Scotty Scheffler back at No. 1 with Players Championship win

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. – Scotty Scheffler was fearless on a TPC sawgrass course that can fray nerves on every hole. The wind was picking up, the targets looked small, and he just wanted to make sure his lead at The Players Championship was large.

“You can’t limp on this golf course,” he said. “You have to hit the shots.”

He produced every single performance that Sunday, cementing his reputation as the best player at his best while playing the best in the world.

Scheffler carded five straight birdies in the middle of his round, built a 6-shot lead and swept away all other plays on his way to a 3-under 69 to win the richest prize on the PGA Tour by 5 shots.

As a half-dozen players tried to make a game of it, Scheffler took on the challenging Players Stadium course as if he were playing it alone.

And that’s how he made it.

“Just looks like he’s calm, just doing his business, not really worrying about what everyone else is doing and churning out birdies,” said Cam Davis.

The win was worth $4.5 million and propelled Scheffler back to world No. 1 for the second time this year. He now has six wins in his last 27 starts on the PGA Tour, including the four he won last year to end his Masters title.

When he holed a 20-foot par putt on the final hole, Scheffler had the largest winning margin among the Players since Stephen Ames won by 6 in 2006.

“I got hot in the middle of the round and tried to get things out of the way as quickly as possible,” Scheffler said.

He was leading by 5 and standing on the 16th green when he looked across the lake and saw Davis hit his tee shot on the island green at the par-3 17th and then Tommy Fleetwood came up short.

That was the goal. Build up a big enough lead so that even if he joins dozens of players who go overboard on Sunday, at least it doesn’t cost him. Like everything else for Scheffler on this day, it was not a problem. He hit a perfect shot to 10 feet, parried and the rest was easy.

And then the celebration got underway with his wife, parents, sister and 87-year-old grandmother, who kept pace with him throughout the day.

This is something that the strongest field of the year could not do.

Tyrell Hatton birdied his last five holes for a 65 as Scheffler was making the turn. Victor Hovland (68) and Tom Hogg (70) were 7 shots back in a tie for third, each earning about $1.5 million from the $25 million purse.

Scheffler, who finished at 17-under 271, became only the third player to win at TPC Sawgrass with all four rounds in the 60s.

Australia’s Min Woo Lee, making his Players Championship debut, was briefly tied for the lead but finished with a 76.

Lee made more than one mistake, not that it would have changed anything with the way Scheffler lit up TPC Sawgrass. One of those came on the par-4 fourth, when Lee was tied for the lead. He got out of the rough and hit his third shot back into the water, leading to a triple bogey.

By the time he recovered, Scheffler was on the run.

It started when Scheffler chipped the collar of a bunker on the par-3 eighth, and he closed the front nine with an aggressive play on the par-5 ninth that set up a chip-and-putt birdie.

Hatton teed off two hours ahead of Scheffler, and he capped off his closing run of five straight birdies as Scheffler went down the back nine. Hatton, the first player to shoot a 29 on the back nine on Sunday at Sawgrass, posted a 12-under 276.

The wind was gusting close to 30 mph, which only added to the trouble on this route. Scheffler remained aggressive, however, with an 18-foot birdie at the 10th, two-putting from 70 feet on the par-5 11th and a 3-wood to pin the reachable par-4 12th on the right side of the green. . , He made his fifth consecutive birdie and took a 6-shot lead.

For the last two hours, it was a money grab for everyone else – and some wasted cash for those who fell victim to the wind and water and the brutal Players Stadium course.

Hatton, who began the final round 9 shots behind, completed his five straight birdies with a 4-iron from pine straw and to 20 feet around the trees.

He won $2,725,000 — $1 million more than his Bay Hill win in 2020.

Hideki Matsuyama was within 1 shot – this was before Scheffler went on a birdie run – only to take double bogey at the 14th, fail to birdie the par-5 16th and bogey the 18th. He was 7 under for the round through 13 holes and had to settle for a 68.

The biggest slump came from PGA Tour rookie Taylor Montgomery, who was tied for fourth until a bogey at the 15th, a double bogey at No. 16 (without hitting the water) and two balls in the water at the 17th – a perfect shot and a chip — 7 for a quintuple-bogey.

He dropped 40 places on the leaderboard, and was ranked No. 55 in the world, which prevented him from breaking into the top 50 in the rankings and potentially securing a spot at the Masters.

After all, it was a one-man show.

Scheffler won for the sixth time in 13 months, all against some of golf’s strongest courses. Commissioner Jay Monahan presented him as the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2022 and now the Players Champion in 2023.

Jordan Spieth said, “He’s in a good position to be able to keep it going for a while.”

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