Scottie Scheffler on top of golf world after dominant Players Championship win
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Scottie Scheffler was going to win the golf tournament.
No drama remained in this 49th Players Championship. Scheffler, like a surgeon, had drained every ounce of drama out of the final round before he made the turn. The thing was all over but the trophy ceremony and the $4.5 million winner’s check being handed to him.
Yet there Scheffler was standing in the middle of the 18th fairway alongside his caddie Ted Scott holding a five-shot lead and he was still as stone-faced as he’d been all day around TPC Sawgrass.
It wasn’t until Scheffler, who had to punch out from the pine straw to the fairway after an errant drive on the last, hit his third shot onto the 18th green that he exhaled. He took his hat off, crouched over and had some words with Scott, smiling for the first time all day.
“Let’s win this thing by five,’’ Scheffler told Scott.
So, he did.
Scheffler calmly got up-and-down from the fairway for par and finished 17-under par, five shots clear of runner-up Tyrrell Hatton and seven-shots better than Viktor Hovland and Tom Hoge. His 3-under-par 69 bettered his final-round playing partner, Min Woo Lee, by seven shots.
It’s been 392 days since Scheffler broke through for his first PGA Tour victory, at the 2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Sunday marked his sixth win in that dizzying span, last April’s Masters being one of them.
Not only did the win elevate Scheffler back to No. 1 in the world rankings, but he now owns the impressive distinction as only one of three players to hold a Masters green jacket and a Players Championship title at the same time.
The other two?
Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
“He’s had an amazing 15-month stretch of golf,’’ Hatton said. “He’s very impressive, incredibly consistent. [I] played with him last Sunday [at Bay Hill] and it was clear like he didn’t have his best that day, but he still hung around and had a chance there right at the end (Scheffler finished tied for fourth). It’s a pretty tough thing to do to be up there when you don’t have your best golf and still give yourself a chance to win.’’
Scheffler on Sunday made his move on Lee and the rest of the field, separating himself when he chipped in for birdie on No. 8 to move to 14-under par, good for a four-shot lead at the moment.
He has a running bet with Scott for an undisclosed sum of cash on how many chip-ins he’ll have this year. The agreed-upon number was 10. Scheffler’s chip-in on No. 8 on Sunday was his 11th already.
And it’s only March.
“I think he chipped in three times this week and when he got his 11th, he was like, ‘Do I get a bonus for this?’ ’’ Scott said. “I’m like, ‘No, you are. You met your quota.’ ’’
It was a chip-in on the third hole at Augusta last April that propelled Scheffler to win his first career major championship.
“It definitely got me going,’’ Scheffler said. “I played great after that. It definitely kick-started me a little bit. I mean, this chip-in was a little bit easier than the one at Augusta.’’
Jordan Spieth, one of the game’s best short-game wizards, said, “He’s got great hands. He’s got every shot. I think that Teddy made a very bad bet. I think Teddy will probably reevaluate considering we’re not even midway through March.’’
Scheffler, who’s remarkably unaffected by any and all chaos around him, has the perfect disposition to handle what he went through Sunday and to handle the No. 1 ranking. As the decibels rise, he’ll carry on as he always does — unaffected.
“He’s obviously used to being in this position now, he’s done it so many times already,’’ Aussie Cam Davis, who finished tied for sixth, said. “I think he’s just got the attitude for it. It just looks like he’s calm, just doing his business, not really worrying what everyone else is doing and churning out birdies, which is what you need to do out here.
“Obviously, he’s got his system down and figured out and I think the closer everyone else can get to finding theirs and sticking to it regardless of what’s going on the better chance we’ll have of keeping up with him.’’
Perhaps the only thing that was more impressive than what Scheffler did on the golf course Sunday was the fact that his 87-year-old grandmother, Mary DeLorenzo, kept up with him walking the golf course with a walker.
“I mean, it’s pretty impressive she’s walking so many holes out here,’’ Scheffler said. “She’s a trooper. I really don’t know what to say. She’s had a rough last year with Grandpa passing away, and we have an uncle that’s pretty sick. I’m just happy that we’re able to kind of enjoy all this together.’’