Scheffler holds off McIlroy’s 64 to win first major

Two months ago, Scottie Scheffler was a two-time Korn Ferry Tour winner and hovering around the world’s top-20 still looking for his first PGA Tour victory.

But all that changed at the Phoenix Open in February where he claimed what would be the first of three PGA Tour victories leading into this week. And now this morning a three-shot victory over Rory McIlroy has seen him earn the greatest prize of all – a green jacket as the 86th Masters champion.

The 25-year-old stayed rock solid all day moving to a tournament high of 12-under with a six-shot lead by the 15th hole before the pressure finally got too much on the final hole. Four nervous putts from Scheffler and McIlroy’s earlier chip-in birdie from the green side bunker saw the World No.1 finish on 10-under for his first major victory.

“I’m pretty tired right now. We’re going to go home and celebrate a little bit, and honestly, I don’t know. I’m really at a loss for words right now. I’m kind of glad I had a little hiccup there on the last hole. It made me a little less emotional so I can get through this interview,” said Scheffler, whose first four victories sets a record for the shortest winning span in PGA Tour history.

Scott Scheffler Scott Scheffler (Credit: PGA Tour)

“I can’t thank my family enough. My parents and my sisters have made so many sacrifices for me over the years…so to have the honour of winning the golf tournament is so special, and for them all to be here with us, and Meredith’s family was here as well, that was a really special moment.”

Scheffler takes home $2.7 million from the record $15 million prize pool taking his total earnings to US$8,872,200 from his last six starts and breaking the $10 million mark for the season with $10,098,014.

WITB: Scottie Scheffler

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  • Srixon Z U85 (3)
  • Srixon Z U85 (4), TaylorMade P7TW (5-PW)
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Australia’s Cameron Smith suffered another heartbreaking final round at Augusta. Smith began his final round three strokes off the pace and looked solid out of the gate with birdies at his first two holes moving him to within a shot of Scheffler. However it was the third hole that swung back the way of Scheffler with an unlikely birdie against Smith’s bogey separating the pair again by three strokes.

Smith remained in touch with Scheffler until the turn where a bogey at the 10th followed by a horror triple at the 12th and another dropped shot at the 14th put the final nail in the coffin. The Queenslander has now finished T5, T2, T10 and T3 in his last four starts at Augusta.

“I feel like I’ve played some of my best golf around here. It’s quite frustrating, I guess, to not walk away with a win yet, but by the same token, I look forward to the challenge of coming back here next year and trying to do it again,” said Smith, who tied alongside Shane Lowry on 5-under.

The surprise package of the day was Rory McIlroy, who at 1-over heading into the final round looked well out contention. The Northern Irishman had other ideas and pulled off a miracle final round 8-under 64 to claim outright second place and the best Masters finish of his career.

McIlroy’s round matched the lowest final round score in Masters history joining the likes of Greg Norman and Gary Player. It was also McIlroy’s lowest round in a major since the 2010 Open Championship where he shot 63.

“I’m on the right track and doing the right things. It was just nice to feel that buzz in a major championship again. It’s been a while since I felt that, and I think the last time was trying to make the cut at an Open Championship, was the last time I felt a buzz like that in a major. I’m excited going forward, and I think, again, this day will stand to me not just in Masters in the next few years but also just for my career going forward,” said McIlroy.

And how can we forget Tiger Woods, who made a miraculous return from a near-fatal car crash just over a year ago. The 46-year-old, who was celebrating the 25th anniversary of his first Masters win in 1997, began well on Thursday with 1-under 71 before tapering off across the weekend with rounds of 74, 78 and 78 to finish towards the back of the field in outright 47th.

Woods was happy with the result given what he has been through with the injuries sustained to his leg, which came close to being amputated.

“I don’t think people really understand [what I've been through]. The people who are close to me understand. They’ve seen it. Some of the players who are close to me have seen it and have seen some of the pictures and the things that I have had to endure. They appreciate it probably more than anyone else because they know what it takes to do this out here at this level,” said Woods.

“It’s one thing to play with my son at a hit-and-giggle, but it’s another thing to play in a major championship. It’s been a tough road, and one that I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to be able to grind through it. A lot of different things could have happened, but 14 months, I’m able to tee it up and play in the Masters.”

Next best of the Australians behind Smith was Min Woo Lee, who flew under the radar to finish in a nine-way share of 14th place alongside defending Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama, following a final round 2-under 70.

Lee earned his place at Augusta after finishing inside the world’s top-50 at the end of 2021 thanks to his victory at the Scottish Open last July.

Marc Leishman (T30), Cameron Davis (46), Adam Scott (T48) rounded out the Aussies who made the cut with Lucas Herbert the only player to miss the weekend after opening rounds of 74 and 76 left him two short of the mark.

Next up on the schedule is the $8,000,000 RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in South Carolina.