2023 Players Championship leaderboard: Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler start hot at TPC Sawgrass

Collin Morikawa has catapulted himself into contention at the 2023 Players Championship with an opening-round 65 as play was suspended on Thursday due to darkness. Just one stroke off the pace of Chad Ramey (-8), Morikawa rode a scorching performance from tee to green for his best opening round since the Tournament of Champions.

Morikawa's day began in a relatively straightforward fashion with two birdies on his opening half. Making the turn to his back nine (the front nine at TPC Sawgrass), the two-time major champion caught lightning in a bottle when he played his next six holes in 5 under. 

Looking for his first worldwide win in over a year, Morikawa will aim to keep things tight over the next three days. While the likes of Ramey and other relative unknowns are likely to fade as the week progresses, a player who is sure to be there come the back nine on Sunday is world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler.

Signing for a 4-under 68, the Texan once again finds his name on the first page of a leaderboard at a big-time event. He sits one stroke clear of his fellow statesman, Jordan Spieth, as well as Norwegian Viktor Hovland heading into Friday's second round.

Let's wrap up what went down throughout the first day of action at TPC Sawgrass.

The leader

1. Chad Ramey (-8): To say this performance came out of nowhere would be an understatement. While Ramey won on the PGA Tour last season, this year has been a completely different beast for the 30-year-old. It would make for a great story, but it's difficult to envision Ramey staying around much longer given how lights out he was on the greens. Ramey gained nearly six strokes with the putter on Thursday (two strokes better than his previous career high) and is unlikely to replicate this over the next 54 holes.

In contention

2. Collin Morikawa (-7)
T3. Taylor Pendrith, Ben Griffin, Justin Suh (-6)
T6. Min Woo Lee, Scottie Scheffler, Denny McCarthy, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Adam Svensson, Sam Burns (-4)
T12. Si Woo Kim, Viktor Hovland, Jordan Spieth, Cam Davis, Justin Rose, Nate Lashley, Lucas Glover (-3)

Buckle up. Spieth's next 54 holes are certain to be a rollercoaster given some of his ball-striking metrics and his history at TPC Sawgrass. Coming into this week, Spieth had failed to register a top-40 finish in his last eight outings here and missed the cut in five of those instances. His ability to keep the ball in the short grass off the tee will be key moving forward as his short game saved him a number of times when he was out of position.

"I mean, it's just one of those places where I felt like the way I played was really good a lot of times, and then I look at the board here, and I'm like, 'Huh, I'm not even in the top 10,'" said Spieth. "That's just the way this tournament has been for me. I'm not going to try and do anything differently, try and force anything more. It's just I felt like I played what would have been at least that last week, and for some reason, it doesn't yield a lower score out here. If I can limit mistakes -- I played smart when I was out of position today and limited mistakes -- the rest of my game feels really solid and should be able to make enough birdies to work my way into contention."

The island green giveth (and taketh away)

We saw everything from an ace to a seven on the par-3 17th in Round 1. Hayden Buckley got the party started with an ace in the early goings, while Nick Watney brought the vibes down with a four-putt quadruple bogey late in the day. It measured only 125 yards on Thursday, but the 17th was still able to strike fear (and joy) into players.

"I had a little feeling something like that might happen this week," Buckley said of his hole-in-one. "I don't know, I've been hitting it well, but it's always nice to see it happen on that hole, too."

2023 Players Championship updated odds, picks

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Collin Morikawa: 33/10
  • Scottie Scheffler: 9/2
  • Viktor Hovland: 7-1
  • Jordan Spieth: 11-1
  • Jon Rahm: 16-1
  • Jason Day: 22-1
  • Justin Suh: 22-1
  • Sam Burns: 25-1
  • Max Homa: 27-1
  • Si Woo Kim: 28-1

Scheffler has to be the play. He entered the week around 10-1 and he did nothing on Thursday to suggest he will not be a factor in this championship late on Sunday. The world No. 2 ranked fourth in strokes gained tee to green and fourth in strokes gained approach while finishing outside the top half of the field in putting. If he finds a semblance of form on the greens, he should overtake Morikawa with ease over the next few days.

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@THEPLAYERSChamp via Twitter
March 9, 2023, 11:29 PM
@JustinRayGolf via Twitter
March 9, 2023, 11:14 PM

The Toughest Scene

Aaron Wise made a sextuple-bogey 10 on the 18th at TPC Sawgrass today. The final numbers. 

  • 3 balls in the water 
  • Hit his 7th shot from the tee box 
  • Resulted in -6 SG (!) off the tee 
  • Second highest score ever on 18 
  • Up and down from 70 yds for 10 
  • Shot 80
March 9, 2023, 10:49 PM
@JustinRayGolf via Twitter
March 9, 2023, 10:38 PM

Two guys playing worse than I thought today are Matt Fitzpatrick and Xander Schauffele. Both are 1 over, but Fitzpatrick just hit one in the water on No. 17 and Schauffele has an eagle putt on No. 16. Could end up five shots apart by the end of the round. 

March 9, 2023, 10:29 PM

Thomas' speed causing issues

The putter has betrayed 2021 Players Champion Justin Thomas. With three three-putts to his name in Round 1, he finds himself at 1 over in the late stages of his round. He is actually striking the ball well but ranks 134th in strokes gained putting and 90th in strokes gained around the green.


Spieth spiething

He's had a little bit of everything today. After turning in even, Spieth rattled off three straight birdies from Nos. 10-12 to get to 3 under and just converted a sick up-and-down to remain there. He has nine one putts through 13 holes.

@PGATOUR via Twitter
March 9, 2023, 9:49 PM
@PGATOUR via Twitter
March 9, 2023, 9:42 PM
@PGATOUR via Twitter
March 9, 2023, 9:38 PM

Nick Watney has two 7s on his back nine, including a 4-putt on No. 17 in which he missed a one-handed putt from 9 inches. Tough scene.

Golf Channel
Golf Channel
Golf Channel
March 9, 2023, 9:26 PM
@THEPLAYERSChamp via Twitter
March 9, 2023, 9:24 PM

Hovland's improvement

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