Players 2022: Eye-popping stats show the luck of the draw in morning vs. afternoon pairings

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH—Saturday’s blustery conditions at TPC Sawgrass conjured comparisons to the Open Championship, comparisons that, to be frank, were somewhat lazy. The Open is a tournament played on the ground, the Players a contest very much played in the sky. There is one correlation, however, that does hold up between these two championships, and that is the luck of the draw.

For all its beauty, the Open’s leaderboard—at least through the first two days—is predicated off providence from the weather. One wave usually plays in relatively mild conditions, the other receives the hammer from Mother Nature. The dynamic makes the competition a game of skill and a game of chance. As the second round of this weather-wrecked Players concluded Sunday, it’s clear the same dynamic is in play at the 2022 Players.

The scoring average of those in Round 2’s morning wave—meaning those who played almost the entirety of their round in Saturday’s butt-kicking wind—was an eye-popping 75.34. Conversely, those in the afternoon wave who played just a handful of holes Saturday and the majority of their rounds Sunday boasted a collective average of 73.63.

A 1.71 stroke difference across waves may not seem dramatic, yet a look at the leaderboard underlines the expanse between the two waves. Every player in the top 10 teed off in the afternoon wave in Round 2. The only morning players in the top 16 are Doug Ghim (T-11 at -4) and Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas (both T-16 at -3). Watson and Thomas played the entirety of their second rounds on Saturday, with Ghim putting the finishing touches on his early Sunday.

Digging into the numbers, the difference on the front side wasn’t overly substantial, the morning wave +.84 on the first nine versus +.67 by the afternoon squad. The beast was found on the back. The morning wave was +2.50 on the second nine, the afternoon wave +.96. The biggest disparity was found on the 18th, which played a full stroke over par for the morning wave but just +.5 over par for the afternoon wave. Other notables included the 17th (+.6 in the morning, +.4 in the afternoon—the latter number receiving a bump thanks to Scott Piercy’s triple in the final group) and the 15th (+.5 versus +.2).

It’s at this juncture we should reiterate what nearly every player in the morning group has conveyed: there is a lot of golf left to be played. Still, with a congested leader board near the top, it’s clear most of Round 2’s morning wave has been squeezed from the proceedings, their only hope not to suffer the same fate when competing for the claret jug this summer.

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