Upon further review

Players 2023: Leader already clinches Beard title, a missed putt from 8 inches and 7 other things you must know from the first round

March 09, 2023

Hayden Buckley celebrates his ace at the island 17th.

Jared C. Tilton

After the first day of the 2023 Players Championship, we do know this: We’re not going to deal with the nightmare of a year ago, when the second round wasn’t completed until Sunday afternoon, and Cam Smith’s victory was celebrated late on Monday.

Though there is some light rain in the forecast for Friday afternoon, it doesn’t look like anything that will affect play, and the field had a beautiful, scoreable day in the first round on Thursday. Gettable for some, at least, though some of the world’s best might differ. The top portion of the leaderboard featured a wide variety of mid-level players, with two-time major champion Collin Morikawa topping the bigger names with a seven-under 65 that was his best score in the Players.

The outright leader is certainly unexpected. Chad Ramey, who is ranked 225th in the world and missed three straight cuts going into the week, made four birdies on each side and no bogeys to shoot eight-under 64. This is his first appearance in the Players, and he’s also the leader in the clubhouse for Best Beard. Morikawa was alone in second, with Taylor Pendrith and Ben Griffin shooting 67.

Justin Suh was also at five under, but he still had three holes to finish when play was stopped due to darkness with a few groups left on the course.

Some other highlights and lowlights on the day:

What happened to the Big Three?


Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm talk on the second green during the first round of the Players Championship.

Ben Jared

The top three ranked players in the world—Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy—have all been on their own heater, and with the trio playing together it figured that one of them might make an early statement. That didn’t happen, though Scheffler did at least break 70 with a 69 that put him T-4. Rahm, who lost 2.2 strokes to the field in putting, shot 71 and McIlroy struggled to a 76 that will have him grinding to make the weekend cut.

The Northern Irishman made one incredible shot that was negated when he couldn’t covert it, and then he also revealed after the round that he’s had to take his favorite driver out of play because he feared the face had become too soft to conform to standard. Weird.

The “other” Big Three


Jordan Spieth hits his second shot on the 18th hole in the first round of the Players Championship.

Richard Heathcote

That would be Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Max Homa. Fun group, but they didn’t exactly spur each other to collective greatness. Spieth did make three straight birdies on the back (Nos. 10-12) and shot 69; Homa scored 72, but it was Thomas who had the wild day, eventually shooting a round of 73 that began with an eagle on 2 and a double-bogey 6 on 4 when he hit one of the worst greenside wedge shots of his career and it trickled into the water.

Other stuff

• Australian Min Woo Lee barely got into the field at No. 50 in the World Ranking, and the first-time Players starter shot a 68 that included him going down to the turf at one point with a calf cramp that had Golf Twitter howling. Looked like a soccer "injury" at first. As in, where's the magic spray? He also revealed his face blew up earlier in the week due to an allergic reaction to electrolytes. Poor guy. “My eyes were half shut,” he said.

• Hayden Buckley made an ace at the island 17th and went nuts. He then made Players history with a birdie at 18, becoming the first to go 1-3 to close a TPC Sawgrass round.

• Nick Watney made two 7s on the day, including at the par-3 17th when his tee shot hit the water and he missed an eight-inch putt with a one-handed, not-so-tidy clean-up attempt. Our Dave Shedloski had the line of the day: "His first putt was not better than most."

• Aaron Wise looked like a video game with a glitch when he drove three straight balls into the left water—all the shots looking virtually the same on the tracer—at the par-4 18th. Wise eventually wrote down a 10—tied for the second-worst score on the hole in Players history.