AUGUSTA, Ga. – She has never given anyone else a chance.
Scottie Scheffler continued his wonderful golf run on Sunday at Augusta National, making key saves when needed, taking part in birdie when it wasn’t expected and keeping a sleeve in the coveted green jacket the entire time.
Scheffler, who opened the day with a three-time lead over Australian Cameron Smith, finished with an under 71 to win the 86th Masters and claim his first major title. He finished 10 under in total, three clear of Rory McIlroy, who climbed the rankings by tying a last-round record of 64.
Sunday at the Masters was the last couple that saw the participation of two of the game’s hottest players. Scheffler came in with three wins in his last five starts and the most recent, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, elevated him to number 1 in the world.
Meanwhile, Smith, 28, has taken victories in two of his last four starts on the PGA Tour and was taking a win at the Players Championship, the biggest of his career and the one that led him to number 6 in the world.
But despite his three-shot lead towards Sunday, Scheffler was unable to lose his nerve, even though the crowd didn’t notice. He said he “cried like a baby” on Sunday morning.
“I was so stressed out. I didn’t know what to do. I was sitting there telling [my wife] Meredith, I don’t think I’m ready for this. I’m not ready, I don’t feel ready for this kind of thing and I felt overwhelmed, “he said.” He told me, who are you to say that you are not ready? Who am I to say that I know what is best for the And so what we talked about is that God is in control and that the Lord is guiding me; and if today is my time, it’s my time. And if today I had turned 82, you know, somehow there ‘I would have used it for His glory. Damn, it’s been a long morning. It was long. “
Scheffler said he didn’t calm down until he ate some more food and made it to the course. When asked why she felt this way this morning, she said, “Because they are the Masters.”
Fast forward until Sunday afternoon, and it was a two, maybe three, if you thought Sungjae Im, who started day five, had a chance.
But then McIlroy arrived.
The world number 9 hasn’t won a major since knocking out the Open Championship and PGA Championship twice a second in 2014 to claim his third and fourth, and just needs an elusive Masters title to become the sixth player to complete the grand slam of the career.
He started 10 shots off the lead on Sunday but made birdies on 1, 3, 7 and 8 to lap 32. He added a birdie chip on 10 and added an eagle on the par-5 13 to get seven under in the his round, which not only attracted the attention of the final pair, but started chattering about him threatening the Masters course record of 10-under 63. The eagle on 13 brought McIlroy to six under overall, one behind. Smith and five behind Scheffler, as they played the 9th hole.
McIlroy started 50 minutes before the final pairing. When Scheffler and Smith took the tee at 2:40 pm local time, it was Smith who had the opening advantage.
He birdied 1 and 2 to reduce Scheffler’s lead to one, but both players had trouble on the par-4 short 3rd hole, which was a major turning point. They both went well left of the fairway and hit their approaches before the green, landing in nearly identical spots. But Scheffler chipped his for an unlikely birdie, and Smith couldn’t make it up and down and bogeyed. The lead was back to three.
“After I started surfing,” Scheffler said. “I felt comfortable with practically most aspects of my game. My swing may have felt a little crooked to me, but other than that, I feel like I was never really going to be a bugbear. That was my goal. I just tried to make good shots, and that’s really all I was thinking about. “
Smith also pulled out the fourth and both players birdieed the 7. On the turn, with a treacherous run through Amen Corner waiting, Scheffler was ahead at 11-under, with Smith at seven-under and McIlroy at six-under. . Nobody else had a chance.
Scheffler and Smith both had trouble with the 10 and created bogeys, although Smith’s was more prone to sting: he badly missed a four-foot over the hole, giving up the chance to catch up after Scheffler finished.
McIlroy, six years under, needed to take advantage of the final par-5, the 15th, to have a good shot to catch Scheffler, but a bad drive forced him to punch – eliminating any chance of doing it in two – and missed the green with his approach. He failed to chip for birdie and settled for a disappointing par, leaving four behind.
Smith bounced a birdie on 11 and Scheffler landed a key seven-foot par to keep his three-footed lead as they moved onto the short par-3 12, the same hole that ruined Jordan Spieth’s Masters chances in the 2016.
But this time it was the pursuer – Smith – who got derailed from Rae’s Creek.
Smith threw his tee shot into the water and airmailed a wedge over the green after his drop. He made the triple bugbear.
“Yes, it was a terrible swing,” said Smith, who shot 73 and drew in third place alongside Shane Lowry, five behind Scheffler.
Scheffler missed the well-left green on 12, but rolled into a nine-foot clutch to save par again.
“Nothing is safe out there in the last nine on this golf course,” Scheffler said. “I’ve heard all the things everyone says, it doesn’t start until the last nine on Sunday, anything can happen, don’t hit the 12, all the stuff. You know, I just blocked it and tried to run and make good golf shots. “
Scheffler remained 10 under, four ahead of McIlroy and six ahead of Smith.
Then? McIlroy had one last charge. After four straight pairs, he moved from the fairway bunker to the greenside bunker on the 18th, so he punched for birdies. The patrons – and McIlroy – have gone ballistic.
“I’ve been saying all week, it’s just about hanging around,” McIlroy said. “That’s what this tournament is about, stick around until you get to a point where you feel comfortable being aggressive, and that’s where I was today.”
McIlroy threw 64, one-off equaling a tournament record, to establish the clubhouse’s advantage at seven-under. Scheffler, who had just missed his birdie putt on 13 but saved the par, had five holes remaining and a three-stroke lead.
Pressure? No not at all. At least, not until the final green.
Scheffler birdies on 14 and 15. He made two puts for the par 16 and left only one kick-in for the par on 17. When he walked down the fairway on the 72nd hole, leading the biggest golf tournament in the world of nearly half a dozen shots, he repelled tears. His wife, Meredith, let them flow. The only flaw with him this week? A bizarre four-putt double bogey on the 18th. At that point, it didn’t matter.
It wasn’t supposed to be that easy, his first Masters win on his third visit to Augusta National. Maybe he wasn’t. He just made it look like that.