Scotty Scheffler kicked off a stellar two-month run with his biggest feat, winning the Masters on Sunday to validate his new status as the best player in golf.
The only stumbling block came in the end when Schaeffler needed four puts from 40 feet before claiming his first Major, and that only mattered in the record books.
He closed with a 1-under 71 for a three-shot victory over Rory McIlroy, who crashed out of the bunker on the final hole for a record-tying final round of 64, which gave him the shortest moment of hope that Sunday’s The pressure could be getting to National Scheffler in Augusta.
No chance. Not on Sunday. Not the last four days. Not the last two months.
And to think it was just 56 days ago when Schaeffler was still on the hunt for his first PGA Tour win. The 25-year-old from Dallas, built to stardom when he was 10 years old wearing long pants to look the part of a pro, now has four wins in his last six tournaments.
There was no greater reward than that green jacket.
Sunday theatre, thriller and tragic, belonged to everyone else. Scheffler overcame a nervous moment early in the round by chipping in for a birdie. He delivered crucial putts to keep Cameron Smith away and never looked troubled, even though he was swinging at the short put at the end.
McIlroy was the runner-up. It was Smith who felt he let someone get away. The Aussie was still in the game, three shots off the lead, when he dumped his tee shot into Rae’s Creek on the par-3 12th hole for a triple bogey and ended his hopes.
Smith closed with 73 and finished third with Shane Lowry, who birdied 18th for 69.
Schaeffler joined Ian Woosnam in 1991, a major in his debut at world No. 1 – the only player to win the Masters in both cases.
Everyone should have seen it coming. He won the Phoenix Open in a playoff on Super Bowl Sunday. He then returned to Bay Hill to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He rose to No. 1 in the world by winning match play in Texas two weeks ago.
And now this.
Schaeffler, who finished 10-under 278, won $2.7 million from a $15 million prize fund. This brings his total to $8,872,200 in his last six starts.
Scheffler’s big moment came early in the round, and it was no less important.
Beginning the final round with a three-shot lead, he saw Smith out into the open with two straight birdies and cut the deficit to one, and then Scheffler’s approach from the pine needles to the left of the third fairway came short and downhill. rolled back.
Her pitch was racing toward the hole when she hit the pin and dropped for an unlikely birdie, and a two-shot swing when Smith bogeyed from the same position.
No one came close to three on the rest of the way. Only the claimants changed.
The 12th hole remains the most exciting Par 3 in golf, more of a collapse scene than a return. Smith became the latest victim.
Descending the birdie at number 11, his shot was still in the air as he let his club slip out of his hands and slowly closed his eyes twice as Ray splashed down the creek. The next shot wasn’t much better, but was at least dry, and Smith’s hopes ended with a triple bogey.
He was three behind standing on the 12th tee. Three holes later, he was back eight.
From there, any hope McIlroy stayed with. All she had to do to complete the Career Grand Slam was a best final round match in Masters history and some help from Schaeffler. He got only one of them and had to be content with his first silver medal from Augusta.
Not that he didn’t create some Sunday magic. McIlroy went bunker-to-bunker on the 18th hole, left himself on the right side of the green and aimed about 25 feet to the right of the flag. It rolled down the slope across the hole, causing the loudest roar of the week.
Morikawa followed him from the same bunker, from different angles, and McIlroy could only laugh.
“This tournament never ceases to amaze,” McIlroy said. “It’s as happy as I’ve ever been on the golf course. Just got a chance — and then with Colin, we both played so well all day — and for both of us to end up like this, I just Was happy for him too. “I’ve never heard the roar of the 18th green.”
The best people were saved for Scheffler.
Schaeffler still has five holes in front of him, without any evidence he was going to be anything but the smooth, smart operator who took control in the toughest of conditions to take a five-shot lead on Friday and never made it Lost.