difficult. Scheffler’s group returned to play its final eight holes of the second round in much gentler conditions, the overnight rain having softened the greens and the strong wind passing through with the storm. Runner-up Tyrrell Hatton, too, was early-late. 

7. An exception does not invalidate a rule. As such, Jerry Kelly’s highly impressive effort does not justify his spot in the tournament. Kelly, 56, deserves a ton of credit for making the weekend and shooting three under combined for his last two rounds. It’s also silly that he got a spot by winning the Kaulig Companies Championship, formerly known as the Senior Players. 

The four majors each have their own reasons for including non-elite players: open qualifying is part of the fabric of both the U.S. and Open Championships, and the driving-range pro or mini-tour warrior competing with the superstars provides for a compelling dynamic. The PGA Championship invites club pros—far too many, I’d argue—because club pros are the core of the PGA of America’s operation. But why does the PGA Tour invite a 50+ golfer to a tournament whose identity is, more or less, that it’s the strongest field and thus the hardest tournament to win? Congrats to Kelly for a great week. But let’s stop doing that; it doesn’t add anything to the event and cheapens, if only slightly, its status as a tournament filled only with the best touring professionals. 

8. Min Woo Lee’s not a very big dude. His 6’0” official listing feels generous, and he’s not quite 170 pounds. His clubbed speed, however? Despite his normal-guy build, Lee cruises in the upper 180s with driver and routinely passes the 190 mph threshold. He can smash that driving iron at 170 ball speed and carry it more than 270 yards. It’s a preview of what’s to come: younger players who grew up optimizing launch conditions on TrackMan and absolutely pump the ball no matter what size they are. 

But Lee clearly didn’t feel comfortable smashing driver on Sunday while his playing partner, Scottie Scheffler, did. That conservative strategy—which goes against the “send it” strategy that the data calls for—put him at a significant disadvantage. 

Consider the 4th hole, where both Lee and Scheffler missed the fairway. Lee hit iron off the tee and was so far back that he opted to lay up short of the water with his second. Scheffler, after hitting driver, was 40 yards closer to the hole and managed to muscle his second onto the green. Lee fatted his third and made a tournament-killing triple bogey. Scheffler escaped with par. And therein lies the danger of going with iron off tees: if you miss the fairway, you’re doubly fucked. Lee tried to beat a field full of the best players without having confidence in his driver. That’s nearly impossible to do. 

9. Mike Tirico, man. What an announcer that guy is. He stepped into the NBC booth having not done golf in months and couldn’t have been smoother or more engaging. His voice sounds like a worn-in leather chair with a glass of bourbon in a room filled with wafts of rich mahogany. He is a generational broadcasting talent and we’re lucky each and every time he steps into the booth. 

10. Now that we’ve said something nice about the broadcast…it’s an absolute joke that there wasn’t Every Shot Live for every round this week. It was offered only until 12 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, but that’s not nearly enough. The only reason I say that is we had Every Shot Live in 2020 and 2021—how on earth does a media company go backwards in the coverage it offers? Having less hours of content than it did in years prior? It truly felt like we were inching ever closer to the dream of having every shot carried live for every group at every tournament. Today, we feel further from that goal than we did three years ago. That’s no bueno. 


11. As the first truly huge event of the year, the Players Championship serves as a checkpoint of sorts for the golf season. There’s now been five designated events, and all the top guys have played enough times that we have a decent sample size to judge their years thus far. It’s now fair to call out what have been very slow starts for Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick.

JT has yet to miss a cut in seven starts but he has just one-top 10 finish, a backdoor one at the WM Phoenix Open thanks to a final-round 66. He has not come close to contending this season, and the main culprit has been his putting: he’s 144th on tour in strokes gained and has dropped to No. 10 in the world rankings and No. 12 in Data Golf’s rankings. With his trunk slam at the Players, Fitzpatrick has now missed the cut in three of his last six starts and sits 92nd in the FedEx Cup standings. He’s losing nearly half a shot per round with his approach play and ranks a putrid 168th on tour in that statistic. Both are playing this week’s Valspar Championship which mean’s the following week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will mark their fourth consecutive weeks playing tournaments. They’re both officially Searching. 

12. This week was mostly quiet on the LIV front, apart from an acknowledgment of awkwardness from Jay Monahan on the whole Cameron Smith situation. There were, however, a few pieces of news that caught my eye. 

First, the PGA Tour sought to emphasize some hypocrisy from the Saudis. As part of the process for the Public Investment Fund’s purchase of Newcastle United, the PIF gave the English Premier League “legally binding assurances” that PIF operates independently form the Saudi Arabian government and that the Kingdom would not control the club. Then, in seeking an exemption from the discovery process in its lawsuit against the PGA TOUR, LIV’s lawyers have argued something else entirely. From the Wall Street Journal.

“The Saudis are making a somewhat different case than the one they made to the Premier League. In a filing submitted this week, PIF argues that it is part of a foreign government. PIF and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, ‘are a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a sitting minister of the Saudi government,’ lawyers for the fund said in the filing.”

So…which is it? Is the PIF independent from the government, or part of it? The PIF might have made its own bed here, and its power-players appear likely to have to comply with a discovery process they desperately want to avoid. 

That’s the negative news in the LIV-verse. The positive: Saudi Aramco posted a record $161 billion profit in 2022, a reminder that the Saudis have more than enough money to continue funneling into a money-losing operation if they so please. Whether they’ll continue to want to do that, and receive all the negative backlash they have, remains a mystery.

13. This, from Tommy Fleetwood, was strangely poetic: “The best players are the ones that are the best at playing poorly

14. Every day things happen on the PGA Tour that remind you of one of golf’s main charms: the universality of the golf experience. Touring professionals do the same things on weekends of $25 million tournaments that amateurs do during a $5 Nassau. It happens every week, but for whatever reason I noticed more of these “Stars—They’re Just Like Us” tidbits than normal. Here are some…

—Collin Morikawa opted to switch back to his Ol’ Trusty driver, a TaylorMade SIM, rather than game the new Stealth 2…despite the fact that he’d been fitted into the new one. “It probably goes farther and it actually does what I want,” he said, “I just haven't put it in play yet. It was something that we built earlier this week. Just to know where my misses would be, even though I missed a few left, I just know once I hit it off the face, I know where the misses are going to be. It's nice to have something trusty.” It’s hard to switch away from something comfortable.

—Max McGreevy followed up a very good round, a three-under 69 on Thursday, with a horrific round, a 17-over 89 on Friday. Who among us hasn’t done that?

—Cameron Young caught fire on Saturday morning, playing his first 11 holes in seven under…only to run into a wall and play his final seven in three over. Because putting together two nines is never easy. 


—After fanning a tee shot into the right water seconds before the horn blew on Friday afternoon, Keith Mitchell angrily slammed his driver into the turf. He then asked—nay, begged—his caddie for it to be OK. 

“Did it cover?”

“It did not.”

“It went in the water?”


It’s one of golf’s harsh realities: no matter how much you beg for it to, the ball isn’t moving from the hazard. Making matters worse was that Mitchell would have to sleep on that feeling, as it was the last shot he hit on Friday. No fun at all. 

—Jordan Spieth, for whatever reason, couldn’t shake a feeling that he was going to snap-hook all his tee shots into the water. Even a player with that resume fears that disastrous shot even if he never hits it on the driving range. 

15. Which brings us to our next point. Jordan Spieth never stops talking on the golf course, and you wonder if he’d be better off keeping some of those things to himself. It’s not that it bothers anyone; it just seems like he talks himself into some negative thoughts. He talked about the snap hook and then hit one. On Saturday, after not hitting a putt hard enough, he remarked that he simply can’t give it enough juice on TPC Sawgrass’ greens. On Friday, after receiving an all-time lucky bounce to stick around for the weekend, he lamented his attitude. 

“I enjoy nothing about being at the cut line. I seem to have a really hard time refocusing on the lead and pushing forward.”

A clip from Full Swing jumps to mind—it’s the one where Brooks Koepka talks about the best golfers not thinking about anything. He was that guy, once, and now it seems like Scottie and Rahm are that guy. Spieth is still not yet 30, but he’s seen some shit in this game, and you worry if he might be on the wrong side of the innocence-experience spectrum that Padraig Harrington so eloquently explained a few years ago. 

“People often ask in a general term about experience,” Harrington said at the 2021 PGA Championship. “Well, as you gain experience, you lose innocence. I suppose if you drew a graph, there’s a crossing point of equilibrium where you have some experience and a certain amount of innocence and enthusiasm.

“As you get a little bit older and you get all this experience, on paper people might think you get better with experience, but as I said, you’ve seen a few things that you know in your game that you probably never wanted to see, so you kind of lose that little bit of, I suppose, innocence.”

16. Xander Schauffele had to battle to make the cut this week. It’s not the first time he’s done it this year—Schauffele holed an approach for an eagle on Friday afternoon at the Genesis Invitational to make the weekend. I asked him if he plays differently when he’s near that cut line, and if something will be lost if guys don’t have to deal with that pressure moving forward in designated events. 

“I try really hard to not give extra weight to any shot. It’s hard to obviously do that, but that’s what I strive to do…you’re definitely grinding. You definitely make decisions, I’d say, not being too aggressive when you don’t have to be, just because I wasn’t hitting it great and was out of position, and you’ve gotta check that first box of making the cut. You can’t shoot 14 under on the weekend if you’re not here. 


“It’s definitely different (with no cut). What Austin and I did in certain spots to be defensive, I honestly think if there’s no cut you’d be more aggressive. You might see more stellar golf. There’s always fear, unfortunately, but you’re going to take more risks because you need to move up the leaderboard and you’re not going to be afraid of taking a risk and missing the cut. You might see more crazy shots on Thursday and Friday. I’ve had a lot of dramatic misses and dramatic makes of cuts. But we’re not losing it completely, the big events will still have them. It’s a change that’s been made, but you saw how quickly it was made. The ultimate goal is the best product. The average golf fan might want to see a cut, wants to see guys slug it out. Then the tour would have to reassess. When people talk to me about it, I tell them: it’s not a forever thing, it’s just a 2024 thing. If it sucks, we’ll change it again.”

17. Man, did I feel bad for a while there on Saturday morning while tracking Nico Echavarria. Nico’s a huge Barstool and Fore Play fan; he stopped me on Wednesday to tell me how much he loves the show and how long he’s been watching. He got the last spot into the Players field by winning the Puerto Rico Open, played opposite the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Of course, I invited him on the show. He wanted to know if the offer stood no matter what he shot at the Players. 

“Just break 80 both of the first two days,” I told him.

Nico opened with a one-under 71, so I thought there’d be no issues. But he struggled in the wind on Friday afternoon, shooting six-over 42 on his front nine holes. He was eight over for his second round as he stepped to the 15th tee, needing to play his last four in one under to get in at 79. He did exactly that. 

“Best 79 of my life,” he texted after the round. And so Nico Echavarria will absolutely be making an appearance on the Fore Play podcast. 

18. After making the cut on the number, Tom Hoge shot 62-70 over the weekend to finish in a tie for third and make $1.47 million. So, of course, he flew home in seat 21C. Because you can take the boy out of North Dakota, but you can’t take North Dakota out of the boy. 

We’ll be back with another 18 Parting Thoughts after the Masters, the other three majors and the Ryder Cup. The regular Monday Rap will return next week.

Until next week,