Augusta, J.A.; – Scotty Scheffler has found the perfect supplement for his No. 1 ranking in the world.
Schaeffler won the Masters by three strokes on Sunday, a superb chip shot at No. 3 giving him all the breathing space he needed to stop first Cam Smith and then Rory McIlroy. Scheffler hit a 71 in the last round, and finished at 10-under 278 for the championship.
“I can’t really describe in words what it means to win this golf course,” Schaeffler said after the green-jacket gala.
McIlroy was second, his best finish ever at Augusta National. Smith unraveled in an amen corner, concluding five strokes in a tie for third.
“Just swing really bad at the wrong time,” said Smith, who was in the top five in three of his six games at Augusta National.
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“I feel like I’ve played some of my best golf here,” Smith said. “It’s very frustrating, I think, to not have gotten away with winning yet, but along the same lines, I am looking forward to the challenge of coming back here next year and trying to do it again.”
The win adds to a season of excellence for the 25-year-old Schaeffler. He took his first PGA Tour win two months ago at the Phoenix Open, and has now won four times in his last six starts. It reached No. 1 in the world with a ranking of March 27th.
He has now won his first major tournament, and is the fifth player to win the first World Masters title. In addition to the green jacket, Schaeffler won $2.7 million. He also gets a lifetime exemption for the master’s and five years of guaranteed entry in other disciplines.
“I can’t describe in words what it means that I will be able to come back here for life,” Scheffler said. “I can’t speak highly enough about this place.”
The championship was lost to Scheffler after he advanced 36 holes. He stumbled towards the end of his Saturday run, watching what was waning seven straight hits to three – although it could have been worse if he hadn’t scrambled to make a bogey after going into the woods off the tee at 18.
When he drove into the show on Sunday #1, it looked as though Schaeffler had been on a white-knuckle ride during the final run.
The Birdies trimmed by Smith in the first two holes provided the Scheffler for one only. Then Schaeffler’s No. 3 tee fell behind the large scoreboard, and you could see smoke rising from the looming debris.
He got a rest, a break as he took the trees in the area out of play. However, Schaeffler’s next shot hit the slope of the green on Bar-4 and retracted.
But Schaeffler’s next shot changed the course of the tournament. Perhaps his entire career.
His slide jumped on the green and ran straight into the hole. Instead of a disaster, he had a bird. When Smith missed his shot from nearly the same spot, forcing him to make a double-hit, Schaeffler’s lead went back to third.
“It was definitely not a shot I was expecting to see come in,” Scheffler said. “I wouldn’t say it changed the look of the day, but it did make things spin for me and I played some really strong golf after that.”
Schaeffler saved par on No. 3 after his tee shot fell far from the green while Smith made a bogey, and the two-hole swing of the three-stroke gave him all the breathing space he needed.
McIlroy, who remains a Masters title-holder shy of a Grand Slam during his career, managed to attack with an 8-under 64 lead that was the low round of the championship and showed off his best shot of the week. After going to the bunker at 18, he holed up to make a bird.
However, that will not be enough. A pair of 73s in the first two days left McIlroy very far with Scheffler playing as is.
“That’s what you dream about, isn’t it? You dream of being in your position, right? You dream of being in your position,” said McIlroy, whose best result ever at Augusta National was. “(But) I wasn’t close enough to the lead, I don’t think so. Scotty plays really well.”
And now Schaeffler has the green jacket to prove it.