The Break: Great Scottie
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The Break: Great Scottie

A photo of golfer Scottie Scheffler AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 27: Scottie Scheffler of the United States plays his shot from the first tee in his finals match against Kevin Kisner of the United States on the final day of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 27, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Welcome to The Break, my twice-weekly newsletter where I look at the biggest stories in the game of golf, link out to some of our work here at Golf News Net and get ready for the week ahead.

Scary Good

There aren't many people in the world who can beat Scottie Scheffler when he played like he did this past week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. No more than five. And it's a beautiful sight to behold.

The capper came on Sunday, when just four players broke 70 at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. Scheffler went the lowest of the lot, shooting a 6-under 66 that led him to a runaway, five-shot win over Wyndham Clark on 15-under 273. For the week, Scheffler was first in strokes gained off the tee and around the green, 12th in strokes gained on the approach and fifth -- yes, fifth -- in strokes gained putting. On the relatively rare occasion that Scheffler putts like he did, blowouts happen.

Shane Lowry, who finished solo third after having a chance to win for the second week running, put it clearly: "There's probably only a couple of players in the world that can live with him playing like that. Not sure I'm one of them."

Now Scheffler returns to TPC Sawgrass to defend the title he also won by five shots a year ago, looking to become the first player in the 50-year history of The Players Championship to defend that title. With many of the PGA Tour's best struggling with some facet of their game, Scheffler found strength in his biggest weakness at perhaps the perfect time -- right before the PGA Tour's biggest event and with a month to go until the Masters.

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Less is Less

The tumult in golf between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf continues, but the more intriguing conflict seems to be the internal one among PGA Tour players about the continued shaping of that tour's future.

Many fans and PGA Tour players were critical this week of another Signature event with 70 or fewer players, including sponsor exemptions that seem to fly in the face of an elite field (even though sponsor exemption Shane Lowry finished third last week). However, an increasing number of PGA Tour players are being publicly vocal that they want fewer players on the circuit. Rory McIlroy said he wanted a tour that was more "cutthroat," while Wyndham Clark suggested perhaps just 100 exempt players on Tour (despite being out of the top 100 himself not too long ago).

"I mean, I think it would be amazing if our Tour was a hundred guys," said Clark. "I kind of said this a few times, a hundred guys and we have 20 guys that get relegated every time, every year, doesn't matter who you are.

"It would be exciting. Because you come down to the end of the year, people are looking who is going to win the FedEx Cup, and then you're looking at who is not going to be here next year. So, yeah, I'm probably with Rory on that. I don't know what that number is, but I think it's just nice to elevate the product and make it to where the best players are playing on TV more often and against each other."

While I don't disagree that there are probably too many exempt players on the PGA Tour, I don't think that needs to be paired with drastically smaller fields. I personally would love to see that mainstay 125-player exemption level cut down to a 100, or even a 70, to coincide with the players who make the FedEx Cup playoffs -- plus major winners from the last five years and tournament winners from the last two years. However, having fewer exempt players can still mean fields of 120, 132 and 144 players, with a more fluid structure.

The PGA Tour's exemption criteria have been far too supportive of underperforming players for too long, and it comes at the expense of getting up-and-comers from the Korn Ferry Tour, DP World Tour and PGA Tour University into more events. Alternate lists could be more responsive to current form than season-long or career status. There can be more turnover in a way that is exciting for fans and still offers the meritocracy that golf fans love. Bring them to the Signature events, too, and guarantee fields of 90 players to make the weekend cut make sense and let more players have a taste of huge purses.

In the Loop

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is a scratch golfer...sometimes.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

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