AUGUSTA, Ga. – It was understandable that Scottie Scheffler, who entered the men’s golf rankings this year, has been a model of competition, feeling a little nervous in the first hour of Sunday’s final round. Master Championship. At the start of the day, his three-shot advantage over his closest pursuer, Cameron Smith, was reduced to a single shot in the first two holes.
Worse for Scheffler, in the par-4’s third hole, he fired his tee shot into the trees and then failed in the raised green area, pushing the ball back into a dangerous spot below the surface.
Would Smith only need three holes to catch Scheffler? Was the typically quiet Scheffler, with the indifference of his individual, about to wither under pressure?
The focus of this year’s PGA Tour, a circuit dominated by Scheffler since February, may have been able to predict what will happen next. Scheffler took a bold, aggressive line and confidently threw a chip at the birdie. Smith would bogey.
For the next few hours, the 25-year-old Scheffler refused all challenges to get his first major championship, fleeing to win the 2022 Masters three-stroke. His winning streak would have been longer on the 18th green, although it was the last show of some nervousness during the final sequence of the tournament, when Scheffler needed four putts, including three under five feet, to close out the 71st round. Scheffler finished. Under 10 of the tournament’s equivalent, in his third Masters appearance.
Rory McIlroy, who went after 10 strokes from Scheffler in the final round, finished second under eight at 64. Smith and Shane Lowry tied for third with five strokes in the lead.
After speaking to reporters after wearing the green jacket awarded to the Masters winners, Scheffler spoke of feeling calm during the course of the final champ, but said he was “so stressed” on Sunday morning.
“I cried like a baby,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed.” Scheffler added that he told his wife, Meredith, “I don’t think I’m ready for that.”
Scheffler said he could not remember any previous self-doubtful episodes and blamed it on understanding how much it would mean for him to win the Masters. “I felt calm on the golf course,” he said with a laugh. “It’s hard for me to get out of the way. But I did a good job of keeping my concentration on the gameplay. I immediately calmed down when I got to the golf course. ”
For Scheffler, a Texas-born New Jersey native, it was his fourth win of the last six events, an astonishing percentage of victories in a sport with more than 130 player championship pitches.
In February, Scheffler won the Phoenix Open. A few weeks later, Arnold Palmer took first place in the Invitational and, at the end of last month, won a Match Play event at the World Golf Championships. It only took 42 days for the first victory for Scheffler to move up to 1st place.
Despite his recent successes, Scheffler remains unknown to sports fans as he did not win any tour events this year. But last season there were signs that Scheffler was starting to find his pace at the top of men’s competitive golf. In the last three majors of that season, he was tied for eighth place in the British Open, tied for seventh in the U.S. Open and tied for eighth in the PGA Championship.
Scheffler, like Smith, is one of the new generations of young golfers who are often winning tournaments. The top seven golfers in the men’s golf rankings are 30 years old or younger.
McIlroy, who has won all major golf tournaments except the Masters, was not expected to be part of Sunday’s heroic final. He broke in only one of his first three rounds. But with two birdies in his first three holes, McIlroy suddenly found him more comfortable than in the final round of the Masters. He fired a low four in his first nine holes, and then roared to the back nine with a bird in the 10th hole and an eagle in the 13th par-5, which led to a six-pointer – it was just four shots from Scheffler. He was playing several bands behind McIlroy.
McIlroy continued his hot run for three consecutive pairs, but did not capitalize on the par-5 15th hole, which often comes in two shots. Instead, McIlroy settled for the equalizer, scoring on holes 16 and 17 as well.
But McIlroy had an unexpected last bloom. He sent his approach shot to the 18th green area to a bunker to his right, but then threw a splash of sand on the surface of the shot and crossed the ball through the green area and eventually saw it sink into the cup for a bird.
McIlroy, who had little to celebrate at the closing moments of a Masters, threw his wedge into the sand and put both arms over his head.
McIlroy punched his bunker shot and a few minutes later, his playmate Collin Morikawa exploded from the same danger and sank the shot. They both came out of the green area with their arms outstretched.
While McIlroy was climbing, Smith made another run with a bird from Scheffler that kept Scheffler’s lead on three strokes in the 11th hole. Next up was the 12th par-3 pivot and devil, where many tournaments are decided and for decades the tournament leaders have seen their title dreams drowned in a small but dangerous water hazard in the hole.
Smith had the honors on the tee, and climbed ahead of Scheffler. He appeared eager to put pressure. But Smith’s 9 iron immediately disappeared from the club’s face and was caught in the windy winds that circle around Amen Corner. Smith sank his head in despair as he shot his golf ball in front of Rae’s Creek Green, to the right of the flag, which is a shot from an empty 12-hole T-shirt on a high-tension Masters Sunday.
Scheffler lost the green, but kept his shirt shot dry and then went inside 10 feet before sinking a nervous putt. Smith made a triple bogey and slipped well in the standings.
“Probably the worst swing of the week for me,” Smith said of his 12-hole shirt. “And at the worst possible time.”
Scheffler later extended his lead against Smith and McIlroy with a bird with a spectacular approach set in the 14th hole. Then, on par-5 hole 15, Scheffler made his second shot around a pine hole to clear the well in front of the green area and arrange one last bird.
As for the mishap he had in putting up the last hole, Scheffler took it easy.
“Like I said, I didn’t break my concentration all day; the only time I did it was on the 18th green, ”he said with a smile. “Now I was thinking I could enjoy this. And you saw what happened. ‘