Augusta, GA – It would be understandable if Scotty Scheffler, who was a model of balance when he took first place in the men’s golf rankings this year, felt a little upset during the first hour of Sunday’s final round of the Masters Tournament. The three-bar lead he held in front of his closest pursuer, Cameron Smith, when the day began was reduced to one hit in two revelations.
What’s worse for Scheffler, on the third hole of Par-4, he jerked a three-pointer into the trees and then failed to get a serve on the elevated green, and his ball rolled back to a wild spot below the surface.
Would it only take three holes for Smith to catch Scheffler? Was the typically calm Scheffler with his mundane carelessness about to wither under pressure?
Anyone who has paid attention to this year’s PGA Tour, a circuit that Scheffler has dominated since February, could have predicted what happened next. Scheffler took a bold, aggressive line and confidently knocked the chip into the birdie hole. Smith would make gods.
For the next few hours, the 25-year-old Scheffler with the same aplomb fought off all the challenges to win his first major championship, running away to win the Masters 2022 with three strokes. His winning margin would have been greater had it not been for the last display of nerves at the close of the tournament on the 18th Green, when Scheffler needed four strokes, including three from less than five feet to close round 71. Scheffler finished 10 below the score at tournaments, just for his third appearance at the Masters.
Rory McIlroy, who was 10 points behind Scheffler in the final round, finished second after eight fewer 64. Smith and Shane Lowry finished third, five strokes from the lead.
Speaking to reporters after wearing the ceremonial green jacket presented to the Masters winner, Scheffler said he felt at ease on the track during the final round, but said he had such stress on Sunday morning.
“I cried like a child,” he said. “I was so shocked.” Scheffler added that he told his wife Meredith, “I don’t think I’m ready for that.”
Scheffler said he could not recall any previous episodes of self-doubt and attributed this to an understanding of how much victory for the Masters would mean to him. “I felt at ease on the golf course,” he said, laughing. “It’s hard for me. But I worked hard to maintain concentration during the game. I calmed down as soon as I got to the golf course. “
For Scheffler, a New Jersey native who grew up in Texas, it was the fourth win of the round in his last six competitions, a staggering percentage of victories in sporting sports with more than 130 players.
In February, Scheffler won the Phoenix Open. A few weeks later he finished first at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and late last month he won the World Golf Championship. It took Scheffler only 42 days from his first victory to climb to No. 1.
Despite recent successes, Scheffler has remained something unknown to casual sports enthusiasts because he has not won a tour so far this year. But last season there were signs that Scheffler was starting to find his rhythm at the top level of men’s golf competition. In the last three majors of that season, he finished eighth at the British Open, seventh at the US Open and eighth at the PGA Championship.
Scheffler, like Smith, is one of a new generation of young golfers who are becoming frequent tour winners. The seven best golfers in the men’s world rankings are 30 and younger.
McIlroy, who has won all the major golf championships except the Masters, was not expected to take part in the heroism on Sunday at the end of the round. He beat an equal in just one of the first three rounds. But with the birds on two of his first three holes McIlroy suddenly became more comfortable than in any of the last final rounds at the Masters. He shot four less than 32 in his first nine holes, then roared into the back nine with birds on the 10th hole and an eagle on the par-5 13th, which moved him to six smaller ones – just four shots from Scheffler, who played several groups behind McIlroy.
McIlroy continued his hot streak with three consecutive pairs, but failed to take advantage of the 15-hole par-5, which is often achieved in two throws. Instead, McIlroy contented himself with an equal score, which he also did on the 16th and 17th holes.
But McIlroy had his last, unforeseen prosperity. He aimed his suitable shot to the 18th green into the hopper to his right, but then released a spray of sand to the surface to serve and watched as the ball passed over the green and finally dipped into the bird cup.
McIlroy, who had little to celebrate in the final moments of the Masters, threw a wedge into the sand and put both hands over his head.
Minutes after McIlroy fired his bunker shot, his teammate Colin Morikov exploded from the same danger and drowned. The two left the green area hand in hand.
While McIlroy was growing up, Smith also made another run on Scheffler with a birdie on the 11th hole, which kept Scheffler ahead of three hits. Next was the main and devilish par-3 12th hole, where the tournament is often hosted and where tournament leaders for decades have seen their title dreams sink into the small but dangerous water danger of the hole.
Smith had marks on the tee he climbed before Scheffler. He seemed to want to put pressure. But Smith’s 9-iron immediately disappeared from the club and was caught in a changeable wind whirling around Amen Corner. Smith lowered his head in frustration when his golf ball crashed into Race Creek in front of the green – to the right of the flag, which is the most common site of a failed 12-hole hit on a busy Sunday Masters.
Scheffler missed the green, but he kept his tee dry and then jumped to within 10 feet before drowning a nervous shock. Smith made a triple sucker and slid down the leaderboard.
“It’s probably the worst swing of the week for me,” Smith said of his tee on the 12th hole. “And at the worst of times.”
Scheffler later extended his advantage over Smith and McIlroy by killing a bird on the 14th hole, which was created by a spectacular shot. Then, on the 15th hole of Par-5, Scheffler made his second shot around a grove of pines to clear the pond opposite the green and set up the last bird.
As for his accident during the clearance of the last hole, Scheffler took it easy.
“As I said, I didn’t disturb the concentration all day; the only time I did it on the 18th green, ”he said, smiling. “I thought I could enjoy it now. And you saw what happened. “