Scottie Scheffler Wins His First Masters Championship

AUGUSTA, Ga. — It would have been understandable if Scottie Scheffler, who has been the paragon of poise rising to No. 1 in the men’s golf rankings this year, felt a little nervous during the first hour of Sunday’s final round. the Masters Tournament. The three-shot lead he had over his closest pursuer, Cameron Smith, when he started the day had been reduced to a single shot over the first two holes.

Worse for Scheffler, on the par-4 third hole, he hit his tee shot into the trees and then missed a shot onto the elevated green, his ball rolling back in a risky spot below the green’s surface.

Would it take just three holes for Smith to catch Scheffler? Was the typically cool Scheffler, with his common man’s nonchalance, about to wilt under the pressure?

Anyone who has been paying attention to this year’s PGA Tour, a circuit Scheffler has dominated since February, could have predicted what happened next. Scheffler took a bold and aggressive line and confidently put a chip in the hole for birdie. Smith would bogey.

Over the next few hours, the 25-year-old Scheffler fended off all challenges with equal aplomb to claim his first major championship, running away with the 2022 Masters to win by three shots. His margin of victory would have been greater had it not been for a final display of some nerve during the tournament’s closing sequence on the 18th green, when Scheffler needed four putts, including three from less than five feet, to close out a round of 71. Scheffler finished 10 under par for the tournament, in just his third appearance at the Masters.

Rory McIlroy, who trailed Scheffler by 10 strokes heading into the final round, finished second after 8-under-par 64. Smith and Shane Lowry tied for third place, five shots off the lead.

For Scheffler, a New Jersey native who grew up in Texas, it was the fourth win on tour in his last six events, an impressive winning percentage in a sport with tournament fields of more than 100 players.

In February, Scheffler won the Phoenix Open. A few weeks later, he finished first at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and, late last month, won a World Golf Championship Match Play event. From the first victory, it took Scheffler only 42 days to rise to the number 1 spot in the rankings.

Despite his recent successes, Scheffler remains unknown to casual sports fans because he hadn’t won a tour event before this year. But there were signs last season that Scheffler was beginning to find his rhythm at the top level of competitive men’s golf. In the last three majors that season, he finished tied for eighth at the British Open, tied for seventh at the US Open and tied for eighth at the PGA Championship.

Scheffler, like Smith, belongs to a new generation of young golfers who are becoming frequent tour winners. The top seven golfers in the men’s golf world rankings are all 30 years old or younger.

McIlroy, who has won every major golf championship except the Masters, was not expected to be part of Sunday’s final-round heroics. He had broken par in only one of his first three rounds. But with birdies on two of his first three holes, McIlroy suddenly looked more comfortable than in any recent Masters final round. He shot a four-under-par 32 on his first nine holes, then roared through the back nine with birdies on the 10th hole and an eagle on the par-5 13th hole, taking him to six-under, just four shots behind. of Scheffler, who played several groups behind McIlroy.

McIlroy continued his hot streak with three straight pars, but failed to capitalize on the par-5 15th hole, which can often be reached in two shots. Instead, McIlroy settled for par, a score he also made on the 16th and 17th holes.

But McIlroy had one last unforeseen flourish. He sent his approach shot to the 18th green into a bunker to the right of it, but then sent a splash from the sand to the green surface and watched as the ball traversed a shoal along the green and finally sank into the cup. to make a birdie.

McIlroy, who hasn’t had much to celebrate in the closing moments of a Masters, tossed his wedge into the sand and threw his arms over his head.

A few minutes after McIlroy made his bunker shot, his playing partner, Collin Morikawa, fired from the same hazard and sank his shot. The two walked out of the green area arm in arm.

As McIlroy moved on, Smith also made another run at Scheffler with a birdie on the 11th hole that kept Scheffler’s lead at three shots. Next up was the crucial and diabolical par 3 12th hole, where the tournament is often decided and where tournament leaders for decades have seen their title dreams drowned in the hole’s small but dangerous water hazard.

Smith had the honors on the tee, which he moved up before Scheffler. He seemed eager to apply pressure. But Smith’s 9-iron vanished off the clubface immediately and got caught in the fickle winds swirling around Amen Corner. Smith hung his head in disappointment just as his golf ball landed in Rae’s Creek across from the green, to the right of the pin, which is the most common spot for a missed tee shot on the 12th hole on a tense Masters Sunday.

Scheffler missed the green but kept his tee shot dry and then chipped less than 10 feet before sinking a nervous par putt. Smith triple bogeyed and slipped well down the leaderboard. Scheffler later extended his lead over Smith and McIlroy with a birdie on the 14th hole that was created by a spectacular approach shot. Then, on the par-5 15th hole, Scheffler shot his second shot around a pine forest to clear the pond in front of the green and set up a final birdie.

Leave a Comment