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Players Championship 2023: 3 Instant Reactions to Thursday Leaderboard Scores

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Players Championship 2023: 3 Instant Reactions to Thursday Leaderboard Scores
Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTTwitter LogoFeatured Columnist IVMarch 10, 2023

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 09: Jon Rahm of Spain plays his second shot on the 10th hole during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 09, 2023 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

David Cannon/Getty Images

Play was suspended during Thursday’s first round at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, though most players either finished or made it through at least 14 holes.

So while the round wasn’t completed, there were still plenty of takeaways to be had from the early stages of the tournament.

Jon Rahm and Max Homa Have Their Work Cut Out for Them

Two of the favorites heading into the tournament find themselves staring down a major early deficit behind the tournament’s leader, Chad Ramey, who shot an eight-under 64 to pace the field.

Rahm is currently seven strokes back, while Homa finds himself eight strokes behind Ramey. Both completed their rounds.

Rick Gehman @RickRunGood

Rahm big time. https://t.co/Fa9r6SovRv

Justin Ray @JustinRayGolf

Jon Rahm lost more than 2 strokes putting today.

Since 2017, he averages +0.44 strokes gained putting per round in California… and -0.26 per round in Florida. A difference of 2.8 strokes per 72 holes.

“The only thing I could say is that I hit a lot of quality putts out there,” a disappointed Rahm told reporters after his round. “The only thing I will be thinking on today is a couple wedge shots, about three or four of them out there, that not only didn’t I hit them close, some of them I missed the green completely. … That’s where I think the difference on the round was today compared to other scores out there.”

It isn’t the sort of start he or Homa would have wanted, though both are certainly capable of turning things around with three rounds to go. But each find themselves in a major, and disappointing, hole they’ll need to crawl free from over the weekend.

Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler Should Be Considered the Early Favorites

Yes, Ramey holds the lead, but the talented Morikawa is just one stroke back and was among the favorites coming into Thursday.

“The game feels really good, and I’m just going to take that into the next few days and just kind of use that momentum to hopefully play three more really good rounds,” Morikawa told reporters after his round.

Kevin Van Valkenburg @KVanValkenburg

Morikawa has a chance to be remembered as the best Mechanic of his generation. He’s already ridden his singular skill (a subtle fade) to considerable heights: Two majors before he turned 25. He sees his line, trust it, and watches it repeat. The ball almost never goes left.

Kevin Van Valkenburg @KVanValkenburg

Morikawa wasn’t incapable hitting draws. In fact, after saying he was committed to work on it because wanted to be a complete player, it turned out he was pretty good. He contended at the U.S. Open at Brookline, he did it almost entirely hitting draws.

Kevin Van Valkenburg @KVanValkenburg

When he missed the cut last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he decided he’d kind of had enough. He needed to reprogram his brain. He showed up at Sawgrass on Sunday, planted himself on the back range, all alone, and began to grind.

Kevin Van Valkenburg @KVanValkenburg

He showed up for Thursday’s round, determined to trust his “little baby cut” and found a freedom he hadn’t felt in months. He missed only three greens and hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to four feet for a tap in eagle. It was a majestic baby fade that drifted right toward the pin.

Kevin Van Valkenburg @KVanValkenburg

The Mechanic in him had returned. You could argue there are more interesting ways to play golf, but Morikawa’s magic with his irons might just be a reflection of his personality. Efficient, disciplined, consistent. Sometimes, you don’t need to mess with boring but brilliant.

Scheffler, meanwhile, is just four strokes back and was arguably the safest bet to win outside of Rahm coming in, so he’s sitting relatively pretty as well.

With many of the other favorites scuffling a bit more on Thursday (more on that below), Morikawa and Scheffler look like the top contenders to watch after the first round.

Rory McIlroy Is Toast

Without question, the biggest disappointment on Thursday was McIlroy, who limped to a four-over 76 and finds himself 12 strokes off the pace.

Kyle Porter @KylePorterCBS

You can almost see Rory replaying the Bryson articles from the 2021 Open in his head as he answers this. pic.twitter.com/aivSm6yelu

Is that insurmountable? No, not definitively, but it’s hard to imagine McIlroy essentially playing three perfect rounds of golf and rocketing back up the leaderboard.

If there was a player who might be able to pull off the feat, it’s McIlroy, but more than likely he’s just battling to make the cut and earn himself a bigger piece of the purse at this point.

original source: Players Championship 2023: 3 Instant Reactions to Thursday Leaderboard Scores

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