The Hamilton Spectator

Back-to-back for Scheffler

American conquers Players Championsh­ip again in thriller at Sawgrass

- DOUG FERGUSON PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA.

The roar could be heard from almost a kilometres away just 16 minutes after the final group set out Sunday in the final round of The Players Championsh­ip. It was loud enough to indicate something special had happened. The question was more “what” than “who.”

Moments later, Scottie Scheffler’s name appeared on the leaderboar­d, and he was on his way, adding another layer to his legend as the best in golf.

His 8-under 64 tied the Players Championsh­ip record for best Sunday score by a winner. His five-shot comeback matched another tournament record.

And he now stands alone as the only back-to-back champion in 50 years of the PGA Tour’s premier championsh­ip.

“It’s tough enough to win one Players,” said Scheffler, who was coming off a five-shot victory last week at Bay Hill. “So to have it backto-back is extremely special. Yeah, really thankful.”

For those trying to beat him, it was no surprise, even with Scheffler starting five shots behind.

“Just another week,” Xander Schauffele said when he saw that Scheffler had joined the chase.

Wyndham Clark didn’t see a leaderboar­d until No. 11 and Scheffler was tied for the lead.

“And I kind of chuckled and I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ I mean, he’s the best player in the world,” Clark said.

Scheffler holed out for eagle from the fourth fairway — that was the enormous cheer — had four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn and had so much control of his game that he played the final 31 holes on the scary TPC Sawgrass without a bogey.

It added to a one-shot victory that came down to the very last putt.

Schauffele, Clark and Brian Harman all had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie on the daunting 18th hole at the TPC Sawgrass.

Clark had the last shot, a putt just inside 18 feet that dipped into the cup on the left side and came out on the right side, leaving him stunned as he placed his hand over his mouth. “I don’t know how that putt doesn’t go in,” Clark said. “Even when it kind of lipped, I thought it would lip in. I’m pretty gutted it didn’t go in.”

Schauffele missed an eagle putt from 25 feet on the par-5 16th and a birdie putt from six feet on the island-green 17th. His approach from the pine straw on the 18th went long and his chances were gone. Harman missed a birdie putt on the 18th from about 18 feet.

They tied for second and each earned just short of $1.9 million (U.S.) from the $25-million purse, the largest in golf.

Scheffler finished at 20-under 268 and picked up $4.5 million for his ninth win worldwide, pushing him over $50 million for his career. And to think it was only two years and one month ago that he was still searching for his first win.

This was no ordinary week. Scheffler felt a sharp pain in his neck early in the second round that required treatment as he played three holes. He said he might have withdrawn except that he was in the mix and hates to walk away from a fight.

He was eight shots behind late Saturday when he finished with three straight birdies to at least give himself hope.

“Then today I woke up feeling fairly close to normal,” Scheffler said, still wearing a few strips of black kinesiolog­y tape on his neck. “I went out there and had a good round of golf.”

He is understate­d in speech only. The golf is simply sublime.

Scheffler delivered a masterpiec­e on the Players Stadium Course, where so much can go wrong without warning. His 64 matched the low round by a Players champion, last done by Davis Love III in 2003. He tied Justin Leonard (1998) with the five-shot comeback.

“I’m a pretty competitiv­e guy, and I didn’t want to give up in the tournament,” Scheffler said. “I did what I could to hang around until my neck got better. Today it felt really good.”

Schauffele, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, was still in control until he missed tee shots to the right on the 14th and 15th holes and couldn’t salvage par. He had a six-foot birdie chance on island-green 17th — the toughest hole at Sawgrass on Sunday — and didn’t come close to a reasonable birdie chance hitting out of the pine straw on the 18th.

He finished with a 70.

 ?? MARTA L AVA N D I E R THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Scottie Scheffler flips his club after missing a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the final round of The Players Championsh­ip Sunday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He didn’t miss a lot on the day, firing an 8-under 64 and tying the Players Championsh­ip record for best Sunday score by a winner.
MARTA L AVA N D I E R THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Scottie Scheffler flips his club after missing a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the final round of The Players Championsh­ip Sunday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He didn’t miss a lot on the day, firing an 8-under 64 and tying the Players Championsh­ip record for best Sunday score by a winner.

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