When people look back on the 2024 Players Championship, they’ll probably remember two things: Scottie Scheffler’s brilliant final-round 64 and Wyndham Clark’s brutal birdie lipout on the 72nd hole. But while Clark suffered the most glaring gut punch at TPC Sawgrass, it was Xander Schauffele who arguably had the worst heartbreak on the last day.

Put simply, Schauffele, the 54-hole leader, needed this win more than Clark, an emerging big-game hunter who had already collected a major and two PGA Tour signature event titles in the past 10 months. He needed it more than Brian Harman, who also finished one behind Scheffler, but has a claret jug at home after winning at Royal Liverpool last July. In fact, you could make a case that Schauffele needed this win more than anyone.

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The 2016-2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year has amassed an impressive career with seven PGA Tour wins, but he’s still missing a big one on his résumé. Yes, an Olympic gold medal is nice, and will mean more in future years if golf remains in the Summer Games, but the fact is Schauffele has still yet to win a major – or even a fifth major – after finishing runner-up for a second time at TPC Sawgrass.

Schauffele’s reputation for not winning more despite being around the lead so often led my colleague, Christopher Powers, to tweet this yesterday:

The tweet drew plenty of interest, including mine. Thirteen runners-up seems like a lot, but is it really a lot based on Schauffele’s seven wins? I decided to look into how his “runner-up ratio” stacks up against his peers.

To do this, I looked at career top-two finishes for other top tour pros. Starting with Schauffele, 13 runners-up to seven wins is nearly a 2-to-1 runner-up ratio. In other words, Schauffele has won 35 percent of the time he’s finished in the top two at a PGA Tour event.

My initial reaction was that number seems a bit low and that I’d expect more of a 50-50 split. You win some, you lose some, right? You could certainly argue Schauffele’s Sunday turned out to be a combination of both. He certainly didn’t play poorly – especially given the final-pairing pressure – but he didn’t quite do enough to win. Even with Scheffler going low, Schauffele still had putts to tie his lead on the final three holes, the most painful of which was a missed seven-footer on the 17th after a gutsy tee shot to the tucked hole on the famed island green.

And after looking closer at close calls, that initial reaction seems to be right. Exhibit A is the man who won on Sunday. Funny enough, despite Scheffler’s rise to world No.1, he was still plagued by a “why isn’t he winning more?!” narrative until the past two weeks. Scheffler switched to a mallet putter ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and now has ripped off consecutive wins at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass. Scheffler was struggling to win and now he can’t lose. Things change fast.

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The two-time reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, has racked up an astonishing amount of top fives in the past couple seasons, but he has seven career runners-up to go with eight wins now. That ratio means he’s won 53 percent of his top-two finishes. Which, again, is a number more in line with what I was expecting. But among most of the great players of this era, that number is still a bit low.

Scheffler is right in line with Jon Rahm, who has a very even distribution among his top-three finishes with 11 wins, 10 runners-up and 10 thirds. But another former world No.1, Dustin Johnson, has 16 runners-up to 24 wins, meaning he wins 60 percent of those situations. Or, rather, won since he’s not on the PGA Tour anymore.

Photo: Katelyn Mulcahy

Phil Mickelson, who has a record six runners-up in the US Open alone, had a long enough career to finish on the right side of this ratio with 38 runners-up and 45 wins. That puts his win rate in these situations at 54 percent.

But another LIV defector and major champion, Brooks Koepka, has a surprising runner-up ratio. Considered the game’s current best “closer” by many, Koepka has nine PGA Tour wins and 13 runners-up (winning 41 percent of top-twos), including to Rahm at last year’s Masters. That’s as many as Schauffele and nearly the same ratio. Of course, you’re a lot less likely to see someone pointing out all the close calls of someone with five majors (and counting).

Jordan Spieth is also well under 50 percent with his 13 wins and 18 runners-up (42 percent), but his mate Justin Thomas is well above with 15 wins and six runners-up (71 percent). Combined, however, and the two friends come out at about 54 percent.

So is there a bit of luck involved in this after all? Without a doubt, and a lot of guys should probably shake out more in that 50-percent range. But looking at the larger sample-sized results of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, it’s also clear that certain guys are better at closing, and, well, better in general.

McIlroy has 10 runners-up to go with his 24 career PGA Tour titles. That’s a 71 percent winning clip in those situations. And Tiger’s 31 runners-up to 82 wins puts him at 73 percent.

Photo: Harry How

Back to Schauffele, his best comparison is probably Jim Furyk. They are both great players, but also two guys who also have not capitalised as often as they would have liked – and should have based on their peers – when in contention.

Furyk has an identical 35 percent win rate among his top-two finishes. He just has a lot more of both with 17 wins and 31 runners-up. But he also has one major victory at the 2003 US Open to go along with four runners-up in the game’s five biggest events.

Including Sunday, Schauffele now has the latter with his pair of Players runners-up to go along with T-2s at the 2018 Open Championship and 2019 Masters. The good news for him is that having just turned 30, he also has plenty of time to improve his runner-up ratio. It won’t take much.