The Mercury News

Red-hot Scheffler wins Players Championsh­ip

- News service reports

Scottie Scheffler took on the scary TPC Sawgrass as if he was playing alone. And by the time he got done with a masterful performanc­e Sunday in The Players Championsh­ip, that's about how it looked.

Scheffler ran off five straight birdies in the middle of his round, built a sixshot lead and left all the drama to everyone else on his way to a 3-under 69 to win the richest prize on the PGA Tour by five shots.

The victory at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was worth $4.5 million and sent Scheffler back to No. 1 in the world for the second time this year. He now has six victories in his last 27 starts on the PGA Tour, including the four wins he had last year culminated by his Masters title.

When he poured in a 20-foot par putt on the final hole, Scheffler had the largest margin of victory in The Players since Stephen Ames won by six in 2006.

“I got hot in the middle of the round and tried to put things away as quickly as I can,” Scheffler said. “Gosh, it's fun.”

And then the celebratio­n was on with his wife, parents, sister and 87-yearold grandmothe­r, who kept pace with him for so much of the day.

That's something the strongest field of the year couldn't do.

Tyrrell Hatton birdied his last five holes for a 65, finishing when Scheffler was making the turn. Viktor Hovland (68) and Tom Hoge (70) were seven shots behind in a tie for third, each making nearly $1.5 million from the $25 million purse.

Scheffler, who finished at 17-under 271, became only the third player to win at the TPC Sawgrass with all four rounds in the 60s.

Min Woo Lee of Australia, making his Players Championsh­ip debut, briefly was tied for the lead but finished with a 76.

Lee made one too many blunders, not that it would have changed anything the way Scheffler lit up the TPC Sawgrass. One of them came on the par-4 fourth, when Lee was tied for the lead. He chipped out of the rough only to have his third shot spin back into the water, leading to a triple bogey.

By the time he recovered, Scheffler was racing away.

For the final two hours, it was a money grab for everyone else — and some wasted cash for those who fell victim to the wind and water and the cruel Players Stadium Course.

Hatton, who started the final round nine shots behind, won $2,725,000 — just over $1 million more than his Bay Hill victory in 2020.

Scheffler's $4.5 million pushed his season total to over $10.4 million — the first major is still a month away — and brought his total to $24.5 million in the last two seasons.

And that “algorithm” that Scheffler called the Official World Golf Ranking now has him at No. 1, and it's tough to debate.

“He's in a good position to be able to continue to do this a while,” Jordan Spieth said.


BYRON GETS NASCAR WIN AT PHOENIX >> William Byron won his second straight NASCAR Cup Series race, taking advantage of a pair of late cautions to give the Hendrick Motorsport­s team a victory in overtime at Phoenix Raceway.

Byron's No. 24 Chevrolet got a great start in overtime with two laps left, and just like he did a week earlier at Las Vegas, he overtook teammate Kyle Larson for the win. He also had to hold off Ryan Blaney, who finished second, while Tyler Reddick was third.

Byron denied Kevin Harvick a chance to win his 10th race at Phoenix. Harvick's Stewart-Haas No. 4 Ford passed Larson for the lead with 44 laps remaining, taking advantage of the long run under greenflag conditions that favored his car all afternoon.

But a yellow flag with 10 laps remaining dashed Harvick's hopes.

Several drivers changed just two tires on the ensuing pit stop, but Harvick took four, falling back to seventh place for the restart with three laps left. He finished fifth.

Another caution immediatel­y after the restart sent the race to overtime.

Larson — whose No. 5 Chevrolet was the fastest during Friday's practice and also during Saturday's qualifying — was fading after Harvick's pass, but the late yellow flags gave him a chance until Byron's late push. Larson finished fourth.

HAGAN TAKES STEWART TO NHRA WINNER'S CIRCLE >> Tony Stewart ended up in the NHRA winner's circle to start 2023 — as a team owner. Stewart red-lighted in the second round of eliminatio­ns in the Top Alcohol class Saturday, but the three-time NASCAR champion finished drag racing's season opener with Matt Hagan, one of his drivers at Tony Stewart Racing, winning the Funny Car finale at the Gatornatio­nals in Gainesvill­e, Fla.

Hagan covered the 1,000-foot strip in 3.926 seconds, just enough to drive around JR Todd and leave Stewart hugging and high-fiving his team at Gainesvill­e Raceway.

Men's college basketball

WASHINGTON RETAINING COACH HOPKINS >> Washington men's basketball coach Mike Hopkins will return for his seventh season in charge of the Huskies despite four straight years without an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Washington athletic director Jen Cohen acknowledg­ed in a statement that though the recently concluded season did not meet expectatio­ns, the school was sticking with Hopkins.

Hopkins is 101-91 in his six seasons at Washington. The Huskies were 16-16 this season, finished eighth in the Pac-12 Conference and lost in the opening round of the conference tournament.


ODERMATT WINS WORLD CUP GS >> Olympic champion Marco Odermatt won a men's World Cup giant slalom in Slovenia to secure his second straight season title in the discipline.

Racing in sunny and warm conditions on the Podkoren 3 course, the Swiss skier built on his first-run lead as he beat his only rival for the GS title before the race, Henrik Kristoffer­sen, by 0.32 seconds.

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