SCOTTSDALE — Scottie Scheffler won his second-consecutive WM Phoenix Open on Sunday, returning to the site of his first career PGA Tour victory a year ago while also returning to World No. 1.
With a final-round bogey-free 65 at TPC Scottsdale, good for a 19-under 265 total, Scheffler beat Nick Taylor by two shots with several of the game’s top-ranked pros not far behind. In the process, he became the 15th player to win multiple Phoenix Open titles, and the first defending champion since Hideki Matsuyama accomplished the feat in 2017.
Throughout the weekend the 26-year-old Scheffler battled insurgent charges from a variety of challengers. But befitting a golfer who won his fifth PGA Tour title in 12 months, the reigning Masters champion saw them off each time to earn a $3.6 million payday in this “designated-status” event with an overall purse of $20 million.
On Saturday, it was Xander Schauffele who briefly joined Scheffler in the lead but slipped back after taking four shots to get up-and-down from a green side bunker on the par-5 15th. It was a mistake he wouldn’t recover from.
Jon Rahm was the next man up. Two back at the start of Sunday’s final round, Rahm's birdie to Scheffler's par on the opening hole of the day, courtesy of a short iron that ended four feet from the pin, pulled him within one.
But Scheffler was relentless. Birdies on his second, third, and ninth holes brought him to 16 under, and three clear of Rahm, who with a victory could have become World No. 1 himself. A bogey on the eighth hole slipped the Spaniard back to 13 under, a deficit simply too big to overcome with only nine holes left to play.
"I'm not sure I could have done much better the last two days, honestly," Rahm said. "If you told me early in the week 19 under was going to be winning, I would think they would have won by six or seven because of the wind conditions we had all week."
It was the unlikely Taylor who proved Scheffler's biggest challenge. The 34-year-old Canadian who lives in the Arizona desert and plays out of TPC Scottsdale came into the event ranked 223rd in the Official World Golf Ranking, but put on a ball-striking display on Sunday that would be the envy of any player in the world.
Taylor gained 2.22 strokes on the field with his approach shots on his first 10 holes, hitting every green and hitting four approaches inside 10 feet. He made each of them—plus a 40-footer on the sixth hole, the vault from 11 under into a tie for the lead at 16 under.
"I putted great all day, hit a lot of great shots, so I don't have a lot of complaints," he said.
But it's the thin margins that separate the best from the rest, and Scheffler proved it. From 200 yards in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 13th hole, Scheffler sent his approach to 20 feet, and the slippery downhill right-to-left breaking putt into the bottom of the hole for an eagle 3.
The defining moment, though, came on TPC Scottsdale's iconic par-3 16th hole. No champion had bogeyed that hole in the final round in the last 25 years. But when Scheffler yanked his approach shot left of the green, then sent his subsequent chip 15 feet past the hole, he looked like he'd either defy history or succumb to it.
But once again, it's the details that separate those at the top of the game.
Scheffler unleashed his fist into the air as his putt dripped with perfect speed into the hole, while Taylor—whose approach shot was unlucky to roll through the green—missed his eight-footer.
"I really felt that was a great swing off the tee there. That wind was just crazy strong. I played enough for it, just obviously not quite enough," Taylor said. "I would love the chip back on there. It was a tricky chip, but one I would like to do little bit better."
After following with a birdie to Taylor's bogey on 17, it was game over. Scheffler was returning to the top spot in the OWGR, replacing Rory McIlroy, who had taken the title from Scheffler last October.
It felt cruel that Scheffler's win over Taylor looked larger than it was, though Taylor will have some consolation: His $2 million runners-up check was the largest payday of his career.
As for the man who lifted the trophy, and will no doubt hope his victory here will kickstart another early season hot streak, he proved once again it's the details that separate those at the top of the game.
“I knew going into today it was going to be a tough day,” Scheffler said. “Jon's playing some of the best golf in the world right now. Nick's a fantastic player and a proven winner out here. There were some other names on the leaderboard like Jordan and Xander. There were a lot of guys up there. I knew it was going to take a great round. Nobody was going to give this golf tournament to me. I had to go out and earn it. I was definitely proud of the result.”