PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Min Woo Lee was tied for the lead three holes into the final round of The Players Championship and relishing in the role of underdog against Scottie Scheffler.
One hole later, he was three shots behind. At one point, he fell 10 behind. Lee wound up with a 76 while playing in the final group, though he was able to take away more consolation than just the $736,607 prize for tying for sixth.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Lee said. “That’s for sure.”
The 24-year-old Lee effectively threw away his chances with a triple bogey on the fourth hole when he chipped out of rough safely to the fairway, only for his wedge to spin off the green into the water.
On the par-5 11th hole, his shot out of the trees clipped a branch, and his next shot didn’t make it out of the pine straw. Once he got back to green grass, he couldn’t reach the green, leading to double bogey.
“It’s one of those things where it’s Sunday and you just make a couple bad decisions and it all kind of falls down,” Lee said. “But I hung in there pretty well. I didn’t have it all today. It’s funny how yesterday I felt like I had the best swing in the world, and then today I just felt like nothing could go right.”
But the engaging Australian showed fight, particularly with a birdie on the 16th and a shot to 4 feet for birdie on the island-green 17th.
Lee at least made progress toward getting special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, which would allow him unlimited exemptions.
He could have booked his spot in the Masters with a better result, but he’s at least on the inside of the top 50 in the world. Augusta National takes the top 50 in two weeks after the WGC-Dell Match Play. Lee now is at No. 45.
This year marked the fourth time three aces were recorded during the week at The Players Championship.
What stood out was that all three came on the most famous par 3 on the Players Stadium Course — the island-green 17th.
Hayden Buckley made a hole-in-one on Thursday and Chad Ramey made one on Saturday, both times when the pin was at the front and shots rolled down toward the hole.
The latest was Alex Smalley on Sunday, when the pin was cut all the way to the right about 10 feet away from the wooden frame of the green. It landed on the fringe, took a hard hop and went straight into the hole.
“I made a mess of 16. Hit a wedge over the green in the water, and then hit one too many more putts than I wanted to,” Smalley said. “I figured I might as well just go right at it.”
The only other year three aces were recorded on the same hole during The Players Championship was in 2006, when Justin Leonard, Jesper Parnevik and Henrik Stenson each had a hole-in-one on No. 13.
Tyrrell Hatton of England almost takes pride in his lack of anger management, which can border on entertaining as long as he’s not disrupting those in his group.
So where did that big smile come from on Sunday?
Hatton wasn’t happy coming off a bogey on the par-5 ninth, to be sure. But he proceeded to birdie the 10th. And the 12th. And then starting on the rough 14th, he birdied his final five holes for a 65 that landed him in second place.
Hatton’s 29 was the first for the back nine on a Sunday at the TPC Sawgrass.
“Sound horrible to say something positive, I guess, but it’s one of my favorite golf courses,” Hatton said. “There’s a a couple of tee shots that I probably struggle with more than other lads that have a more natural right-to-left of the ball. But I think it’s such a pretty golf course, visually on the eye.”
Of course, there’s an exception. He doesn’t like the par-3 eighth.
“We don’t need 235-yard par 3s; that kind of ruins it a bit,” Hatton said. “I’ve got to say something negative, obviously. But yeah, I do like the golf course.”
AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.