Scottie Scheffler runs away with 2023 Players Championship, returns to world No. 1
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Scottie Scheffler’s game made for Pete Dye’s House of Horrors.
One day after he shot 65 to seize control of the tournament, Scheffler withstood a windswept Sunday and shot 3-under 69 at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass to win the Players Championship by five strokes over Tyrrell Hatton and returned to World No. 1.
“He an artist,” said Scheffler’s longtime instructor Randy Smith, “and when you give him this canvas he wants to paint on it.”
The reigning Masters champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year crafted a masterpiece after a sluggish start in which he didn’t make a birdie in his first seven holes, but once he did the floodgates opened and he reeled off five in a row to blow the tournament wide open.
Australian Min Woo Lee, whose sister Minjee is the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie at the first and a bogey by Scheffler at the third, but it was short-lived. His third shot at the fourth hole spun off the green and into the water and he made triple bogey.
“It happened really quick,” Lee said. “It’s one of those things where it’s Sunday and you just make a couple bad decisions and it all kind of falls down.”
He was hanging around after rolling in a 28-foot birdie putt at the seventh to cut the deficit to two strokes, the same amount he trailed by at the start of the day. The Gold Man trophy was still up for grabs. But then Scheffler chipped in for birdie at the par-3 eighth and low-fived with caddie Ted Scott.
“I knew he was going to chip that in,” Smith said later. “When he gets up on the green, he’s sitting there looking at the break and the landing point and kind of smiling at Ted, there’s a good chance it’s going to go in.”
Scheffler stood in the bunker left of the green but his ball was sitting pretty on the grass and when it disappeared in the hole, he pumped his right fist.
“He’s got great hands,” said Jordan Spieth.
Max Homa compared Scheffler’s short game wizardry to Spieth.
“It looks just kind of homegrown, which I always feel like works pretty well,” Homa said. “Obviously they have great mechanics, but it feels like they do it a different way, which means they typically own it a bit more. So I feel like he just knows what he’s going to do. He has this stabbing spinner. He’s got the really good kind of soft one out of the rough. I feel like he’s just very artistic in that way. I feel like he sees them going into the hole. I’ve played a lot more with Jordan, and you can just kind of see him painting that picture and making them, and they make a lot of them. So that would be my guess. But he’s obviously just really good at pretty much every aspect of golf.”
Players to hold the Masters and Players Championship titles at the same time:
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) March 12, 2023
It was Scheffler’s 11th hole-out of the season on the PGA Tour, which no less than Spieth, one of the game’s foremost wedge-game wizards, declared “pretty darn good,” considering the calendar says it’s only March. A day earlier Scheffler let it be known that his chip-in for eagle at the second hole won him a season-long bet with Scott.
“I think that Teddy made a very bad bet,” Spieth said. “I had it with Michael (Greller) and we’ve had it at 15 or 16 before. So I think Teddy will probably reevaluate considering we’re not even midway through March. So I don’t know if Scottie – it actually might be a good bet because it’s already over and he’ll make a new one and win the press.”
Scott equated the chip-in birdie to an interception in a football game.
“It shifted the momentum,” he said. “It just felt like good things were about to happen.”
Lee missed a 6-foot par putt at eight, made another seven at the par-5 11th and was out of the picture, tumbling to a share of sixth with a final-round 76.
“It’s funny how yesterday I felt like I had the best swing in the world, and then today I just felt like nothing could go right,” Lee said.
As Lee began to sputter so did Hideki Matsuyama (68), who made a final-round charge until a double bogey at 14 and finished fifth. Hatton was the only one to mount a charge and not run into trouble but he ran out of holes, tying the back-nine scoring record of 29 and signing for 65 and a 12-under total. That was good for second and a check for $2.725 million, with Viktor Hovland (68) and Tom Hoge (70) T-3 at 10 under. But just as Hatton climbed within a stroke of the lead, Scheffler went on the offensive and pulled away for good with his birdie binge to win $4.5 million, the richest prize on the Tour.
“I mean, he hits it long, he hits it high, he’s going to be able to play any golf course,” said Hoge, who set the course record on Saturday with a 62. “There’s no weaknesses.”
Scheffler poured in a 20-foot par putt at 18 and pumped his fist as he capped off his sixth win in his 27 starts over the last 13 months.
“You can’t limp in on this golf course,” he said. “You’ve got to hit the shots.”
He posted a 72-total of 17-under 271 and joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to hold both the Masters and Players titles at the same time.
Scheffler’s former college teammate at Texas Kramer Hickok has watched as Scheffler has blossomed into the best golfer on the planet and is none too surprised.
“The best way I can put it is he’s always been so confident,” Hickok said. “I think if you asked him, it’s no surprise that he’s No. 1 in the world.”
Hickock echoed Smith in describing Scheffler’s creativity as one of his super powers.
“Golf courses where he can be creative show off his best attributes because he’s such a great athlete,” Hickok said. “I don’t know if people know this but Scottie’s unbelievable at everything he does. Pickle ball, basketball, he’s a freak athlete that has this mental capability that he can go into a tunnel vision and shoot low numbers.”
And what better place to show his gifts to the world than on the great canvas that is Dye’s TPC Sawgrass.
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