Another week and another change at the top of the world rankings with Scottie Scheffler trading places with Jon Rahm, just as they have done all year.

With Rahm retiring early from the Players Championship because of a stomach bug, the way was clear for his American rival to capitalise. And Scheffler proved the class of the field.

The right man won. The Stadium Course at Sawgrass identified the best player on show and that should always bring a sense of satisfaction to any tournament.

But this one feels different. Despite the brilliance of the winner, we were left questioning – perhaps more than ever before – the elevated status of the Players Championship.

“This tournament feels like a major championship to me,” Scheffler stated after trouncing the field by five convincing strokes to land the record $4.5m (£3.7m) first prize from a $25m pot.

And for much of the week my BBC Radio 5 Live and World Service colleagues repeatedly said we were crossing to golf’s “unofficial fifth major” while introducing my reports.

But I have to admit this made me feel rather uneasy because last week’s PGA Tour event felt less like a major than at any time in the two decades I have been covering the championship.

We know the Players has been won by a wide range of players and that it has created unlikely champions. But more often than not its leaderboards have been a “who’s who” of the game.

Too often last week it was more of a “who’s he?”

And this is not intended to demean the fine players who were prominent for much of last week.

But Cam Davis, Tom Hoge, Justin Suh, David Lingmerth, Min Woo Lee, Adam Svensson, Denny McCarthy, Brandon Wu and Aaron Rai are not names we would expect to be so prominent and in such numbers at this prestigious event.

Yes, class told in the end. But with Rahm’s early exit and Rory McIlroy’s missed cut, there was a distinct lack of star quality.

And it is hard not to conclude that this illustrated the damaging nature of the current split in men’s professional golf.

The effects of the breakaway LIV Golf League and the PGA Tour’s indefinite suspension of those players who moved to the Saudi Arabia-funded set-up could not be ignored at the established tour’s flagship event.

“In previous years the tournament would go out of its way to assemble its strongest possible field,” said one seasoned observer. “Those days are gone now.”

While England’s Tyrrell Hatton made his remarkable back-nine run to set the clubhouse lead and the likes of Viktor Hovland, Hideki Matsuyama and Max Homa enjoyed final-day rallies, how much better could the spectacle have been?

What if we had a defending champion in Cameron Smith or a Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka or Sergio Garcia to sprinkle some stardust to proceedings?

This is not to argue with the tour’s stance. They are doing what they feel they have to do to protect their interests by banning players who have gone to seek riches elsewhere.

But there are consequences for fans and television audiences and they were felt last week at the Players.

Scheffler was on the leaderboard all week, but for most of it the Masters champion was the only major winner in sight.

Heading into the final round, Justin Rose – the US Open winner a decade ago – was in 11th place and the only rival with experience of lifting one of the big four titles.

“I get excited for a good hard test,” said Scheffler. But he was talking more about the demands of the course rather than the opposition around him.

“I had five bogeys for the whole week. Around this place that’s really, really hard to do and that’s probably what I’m most proud of, is just playing so solid.

“I just like the challenge of harder golf courses.”

With this win and his recent defence of the WM Phoenix Open, Scheffler is in prime form for his tilt at retaining the Masters Green Jacket next month.

Before then he seeks to defend the WGC Matchplay title he secured in Austin, Texas last year. His spectacular spell in 2022 came against the strongest possible opposition – sadly we cannot say the same 12 months on.

But when Scheffler gets to Augusta the eligible LIV players will be there to bolster the field. There is no doubt, the Masters will have an enhanced major feel to it.

Then again, we have to question whether LIV’s diet of 54-hole, no-cut shotgun starts and guaranteed money will provide stern enough preparation for the major tournaments.

Might the so called “rebels” have lost a vital edge?

LIV play in Tucson, starting on Friday, and in Orlando the week prior to Augusta. But their players could be at a disadvantage compared to those who have been grinding over four rounds and battling cuts.

Whatever, the Masters will be a welcome gathering of golf’s biggest names, especially after last week in Florida where there was uncomfortable evidence of the damage being done in a fractured sport.