Players 2023: Scottie Scheffler returns to World No. 1 with closing 69 and stunning five-shot victory
Scottie Scheffler celebrates with caddie Ted Scott after winning on the Players Championship.
If ever there was an example of Scottie Scheffler’s self-belief, of his daring, of his skill, it came on the 12th hole in the final round of the Players Championship on Sunday.
Already leading by a whopping five shots after a run of four consecutive birdies, Scheffler could have—probably should have—laid up with an iron on the 307-yard hole. Any miss left and there’s water and sand to contend with, and that seemed wholly unnecessary under the circumstances.
“If there was ever a time to lay up, this would be the time,” NBC commentator Paul Azinger opined.
But this is the player who was going for his sixth win over the last 13 months—a run that includes the Masters last April and the WM Phoenix Open back-to-back—and hadn’t finished worse than 12th in this calendar year. The Texan doesn’t lack confidence or ability, and so, of course, Scheffler pulled a 3-wood from his bag and tried to drive the green.
The TV tracer showed that he hit the 304-yard drive almost too straight, given that he'd like a little draw, but it ended up dry and safe, and when Scheffler pitched onto the green and made his fifth consecutive birdie, this Players was all but over.
Scheffler grabbed the championship and Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass by the throat on the weekend by shooting 65-69 to finish at 17 under and win the $4.5 million first prize by five shots. Englishman Tyrrell Hatton shot a record-tying 29 on the back nine and charged with a 65 to be solo second.
The five-stroke margin of victory was the largest since Stephen Ames beat Retief Goosen by six shots in 2006.
"It’s a lot of fun. Long day, tough day," Scheffler, 26, said. "I knew the conditions were going to get really hard late and I did a really good job of staying patient and not trying to force things. And then I got hot in the middle of the round and tried to put things away as quickly as I could.”
And now, Scheffler again is back on top of the world at No. 1, after holding the spot for one week in February, in what has been a scintillating stretch by the current “Big Three” of him, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy. For the record, since Scheffler broke his maiden by winning the Phoenix Open in February 2022, he has the six victories on the PGA Tour in his last 26 official starts, while Rahm has six worldwide victories (including two on the DP World Tour) and McIlroy has four.
In a tournament with all kinds of weather and plenty of travails for some of the world’s best, Scheffler was remarkably steady, consistent, and often brilliant. He didn’t make anything worse than bogey in 72 holes, and the five bogeys he suffered were the fewest in the field. Scheffler didn’t have a three-putt and how’s this for smothering them with superb ball striking: He was second in strokes gained/off-the-tee (No. 1 in driving distance at 305.9 yards) and first in tee-to-green—with a stunning 17-plus strokes gained on the field.