Monday Leaderboard: Death-defying shots and heartbreaking near-miss putts

Scottie Scheffler won the weekend, but Max Homa nearly crushed a dude's skull and Wyndham Clark suffered the unlucky break of the year.

(Bruno Rouby / Yahoo Sports)
(Bruno Rouby / Yahoo Sports)

Welcome to the Monday Leaderboard, where we run down the weekend’s top stories in the wonderful world of golf. Grab an Arnold Palmer, pull up a chair and watch out for errant Max Homa shots …

1. Scottie Scheffler wins in golf’s finest hour

All the golf world needs is a few more Sundays like we just had at The Players Championship, and all will be right with the world. At the top of the leaderboard, you had the defending British Open champion, the defending U.S. Open champion and the defending Olympic gold medalist … and they all got caught and passed by the defending Players champion, world No. 1 and general unstoppable force Scottie Scheffler.

From deep in the field, Scheffler crafted a magnificent 64 on Sunday to finish at -20, just ahead of Brian Harman, Wyndham Clark and Xander Schauffele. All three of the challengers stood on the tee at No. 18 with a chance to force a playoff against Scheffler, and all three fell short … most notably, poor Clark. (See No. 5 below for more.)

The final holes of The Players were, without question, the finest hour of golf so far in 2024 — dramatic, tense, thrilling, and all broadcast wall-to-wall. This was exactly what the PGA Tour needed, and exactly what fans want to see: (most of) the best players unleashing the best golf on the best courses.

Oh, and we’re getting closer to Scheffler-vs.-the-field territory at the Masters, too.

2. Movement in Saudi/PGA Tour deal at last?

The only element missing from Sunday’s Players triumph? The best-in-class LIV contingent of Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Cam Smith and others. That’s not happening in the immediate future, but there are signs that an agreement could be on the horizon. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, in an otherwise news-free media conference Thursday, indicated that meetings with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the financial backers of LIV, are continuing.

Combine that with reports that many of the Tour’s player representatives have been invited to meet with Saudi leadership this week, and we could be looking at … something. Maybe not the end of the schism, but the beginning of the end? It likely will still be years before the expatriate LIV players rejoin the PGA Tour, but that appears to be the endgame of all parties involved here. The Players was a reminder that on-course drama beats off-course drama seven days a week, and twice on Sundays.

3. Max Homa’s death-defying shot

If you’ve ever watched a player fire a shot out of the rough with fans all along their route and held your breath, you might want to steel yourself before you watch this particular video:

Turn the sound up, and you’ll hear a distinctive thok! as the ball hits something very hard. Fortunately for the fan filming, this was the tree above him, not his skull.

“I asked them to back up … I should have probably asked them to move more,” Homa said later. “Glad I did not hit anybody. It was scary.”

4. Rory McIlroy and the Case of the Vanishing Ball

There’s something ridiculous and beautiful about the Rules of Golf, the way that every so often honor, pride and common sense all collide in a glorious mess. We had just such a moment Thursday, when Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland took issue with the way Rory McIlroy placed not one, but two shots that ended up in the water at TPC Sawgrass.

In most cases, players drop the ball where it crossed from the land over to the water. But that requires figuring out exactly where a curving ball traveling well in excess of 100 mph, some 50 or 60 feet in the air and hundreds of yards away passed a specific geographic point. It’s ridiculous on its face — imagine asking Patrick Mahomes to weigh in on a possible holding call 60 yards downfield — but it also leads to scenes like we had Thursday, when McIlroy, Spieth and Hovland were all ever-so-politely squabbling with one another.

Tip of the ol’ golf visor to the PGA Tour, as well, for putting the entire scene online; just a few years ago, the Tour would have memory-holed this in the interest of “protecting the brand.” But fans want to see exactly this kind of up-close player discussion, and this moment delivered.

5. Wyndham Clark’s cruelest putt

In the waning minutes of Sunday’s Players Championship, only Wyndham Clark stood between Scottie Scheffler and a second straight title. To force a playoff, Clark needed to make birdie on 18. He faced a 17-foot putt — tricky, but makeable — and rolled what he thought was a true line. The ball dipped into the cup … and then just as quickly, jumped right back out again:

Come on. That’s an absolute heartbreaker. Clark has quietly gone from "who's that guy?" to "almost the best in the world" in just a few short months, and his story gets better by the week.

The Mulligan: Don’t Make Rickie Angry

Rickie Fowler is almost universally acknowledged as one of the nicest guys on Tour. So you’ve really got to work to make him mad … like, by not silencing your phone while he’s swinging, even after you’ve been asked. Sound up:

Now, there will be those who scoff at players’ demands for silence, citing — for instance — the fact that batters in baseball don’t demand silence, and unlike a golf ball, a baseball is moving at the batter at more than 100 mph. But then again, batters aren’t trying to put the ball into the 10th seat of the third row of Section 147 in left-center field. There’s an element of precision involved in golf. Plus, making noise when everyone around you is silent is just kind of a jerk move … and, as was apparently the case here, a quick way to get yourself thrown out of a tournament.

Swing away and roll 'em true this week, friends, and we’ll see you back here next Monday!