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We do not yet know what's in store for the field at TPC Sawgrass as the 2024 Players Championship tees off, but one thing about this tournament is certain. Since its return to a March date back in 2019, The Players has produced a run of elite major championship-level victors that have validated its move back to an earlier date.

The first year, it was Rory McIlroy. Then, after a one-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was Justin Thomas, Cameron Smith and Scottie Scheffler ripping off the last three titles in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Interestingly, the leaderboards have been odd -- Anirban Lahiri, David Lingmerth, Tom Hoge, anybody? But the winners? Well, the winners have been great. 

Why is that?

"It's one of the best golf courses we play all year," Patrick Cantlay said Tuesday. This despite Cantlay having almost no success at TPC Sawgrass -- missing three of the last four cuts with no top 10s in his career at the course.

"It really demands smart golf shots, especially off the tee. You hit a lot of clubs that aren't driver around here, especially when the wind changes direction, and it's one of the golf courses probably most on Tour that you have to control your golf ball. The areas are small, and there's big penalty if you don't play from the correct areas."

This echoes something Scheffler said recently.

"I just thought it was really hard," the world's No. 1 golfer told the PGA Tour, sharing his first impressions of TPC Sawgrass. "I mean, you just have to hit it so good around this place to play well, and that's why you don't see the same winners every year is because it doesn't really suit one type of player.

"If you look at the golf course, No. 1 requires a fade (off the tee), No. 2 is a draw. Four is a fade, No. 5 is a fade, No. 7 is a draw. No. 9, you've got to hit a fade, then a draw. No. 10 is a draw. No. 12 is a draw. Thirteen is a draw. Then you get to No. 15, it's a cut. Sixteen is a draw, and 18 is a draw. It's very interesting how the course works like that, and so that's why … one guy just hasn't figured this place out."

Joseph LaMagna of the Fried Egg has a similar theory. He attributes TPC Sawgrass' star winners and unique leaderboards to a pair of factors. The first: TPC Sawgrass has a lot of hazards, and balls can sometimes more easily roll into those hazards when it's firmer and windier in March (compared to when the event used to be played in May). The second: Like Cantlay and Scheffler pointed out, you have to be absolutely flushing it. Here's LaMagna for Fried Egg:

In addition to its prevalence of water hazards, TPC Sawgrass is unique among tour courses for how harshly it penalizes wayward drives. The Stadium Course, in this regard, presents a much different off-the-tee test than, say, the South Course at Torrey Pines does. 

At Torrey, there is only a minor advantage (~0.05 strokes) to missing the fairway by a few yards versus missing it by a wide margin. At TPC Sawgrass, there is a large distinction—more than 0.25 strokes—between small and big misses off the tee. Seriously wayward drives find trees or water at Sawgrass, so precision is a requirement.

This is precisely what led to Scheffler's win a year ago, a victory many deemed "boring" because, you know, it was. It's sort of what Scheffler does. He makes smart decisions and has the ability to execute them as well as (or better than) anyone in the world. It's why's playing at a comically good level right now.

But Scheffler is not the only one, and TPC Sawgrass will certainly identify whoever is hitting it best this week. Here are a few others who are striking it well enough to separate themselves at a place like TPC Sawgrass where it can sometimes be a bit easier to do so if one's game is on point.

Tee to green play over the last 36 rounds

RankPlayerSG tee to green


Scottie Scheffler



Xander Schauffele



Justin Thomas



Tony Finau



Viktor Hovland



Collin Morikawa



Rory McIlroy



Max Homa



Hideki Matsuyama



Corey Conners


It would be surprising if someone from outside of this group won The Players this week, right?

It could happen. Again, you have Anirban Lahiri, Paul Casey, Russell Knox and Justin Suh who all finished in the top 10 over recent years. Still, it's unlikely.

TPC Sawgrass has, at least since the move back to March in 2019, continuously identified tremendous champions, largely because so many of the players hitting it best right now are already tremendous champions.