How the Players Championship became golf’s craziest event

Min Woo Lee’s magical week continued on Saturday at the Players Championship – substitute for the 17th hole.

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — From the second he left his hands, Min Woo was chasing Lee’s putt.

Lee had made a few putts at Saturday’s Players Championship, but nothing like the one he hit at number 17 at TPC Sawgrass: a 38-foot, 9-inch bender that gently crawled over the big break in putting surface and tumbled home innocently.

“I went up there and I was thinking and talking to my caddy, how can I stop this?” Lee said.

Both knew the answer: hit the hole.

As Lee – and 36,000 others – watched intently, the ball began its final descent towards the flagpole. The crowd slowly swelled as she rolled closer, her dimples lit by rays of golden sunlight.

Lee was already chasing the ball when it hit the flag. His hand was already up in the air, finger pointing to the sky.

And then something funny happened. It missed.

“Oh man, it looked Good‘ Lee said afterwards, still smiling. “When I got to the apex where it went down, it was on the inside left and it looked so good and it just crawled to the right. That would have been nice. The roar would have been pretty crazy.”

Lee is right, of course; a brand would have been crazy. But in hindsight, a missed shot might have been more appropriate.

The moment that wasn’t…

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Lee would finish his round for the week at 12 under, two shots behind 54-hole leader Scottie Scheffler. The two golfers will play the final round for the second time in the same pairing on Sunday.

That’s just part of what’s to come at Saturday’s Players Championship, a tournament that’s fast becoming the oddest in professional golf. For another year, a look at the 54-hole ranking graces us with some of golf’s most wonderful oddities.

At the helm is Scheffler, who can escape tomorrow with a win from Ponte Vedra as world No. 1, but can’t escape without dipping his toes in the stranger. He took a break from a lifelong streak of cliche replies to tell a reporter Saturday that he drinks coffee every day of his life… except the ones in which he plays golf.

There’s Aaron Rai (-9), the 28-year-old Englishman wearing two gloves, who also dunked a hole-in-one on Sunday the 17th. Did we mention he’s still using iron covers? He is level on points with Chad Ramey, a 30-year-old journeyman who would be threatening the lead had he not made a quadruple bogey 7 on Saturday 17, a feat that led to two drowned golf balls.

Just behind those two is Tom Hoge (-8), who broke the course record with a 10-under 62 at TPC Sawgrass on Saturday. Hoge, who has a notorious sweet tooth, admitted on Saturday that he is on hunger strike.

“Actually, my complaint is that the food here in the players’ restaurant is too healthy,” he said. “Lots of vegetables.”

“I need a cheeseburger or something.”

Hoge is tied for eighth with David Lingmerth, a Swedish pro golfer who finished T2 behind Tiger Woods here on his Players debut in 2013…and has since recorded four missed cuts and a DFL.

And then of course there’s Min Woo Lee, the brother of US Women’s Open champion Minjee. At just 24, he can claim his first win of his PGA Tour career in his very first Players start on Sunday. Those who tuned in on Thursday will know that it’s a small miracle he’s made it this far in the week – a leg cramp nearly derailed his tournament entirely.

The cause of that spasm, he revealed Saturday, was an allergic reaction on his face that caused his eyes to swell to the point of closing. Lee said he stopped eating and taking electrolytes to quell the reaction that caused his leg to lock during Thursday’s round.

Although Lee tweeted “#PickleJuice” and “#Mustard” (in addition to #ImNotAnAthlete), he said he did not Drink pickle juice to best prepare for the weekend. Rather, he stuck to coconut water and electrolytes.

“I’ve learned my lesson.”

Nonetheless, the Australian of golf royals has an opportunity on Sunday to close the biggest purse in PGA Tour history and secure a life-changing win in the process.

“Tomorrow could be the greatest day of my life,” he said nonchalantly on Saturday night. “I just snuck into this tournament and I’m making the most of it. I soak it all up.”

That’s odd for a 24-year-old on the fringes of history, but after the rest of this week we’re hardly surprised.


James Colgan editor

James Colgan is Associate Editor at GOLF and contributes articles to the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, leveraging his broadcast experience on the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 Syracuse University graduate, James – and apparently his golf game – is still thawing after four years in the snow. Before joining GOLF, James was a caddy fellow (and clever looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at How the Players Championship became golf’s craziest event

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