Monday Leaderboard: Death-defying shots and heartbreaking near-miss putts

By | March 19, 2024

(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports)

Welcome to the Monday Leaderboard, where we break down the weekend’s biggest stories in the wonderful world of golf. Grab an Arnold Palmer, pull up a chair and watch out for errant Max Homa shots…

1. Scottie Scheffler wins in golf’s finest hour

All the golf world needs is a few more Sundays like we just had at The Players Championship and all will be right with the world. At the top of the leaderboard you had the defending British Open champion, the defending US Open champion and the defending Olympic gold medalist… and they were all caught and passed by the defending Players champion, world number 1 and the general unstoppable force Scottie Scheffler.

From deep in the field, Scheffler posted a magnificent 64 on Sunday to finish at -20, just ahead of Brian Harman, Wyndham Clark and Xander Schauffele. All three challengers were on the tee at No. 18 with a chance to force a play-off against Scheffler, and all three fell short…particularly poor Clark. (See #5 below for more.)

The final holes of The Players were without a doubt the finest hour of golf yet in 2024: dramatic, exciting, exhilarating and all broadcast from wall to wall. This was exactly what the PGA Tour needed, and exactly what fans want to see: (most of) the best players unleashing the best golf on the best courses.

Oh, and we’re also getting closer to Scheffler-vs.-the-field territory at the Masters.

2. Finally movement on the Saudi/PGA Tour deal?

The one element missing from Sunday’s Players victory? The best LIV contingent of Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Cam Smith and others. That won’t happen in the near future, but there are signs that an agreement is on the horizon. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan indicated Thursday during an otherwise news-free media conference that meetings with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, LIV’s financiers, would continue.

Combine that with reports that many of the Tour’s player representatives have been invited to a meeting with Saudi leaders this week, and we could be looking at… something. Maybe not the end of the schism, but the beginning of the end? It will likely be years before the foreign LIV players return to the PGA Tour, but that appears to be the end game for all parties involved. The Players reminded us that drama on the court seven days a week, and twice on Sundays, is better than drama on the court.

3. Max Homa’s fatal shot

If you’ve ever watched a player fire a shot with fans lining the entire route and holding your breath, you might want to steel yourself before watching this particular video:

Turn up the volume and you’ll hear a distinctive sound tock! when the ball hits something very hard. Luckily for the fan film, this was the tree above him, not his skull.

“I asked them to back up… I probably should have asked them to move more,” Homa said later. “Glad I didn’t hit anyone. It was scary.”

4. Rory McIlroy and the case of the disappearing ball

There’s something ridiculous and beautiful about the rules of golf, the way that occasionally honor, pride and common sense come together in a glorious mess. We had one of those moments on Thursday, when Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland took issue with the way Rory McIlroy placed not one, but two shots that ended up in the water at TPC Sawgrass.

In most cases, players drop the ball where it went from land to water. But that requires figuring out exactly where a curve ball traveling well above 100 miles per hour passes a specific geographic point some 50 to 60 feet in the air and hundreds of feet away. It’s ridiculous on its face — imagine asking Patrick Mahomes to intervene on a potential holding call 60 yards away — but it also leads to scenes like we had on Thursday, when McIlroy, Spieth and Hovland were all so polite were bickering with each other.

Tip from the old golf sight for the PGA Tour, also to put the whole scene online; just a few years ago the Tour would have committed this to memory in the interests of ‘protecting the brand’. But fans want to see exactly this kind of player discussion up close, and this moment delivered.

5. Wyndham Clark’s cruelest putt

In the final minutes of Sunday’s Players Championship, only Wyndham Clark stood between Scottie Scheffler and a second straight title. To force a playoff, Clark had to make a birdie on 18. He faced a 17-foot putt – tricky, but makeable – and rolled what he thought was a real line. The ball dived into the cup… and jumped out just as quickly:

Come on. That’s an absolute heartbreaker. Clark has quietly disappeared from “who is that guy?” to “almost the best in the world” in just a few months, and his story is getting better by the week.

The Mulligan: Don’t make Rickie angry

Rickie Fowler is almost universally recognized as one of the nicest guys on Tour. So you really have to go out of your way to make him angry… like not putting your phone on silent while he’s waving, even after you’ve been asked to do so. Sound on:

Now there will be those who scoff at players’ demands for silence, citing, for example, the fact that batters in baseball do not demand silence, and unlike a golf ball, a baseball moves at over 100 miles per hour at the batter off. . But again, hitters don’t try to place the ball in the 10th spot of the third row of Section 147 in left-center field. Golf involves an element of precision. Plus, making noise while everyone around you is silent is just a jerk move… and, as was apparently the case here, a quick way to get yourself kicked out of a tournament.

Swing away and roll ’em through this week, friends, and we’ll see you back here next Monday!

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