Was the wind strong at the Players Championship?

Is ice cold?

One of the season’s spotlighted tournaments had a biblical extended weekend. First, waves of rain pounded the TPC Sawgrass course. Then the water moved out, only to be followed by a mixture of strong and swirling winds, the like of which is rarely seen on the PGA Tour. When the worst of the winds went away, an unusual chill for Florida rolled in.

You almost expected the Weather Channel to set up a remote studio in the middle of the 18th fairway.

In the end, as the tournament finished a day late on Monday, Australian Cameron Smith was the ultimate survivor. He had a splendid final round, scoring birdies on the first four holes on the front nine and repeating that run on the first four of the back. Three bogeys brought him back to the field, but he held on for a 66 and edged India’s Anirban Lahiri by one shot.

Smith’s reward? The biggest winner’s check — $3.6 million – in PGA Tour history.

That can cover a lot of dry cleaning.

The weather turned play at the course’s famous par-three 17th hole into a rollicking comedy. Shot after shot, on a hole that generally is a punch wedge for the pros, sailed into the water surrounding the green. Players who tried to outthink the wind by hitting the ball long were fooled when the gale suddenly stopped, opening the door for shots to sail over the green.

More than one player described the conditions as insane.

The conditions ripped into the tournament schedule and forced a Monday finish. Most of the final day was played in sunny conditions – a relief for players who had endured a range of weather challenges, but, as a raft of contenders hammered in birdies at key moments a last sheet of rain arrived.

It was hard to be surprised by that. At that point, not even sleet or snow would have been labeled unusual.

There was quite a bit of movement on the leaderboard over the closing two hours. Players moved into the top eight, and then they moved out. 

Smith, his long hair flowing in the wind, finally had the answers and scored the biggest win of his career.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.