Who's winning The Players? We pare 144 players to one

Who's winning The Players? We pare 144 players to one

One hundred and forty four players will begin the week at TPC Sawgrass, each one of them vying for The Players Championship title.

But only one person can win. Who will that be? Your guess is as good as ours, but looking back on past data, we can try to eliminate some names.

And if we keep going, process of elimination will eventually leave us with just a single potential winner.

Who is that? Follow along below to find out:

No player has ever won back-to-back titles:

Sorry, Scottie Scheffler.

Besides Fred Funk, who won in 2005 at age 48, no winner has been older than 41 years old:

Sorry, Steve Stricker, Camilo Villegas, Matt Kuchar, Chez Reavie, Kevin Streelman, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Lucas Glover.

Each of the past eight champions, and 14 of the last 16, have teed off early-late in the first two rounds:

Sorry, half the field, including Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa, Matt Fitzpatrick, Will Zalatoris and Wyndham Clark. Scheffler also is late-early.

Just two players have won in their first appearance, and none since Craig Perks in 2002:

Sorry, Ludvig Åberg, Ben Kohles, Vincent Norrman, Ben Silverman, Carl Yuan, Ryo Hisatsune, Ben Taylor and Carson Young.

Just two players have made The Players their first career PGA Tour win, most recently Tim Clark in 2010:

Sorry, Zac Blair, Taylor Pendrith, Taylor Montgomery, Brandon Wu, Aaron Rai, Thomas Detry, Joseph Bramlett, Cristiaan Bezuidenhout, Min Woo Lee, Adam Schenk, Ryan Fox, David Lipsky, Justin Lower, Tyson Alexander, Justin Suh, Greyson Sigg, Robert MacIntyre and Robby Shelton.

No players born in England, Canada, Norway, Argentina have won:

Sorry, Aaron Rai, Tommy Fleetwood, Nick Taylor, Adam Hadwin, Viktor Hovland and Emiliano Grillo.

Other than Craig Perks, who won in 2002 as world No. 203, no winner since the OWGR’s inception has been ranked worse than No. 75:

Sorry, Ryan Moore, Chesson Hadley, Troy Merritt, Michael Kim, Joel Dahmen, Chad Ramey, Brice Garnett, Scott Stallings, Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson, K.H. Lee, C.T. Pan, Martin Laird and Nate Lashley.

No past champion has been ranked between Nos. 19 and 33 in the OWGR, either:

Sorry, Sam Burns, Jason Day, Russell Henley, Sepp Straka.

Same goes for Nos. 48-58:

Sorry, Si Woo Kim and Tom Hoge.

Eighteen of the past 19 champions (Tiger Woods in 2013 the only exception) have been first-time Players winners:

Sorry, Rory McIlroy.

Only two champions in the strokes-gained era (circa 2004) entered that week ranked outside the top 100 in strokes gained tee-to-green:

Sorry, Lee Hodges and Brendon Todd.

Only four champions in the strokes-gained era (circa 2004) entered that week ranked outside the top 100 in total strokes gained. Of the remaining winners, just one was ranked worse than No. 36:

Sorry, Alex Noren, Kurt Kitayama, Patrick Cantlay, Taylor Moore, Tom Kim, Sungjae Im and Keegan Bradley.

Six of the past seven champions were No. 11 or better in strokes gained total entering the week:

Sorry, Erik van Rooyen.

That leaves us with two names: Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth. Neither player has made more than half of his cuts at TPC Sawgrass (Schauffele is 2 for 5, Spieth 4 of 9). Both have a top-5 finish in their Players career (Schauffele was T-2 in 2018, Spieth T-4 in 2014). Spieth enters the week fourth in strokes gained: total, while Schauffele is eighth. But with Spieth positive in both strokes gained: tee-to-green and putting, and Schauffele in the negative on the greens (-0.201), we’ll scratch off Schauffele.

That leaves your 2024 Players champion, Jordan Spieth.