Players Championship 2023: Min Woo Lee, Tommy Fleetwood among seven golfers who can catch Scottie Scheffler

Let’s be honest: The Players Championship is over. Scottie Scheffler shot a birdie-par 65 last Saturday to move to 14 under and take a two-stroke lead over Min Woo Lee and a four-stroke lead over Cam Davis. It likely sealed the deal for Scheffler’s sixth win in his first 97 PGA Tour starts.

Scheffler is a monster hitting the ball. He’s losing putts on the course on those greens and yet leads the best variety of golfers in the sport That’s partly because he’s long and consistent off the tee, partly because he’s a terrific putter and partly because he runs the hell out of TPC Sawgrass.

With a win Sunday, Scheffler will join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to hold both a Masters title and the Players Championship at the same time. This is a great company and highlights what Scheffler has been doing for the past 15 months. He and Jon Rahm were the best players in the world at that stretch, but Scheffler outscored everyone in the bigger events.

Scheffler has some good players behind him, and he could shoot 73 or worse and lose to someone moving up the leaderboard in the final 18 holes. But the likelihood of that is dubious at best. Scheffler has led the final round of a PGA Tour event five times in his career. He has two wins, one loss in the playoffs and two final losses.

Well, okay, it might not be over … but it’s probably all locked up. If not, here are seven golfers who can catch Scheffler on Sunday.

1. Min Woo Lee (-12): I agree with Lee, of whom Scheffler five-back Aaron Rai said: “He’s a great, great player. Great attitude, too, which I think is just as strong as his game. He doesn’t. I have a weakness. I think he’s going to be a star here on the PGA Tour in the next few years.” Lee is a threat who won’t be afraid to go up against Scheffler in the final pairing. But he doesn’t hit it as well as Scheffler and actually misses shots on the court with his iron game. Had a great week but won’t have the battery to run out Scheffler but if you are interested in some stock I bought a ton after sent this tweet last year.

2. Cam Davis (-10): Davis is a low-key putter who is hitting the hell out of the golf ball this week, and he shot to 67 on Saturday. Is he ready to go back from the top four to the No. 2 player in the world to beat players? He has the ability to do it, but Sunday will be a 300-level class from Scheffler on how to close out a golf tournament. He’s going to have to navigate that to a point he’s never been to before, which should be exciting to watch.

3. Tommy Fleetwood (-9): Fleetwood was nearly flawless Saturday with a 65. He’s third in the field from tee to green through three rounds, and that’s one of the best spots he’s been in to record a victory at TPC Sawgrass. He has the engine to chase Scheffler as long as Scheffler doesn’t shoot something in the 60s, but Fleetwood has struggled at times to close out big wins.

According to Data Golf, Fleetwood’s expected winning percentage has fallen in all of the last rounds in which he’s finished in the top five (where he will be this Sunday). However, the ability is there. All it takes is a few breaks and a huge closing kick.

Fleetwood spoke after his round about how difficult it is to win on Tour: “I’ve noticed the standard has improved over the last two, three, four years. The players are getting better and the courses aren’t getting any easier, but the standard is going up and you have to be really, really good these days. It’s remarkable, I think, that in all the tournaments and whoever’s on the court, anybody can come up and win, like it’s always been the case, but I just think more.”

4. Sungjae Im (-8): I don’t know that Im, who is six back of Scheffler’s lead, is actually in contention here, but he’s hitting the ball well this week. If anyone besides the players on 9 under has a shot, it’s probably him.

5. Tom Hogg (-8): Why not us?! Hoge made the cut on the number before going out and setting the course record on Saturday in the 3rd round. It may be necessary else course record Sunday to beat Scheffler, but there’s no doubt Hoge will.

6. Aaron Rye (-9): The Englishman hasn’t had a top 10 since the Houston Open last fall. He’ll go into Sunday’s finale with perhaps more momentum than anyone after birdie-eagle-birdie in his third round (that eagle was an ace on the 17th), but I don’t think he has the firepower to roll with Scheffler, Davis , Fleetwood and Lee in the final 18 holes.

7. David Lingmerth (-8): Lingmerth is extremely easy to root for, even if he wore the worst outfit in golf history when he finished T2 with Woods at the 2013 Players Championship. The good news; He was the third best iron player on the course on a golf course that is extremely demanding for it. He ranks behind Scheffler and Collin Morikawa. Lingmerth is unlikely to win, but don’t be surprised if he finishes in the top three.

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