Scottie Scheffler capped off an incredible two months with his greatest feat, winning the Masters on Sunday to validate his newfound status as golf’s greatest player.
The only stumble came at the end when Scheffler needed four 40-foot putts before he could claim his first major, and that only mattered in the record books.
He closed with a 1-under 71 for a three-stroke victory over Rory McIlroy, who came out of the bunker on the last hole for a record-breaking final round 64 that gave him the briefest moment of hope that the pressure of Sunday at Augusta National could happen to Scheffler.
No chance. Not on Sunday. Not the last four days. Not the last two months.
And to think that just 56 days ago, Scheffler was still looking for his first PGA Tour victory. The 25-year-old Dallas player, built for stardom since age 10 wearing long pants to look like a pro, now has four wins in his last six tournaments.
No prize was bigger than this green jacket.
Sunday theater, thrilling and tragic, belonged to all the others. Scheffler overcame a moment of nervousness early in the round by participating in a birdie. He delivered key putts to keep Cameron Smith at bay and never looked shaken, even as he crushed short putts on the end.
McIlroy was the runner-up. It was Smith who felt like he let one get away. The Aussie was still in the game, three shots off the lead, when he drove his tee shot to Rae’s Creek on the par-3 12th hole for a triple bogey and ended his hopes.
WATCH | Scheffler cruises to the Masters earn:
Smith finished with a 73 and tied for third with Shane Lowry, who birdied the 18th for a 69.
Scheffler joined Ian Woosnam in 1991 as the only players to win a major tournament – the Masters in both cases – on their debut at world No.1.
Everyone should have seen it coming. He won the Phoenix Open in the playoffs on Super Bowl Sunday. He followed that with a comeback win at Bay Hill to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He rose to No. 1 in the world by winning the Match Play two weeks ago in Texas.
And now this.
Scheffler, who finished 10-under 278, won US$2.7 million from the $15 million prize fund. That brings his total to $8,872,200 over his last six starts.
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., was the top Canadian at the Masters. He shot a final round 70 and finished tied for sixth at 3 under for the championship.
Fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, a native of Hamilton, Ont., shot a 78 on Sunday and finished her tournament tied for 50th.
Scheffler’s big moment came early in the round, and it was no less significant.
Starting the final round with a three shot lead, he watched as Smith opened with two straight birdies to cut the deficit to one, then Scheffler’s approach from the pine needles to the left of the third fairway failed and rolled back downhill .
His pitch was racing for the hole when it hit the pin and fell for an unlikely birdie, and a two-shot swing when Smith from the same position bogeyed.
No one came within three the rest of the way. Only the suitors have changed.
The 12th hole remains golf’s most fascinating par 3, the scene of more collapses than comebacks. Smith became the latest victim.
After a birdie at No 11, his shot was still in the air as he let his club slip through his hands and he slowly closed his eyes twice as he splashed Rae’s Creek. The next shot wasn’t much better, but at least dry, and Smith’s hopes ended there with a triple bogey.
He was three behind on the 12th tee. Three holes later, it was eight back.
From there, all hope lay with McIlroy. All he needed to complete a career Grand Slam was to equal the best final round in Masters history and get help from Scheffler. He only got one and had to settle for his first silver from Augusta.
Not that he didn’t create Sunday magic. McIlroy went from bunker to bunker on the 18th hole, leaving himself to the right of the green and aiming about 25 feet to the right of the flagstick. He raced down the slope to the hole, unleashing one of the loudest roars of the week.
Morikawa followed him from the same bunker, from a different angle, and McIlroy could only laugh.
“This tournament never ceases to amaze,” McIlroy said. “It’s also lucky that I’ve never been on a golf course right there. Just to have a chance – and then with Collin we both played so well all day – and for both of us to finish like that, I was so happy for him too.
“I’ve never heard roars like on the 18th green.”
The best were reserved for Scheffler.
Scheffler still has five holes ahead of him, with no evidence that he was going to be anything other than the smooth, smart operator who took control on Friday in the toughest conditions to build a five-stroke lead and never got it. lost.