Golf just ended, but it’s also about to start. How about that?
It’s finally over. Five days and countless weather delays later, the 2022 Players Championship has come and gone, and Cameron Smith is our champion. Leader for almost all of Monday, Smith eked out a one-shot victory after a final round that included 10 birdies, four bogeys, and a nearly disastrous finish. The 27-year-old Aussie started the last round with five birdies in his first six holes, and added five more on the back. His incredibly gutsy shot on the 71st hole seemed to seal the win… until he nearly coughed it all up with a bad punch-out on the 72nd hole. But all’s well that ends well, and Smith was able to escape TPC Sawgrass with the biggest win of his career.
Unlike your typical PGA Tour event where a player bashes and smashes™ his way to victory, Cam Smith earned this win with ball-striking and short game. In fact, Smith finished 68/70 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee at TPC Sawgrass, losing more than five shots to the field. But like Chris Kirk, that mattered not at all to the Aussie. Smith wowed with his wedges and putter all tournament, and he saved his best for last, one-putting eight of his last nine holes. The impressive performance was perfectly summarized afterwards by Smith’s caddie, Sam Pinfold. Asked what he does when his player is riding a hot putter, Pinfold said, “I tend to always stay away [from Smith] from 60 yards and in. He is a genius on and around the greens.”
After a week in which it was extremely difficult to control the ball in the air, it made perfect sense for Cameron Smith to win the Players with shots that stayed closer to the ground. He is now No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking, in the middle of the best season of his PGA Tour career, and three weeks away from returning to the Masters, where he has three top-10 finishes. More to come?
Oh captain, my captain
On Tuesday, the European Ryder Cup team made the somewhat surprising announcement that Henrik Stenson will serve as captain in Italy in 2023. Stenson had long been rumored as one of the names committed to the Super Golf League, and the DP World Tour has said anyone who jumps to the SGL would no longer be involved with the Ryder Cup. Not only does Tuesday’s announcement suggest that Stenson is no longer considering the SGL, it also further isolates those who are still linked with the breakaway tour.
Putting aside the SGL business, Stenson’s captaincy should be a fun one for the European team as well as Ryder Cup fans. Stenson is one of the most affable and witty characters in the game, and having him front and center will add another layer of entertainment to the hubbub around the matches. The more Captain Stenson we get, the better.
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Fried Egg Gift Cards – Gift cards are now available in the Fried Egg Pro Shop!
The Fried Egg Podcast: Players Championship Recap with Roberto Castro – Former PGA Tour member Roberto Castro joins Andy Johnson to talk all things Players Championship. Listen on iTunes and Spotify.
The Shotgun Start – Did you think Andy and Brendan would take this Wednesday off after a crazy, late-finishing Players Championship? Think again! We’re on to the Valspar! Listen on iTunes and Spotify.
The PGA Tour made the quick jaunt across the state of Florida for the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort. Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, and Brooks Koepka headline the field.
Sean Crocker, Jazz Janewattananond, and Wilco Nienaber are among the notables at the DP World Tour’s Steyn City Championship in South Africa.
The Korn Ferry Tour returns after its month off with the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
Bob Harig reported that Greg Norman and the Super Golf League are going to announce their first events on Wednesday. Norman has made a lot of false promises in the past so we’ll see if this one holds true.
Kevin Kisner finished solo fourth at the Players, but it was without longtime caddie Duane Bock on the bag. Bock had been dealing with a stomach illness throughout the weekend and had to bail early on Monday’s final round. More from Rex Hoggard
Wake Forest’s Rachel Kuehn took home the individual title at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge while Oregon won the team title. The win earns Kuehn a spot in the LPGA Tour’s JTBC Championship later this spring.
As discussed on previous No Laying Up podcasts with Andy Gardiner and Rory McIlroy, the PGL is attempting to partner with the PGA Tour instead of compete against them. A letter detailing the plan has been making the rounds lately. More from Bob Harig and Alan Shipnuck.