Scottie Scheffler returned to world number one after victory in the Players Championship on Sunday
Miami (AFP) - American Scottie Scheffler won The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass by five strokes on Sunday to return to number one in the world rankings.
Scheffler ran away with the US PGA Tour showdown at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, after making five straight birdies between the eighth and 12th holes while his closest rival, Australian Min Woo Lee imploded.
The defending Masters champion, who ended on 17-under par 271, will replace Spain’s Jon Rahm atop the rankings on Monday. Rahm withdrew from the event due to illness.
The 26-year-old from New Jersey won four events on the tour last year, including at Augusta, and now has two more already this season, having won in Phoenix last month.
“I’m just trying to get a little bit better at a time, not over-think things, and fortunately to be able to see some good results and enjoy some wins and I’m very thankful,” he said.
The wind might have become a factor in a closer battle but by the time he reached the testing final holes, Scheffler had wrapped things up.
“It was a lot of fun. Long day, tough day,” he said. “I knew the conditions were going to get really hard late and I did a really good job of staying patient, not trying to force things, and then I got hot kind of in the middle of the round and tried to put things away as quickly as I could.”
Scheffler began the day with a two-stroke lead over Lee, who immediately reduced the deficit with a birdie on the opening hole.
When Scheffler bogeyed the third, the pair were in a tie for the lead but it was soon to change dramatically when Lee had a nightmare on the par-4 fourth hole, where he made a triple bogey.
Lee found the rough off the tee and took his medicine, chipping out back on to the fairway but that cautious decision was followed by his approach shot ending in the water.
A double bogey on the 11th, where he got in trouble in the trees, saw Lee fall totally out of contention and by then Scheffler was in his groove and moving away from the field.
“It happened really quick,” said the Australian.
“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.
“To make a seven there, it was pretty gut wrenching after I started really well.”
After his streak of birdies, which got under way when he chipped in to birdie the par-three eighth, it was a victory procession for Scheffler over the final holes.
He crowned his victory in style with a superb 21-foot putt on the 18th.
- Excited for ‘hard test’ -
Scheffler becomes only the third player to hold the Masters and Players titles at the same time after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and said the bigger events raise his game.
“I think I get excited for a good hard test,” he said. “I feel like I can find a way to make pars and hang in there. This week I think I had five bogeys for the whole week. Around this place that’s really hard to do and that’s probably what I’m most proud of is just playing so solid.”
England’s Tyrrell Hatton finished second after a sensational close with five straight birdies to complete the back nine in 29, the lowest score on the back section in a final round.
Hatton ended on 12-under par after his 65 with Norway’s Viktor Hovland and American Tom Hoge tied for third, a further two strokes back.
“It was just a pretty mad two and a half hours in the end, from standing on the 10th tee” said Hatton, who birdied seven of his last nine holes.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama shot a four-under 68 to finish fifth, 9-under for the week, with his fine round undone by a double bogey on the 14th where he got in trouble in the rough.
Australia’s Cam Davis was third on the leaderboard overnight but had to settle for sharing sixth after shooting 74.
World number three Rory McIlroy had missed the cut.