By Carl Markham, PA
Scottie Scheffler is enjoying the almost-weekly battle to be world number one with Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy even if he still trails the pair in terms of career victories.
The 26-year-old made his major breakthrough at last year’s Masters, one of four wins in a two-month hot streak, and added a fifth title with victory at February’s WM Phoenix Open.
However, Rahm’s three successes already this season have restored him as world number one, with McIlroy maintaining the pressure on them as world number three.
Thursday’s lineup for @THEPLAYERSChamp:
7:56 AM ET: Rahm/Scheffler/McIlroy
7:34 AM ET: Finau/Cantlay/Kim
7:45 AM ET: Morikawa/Fowler/Scott pic.twitter.com/9BP3V0iYmc
— PGA TOUR LIVE (@PGATOURLIVE) March 7, 2023
All three will play together in a marquee group for the first two rounds of the Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s flagship event.
A win for either Scheffler or McIlroy would return them the top of the rankings, with the former needing at least a top-five finish and the Northern Irishman a top-eight spot.
“I think it’s fun having three guys kind of jostling for the world number one and I’m very pleased to be one of ’em,” said the American.
“Rory and Jon are both such talented players that any time I can be spoken in the same breath as those guys it’s special for me, especially growing up watching a guy like Rory play golf for a long time.
“Both Jon and Rory have won many many golf tournaments out here. I think if you added up all our wins together mine would be a pretty small percentage of that win total.
15 worldwide wins between this week’s marquee group …
… in the last 13 months 💪
“Rory, Jon and Scottie are kind of in a league of their own at times.”https://t.co/EsUDIAMnsI
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 6, 2023
“So hopefully we’ll continue to play good and be able to compete for a long time out here.”
Asked about all three being grouped together, Scheffler added: “The way I’m approaching it is I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“I’m just looking forward to going out there and watching them play and having a good time out there and competing together.
“You look forward to being there at the end with another guy that’s at the top of his game and you look forward to beating the best players in the world.”
Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa feels he has unfinished business at Sawgrass after three disappointing visits so far.
The 26-year-old maintains he felt he was ready to win on his debut in 2020 only for the tournament to be cancelled due to Covid with him four under after the first round.
A final-round 66 was the highlight of his return the following year, while 12 months ago he missed the cut by two shots having failed to break 73 in either of his rounds.
“I really thought I was going to win the Covid year one and then Covid happened. To be honest, my game has only felt good coming into this tournament in 2020,” he said.
“If I already compare 2023 to 2022, I think I’ve done a lot more and I’ve actually been able to contend, and that’s been the biggest thing.
“The couple of missed cuts were weird as the game still felt really good but we’ve done a lot of good work in the past few days so I’m excited to be back.”