SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA (AP) – Scottie Scheffler’s wait is finally over.
The 25-year-old Texan won the WM Phoenix Open after sinking a 26-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to defeat Patrick Cantlay and capture his first PGA Tour victory.
“I believe the first one is always the hardest,” Scheffler said, “and I definitely made it fairly difficult on myself today.”
Colt Knost, a former Tour pro who now works for CBS, says he always believed Scheffler was destined for greatness. He recalls Scheffler being knee-high to him when he was a kid who couldn’t get enough of practicing at Royal Oaks Golf Club in Dallas, where Tour winners Justin Leonard, Hunter Mahan, and Harrison Frazar were regulars.
Knost said, “He just followed us all around like a tiny puppy dog.”
Scheffler had a reputation for peppering a yellow pole from 70 to 90 yards depending on where the tee was set up that day at the range.
“That was Scottie’s pole,” Knost explained. “Every five minutes, you’d hear this ring, and Scottie would just smile and turn around.” That stuff would be worn out by him.”
Knost will never forget the time he was training in a bunker and Scheffler sat on top of a bucket of balls for at least 30 minutes, watching him and then assisting him in picking up the balls. That wasn’t all he did, though.
“I see this ball fly out of the bunker and land with a slight spin.” ‘What in the world was that?’ I think to myself. I turn around to see Scottie and exclaim, “How the heck did you do that?” ‘I was just observing you and did what you did,’ he explained. He simply possessed a strange skill. He’d observe something and then go do it himself, and getting a ball to spin out of the bunker at the age of nine was just remarkable.
“So was Scheffler’s resume, which featured titles such as U.S. Junior Amateur champion, All-American at Texas, and Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year.” Scheffler had already a 59 in a FedEx Cup playoff event and had a chance to win a number of Tour events, including the Houston Open, but victory had eluded him. Scheffler was the highest-ranked player in the world without a PGA Tour victory entering the week, at No. 16 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
In September, he added Ryder Cup stud to his record, partnering with Bryson DeChambeau in Four-Ball and defeating World No. 1 Jon Rahm in singles. He was asked on Saturday which he believed was more difficult: winning a Tour event, shooting 59, or defeating Rahm.
“Well, it appears that winning a tournament is the most difficult,” he added.
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Scheffler started with rounds of 68-71 and was nine strokes down at the halfway point of the competition. However, he scorched the back nine at TPC Scottsdale, carding seven threes on his way to tying the back-nine record of 29. For the second year in a row, his 62 was the lowest round of the event, earning him a position in the last threesome.
Scheffler had three bogeys in a four-hole span on the front nine at TPC Scottsdale on Sunday, and was three shots behind after a bogey at No. 12. The presence of experienced caddie Ted Scott, who won 12 times with Bubba Watson on the PGA Tour and joined Scheffler at the RSM Classic in November, was a calming effect.
“I believe we are on the same wavelength.” We get along swimmingly. He does a wonderful job of keeping me calm, cracking jokes, and having a nice time,” Scheffler said. “We never felt completely out of the golf tournament, and when I looked at him on the 14th green, we were only two back at the time, and I was amazed to still be so close to the lead.”
Scheffler birdied four of the final six holes to close the gap, but he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have given him a regulation victory. He finished with a 72-hole total of 16-under 268 after shooting a 4-under 67.
Cantlay, who was awarded PGA Tour Player of the Year and is the reigning FedEx Cup champion, kept his hot streak going with a bogey-free 4-under 67 on Sunday, despite the fact that the calendar had flipped. He, too, missed a 10-foot birdie putt at 18 that would have given him the victory. Still, in his last six appearances, he’s won twice and hasn’t finished outside the top-10, and he’s shot 132-under par in his last 30 Tour rounds, with 28 of them in the 60s.
Cantlay, on the other hand, could only muster three pars in the playoff, including a missed putt from 11 feet to force a fourth hole.
“Today was a good day for me,” Cantlay stated. “I shot a lot of excellent putts all day and didn’t get anything to go in.” Scottie clearly put forth a lot of effort this weekend and deserved to win.”
In search of his first victory, rookie Sahith Theegala, the 54-hole leader who was playing on a sponsor’s exemption, created a three-stroke lead after five holes, but bogeyed the par-3 seventh, allowing Cantlay to catch him at 15 under. With birdies at Nos. 12 and 15, Theegala stayed in contention, but his tee shot at the drivable par-4 17th hole rolled into the water to the left of the green, resulting in a bogey.
“On 17, I thought I hit a terrific shot.” Theegala described it as “cutting.” “I believe that’s wonderful as long as it’s another yard right.” It’s ideal if you kick straight; if you kick left, you’ll end up in the water.”
Theegala tied for third place with defending champion Brooks Koepka (69) and Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele at 1-under 70. (68).
Carlos Ortiz of Mexico made it rain in the desert again one day after Sam Ryder made an ace at the notorious par-3 16th hole, holing his 9-iron from 178 yards for an ace. On another picture-perfect weather day, a shower of beer, ice, and cans, one of which smacked Ortiz in the back, caused a rain delay of sorts. Ortiz said he calmed down while cleaning up the aisle 16th green, then drove the 17th green for back-to-back eagles. Ortiz tied for 33rd place after shooting a 67.
Ortiz stated, “That was very special.” “And then making that 2 on the next, that’s a first for me, making a 1 and then a 2,” says the performer.
Rahm stated, “Today was a little bit better.” “The first 18 holes and the closing nine holes were the only times I felt in complete control of my golf swing.” That’s all there is to it. “Everything else in between, a lot of the swings were a little shaky.”
But Scheffler is unquestionably a Tour winner, becoming the fifth first-time winner this season and the third in a straight, following in the footsteps of Luke List and Tom Hoge. Scheffler’s break took longer than intended, so it was only fair that he had to wait three extra holes to taste victory.
Knost described him as a “worldbeater.” “I believe the floodgates are about to open for him now that he’s had the first one.”
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