On Moving Day at the Players, the locker room shows who's moving up — or shipping out

Features

By Michael Bamberger

March 17, 2019

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — As a phrase of golf, to refer to Saturday as moving day is so hoary and shopworn that even the B-team network broadcasters won’t use it anymore. Well, tell that to Ollie Schniederjans and Brandt Snedeker, both of shot Moving Day 65s.

Each went from three under to 10 under. Each was one lousy Moving Day scorecard away from packing up and heading out. Now they’re playing on Sunday for a massive payday, Presidents Cup points and, painful though it is to type, FedEx Cup points.

Golf’s a funny game, while we’re at it. Kevin Na picked that ball out of the cup at 17 within a nanosecond of its disappearance and then Tiger Woods, having fun, did the same thing. Each golfer enjoyed 2 there. One day earlier, on the most famous par-3 on Tour, Woods signed for 7.

“Azinger called it a ‘revenge swing,’” a reporter said to Woods 15 minutes later, in a mellow confab. Tiger frenzy may come back in April but it’s in hibernation right now. “I know golf holes don’t have feelings, but—”

“No, they don’t,” Woods said. He was smiling, relaxed, out of this tournament but not out of golf. “No they don’t.” It was kind of funny, the way he said it twice, like grandpa doubling down on the moral of the story.

Fifteen minutes after that, Na was in the locker room here. It’s carpeted and quiet, with high ceilings, and it feels almost like an ancient college library. Maybe that’s what the designers were going for. You can’t hardly find a TV in the place, although there is a cash machine. Na was with his caddie, Kenny Harms, and together they wrestled Na’s giant Tour bag into a snug travel bag. His third-round 78 meant he wouldn’t make the 54-hole cut. He was packing up and heading out. Next week at Tampa, he gets to do the whole thing again.

Sneds (shown on his bag) and Schnidrjs (shown on some electronic scoreboards) share a row in the locker room here. You’d think Adam Scott and Webb Simpson would be in that row, too, but they’re in a private space, through two swinging doors, reserved for the formers champions of this august event, the richest in all of professional golf.

There was a weak joke that the winner could come out of their row, but the chances of that are slim and none, and you can ask Dan Rather where slim is, right about now. Nope, this tournament is going to be won by somebody who speaks English with an elegant accent: Jon Rahm (born and raised in Spain); Tommy Fleetwood (England); Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland); Jason Day (Australia); Abraham Ancer (Mexico).

Snedeker was wearing his hat backwards, to get him in the mood. He was heading to the gym and he wears a backwards cap while working out, to keep the perspiration out of his eyes. Schniederjans was marking his Sunday golf balls and remembering a top-5 finish he had in a college event here, not so long ago. He’s only 25. Next week marks his four-year anniversary as a touring professional, as he returns to the Tampa event, the Valspar, where he was cut after two rounds in 2015 in his first event with the promise of a payday.

Jason Dufner was moving out. He missed the 54-hole cut. He had his golf bag, a carry bag, on his shoulder, and next week’s shirts and pants on hangers and wrapped in the thin and clingy plastic that only a drycleaner could love. The Sawgrass Marriott to the Innisbrook Resort, where the Valspar is played, is a 200-mile drive, and you can take State Road 207 straight there, through cattle ranches and horse farms and orange groves. The Florida you don’t always see on TV.

So Dufner moves on, after a Saturday 74. Rahm moves up, after a Saturday 64. Woods moves nowhere in particular, after a Saturday 72.

What a difference a day makes. After his Friday 71, with the quadruple, he looked beat-up, and when he walked through the locker room it was slowly, with blinders on, his right leg struggling slightly to keep up with his left. But Saturday he was moving well, making jokes, answering questions. He was hanging, really. Didn’t look to be in any rush to go anywhere. Moving day is just a phrase, you know. That’s all.