AUGUSTA, Ga. — It could have been comprehensible if Scottie Scheffler, who has been the paragon of poise as he charged to the No. 1 rating in men’s golf this yr, felt only a bit unnerved throughout the first hour of Sunday’s final round of the Masters Tournament. The three-stroke lead he held over his closest pursuer, Cameron Smith, when the day began had shrunk to a single stroke within the opening two holes.
Worse for Scheffler, on the par-4 third hole, he yanked his tee shot into the trees then didn’t get a pitch onto the elevated green, along with his ball trundling backward right into a dicey spot below the putting surface.
Wouldn’t it take only three holes for Smith to catch Scheffler? Was the typically tranquil Scheffler, along with his everyman nonchalance, about to wilt under the pressure?
Anyone who has been being attentive to this yr’s PGA Tour, a circuit Scheffler has dominated since February, might need been in a position to predict what happened next. Scheffler took a daring, aggressive line and confidently knocked a chip into the opening for birdie. Smith would make bogey.
Over the subsequent several hours, Scheffler, 25, rebuffed every challenge with the identical aplomb to say his first major championship, running away to win the 2022 Masters by three strokes. His margin of victory would have been larger but for a final show of some nerves throughout the tournament’s closing sequence on the 18th green, when Scheffler needed 4 putts, including three from lower than five feet, to shut out a round of 71. Scheffler finished 10 under par for the tournament, in only his third Masters appearance.
Rory McIlroy, who trailed Scheffler by 10 strokes heading into the ultimate round, finished second after an eight-under-par 64. Smith and Shane Lowry tied for third, five strokes off the lead.
Speaking with reporters after donning the ceremonial green jacket awarded to Masters winners, Scheffler talked of feeling calm on the course throughout the final round but said he was “so stressed” on Sunday morning.
“I cried like a baby,” he said. “I used to be so overwhelmed.” Scheffler added that he told his wife, Meredith, “I don’t think I’m ready for this.”
Scheffler said he couldn’t recall any previous episodes of self-doubt and attributed it to an understanding of how much winning the Masters would mean to him. “I’ve felt at peace on the golf course,” he said, laughing. “It’s off the course that’s hard for me. But I did a very good job of keeping my concentration when playing. I calmed right down after I got to the golf course.”
For Scheffler, a Latest Jersey native who was raised in Texas, it was the fourth tour victory in his last six events, a surprising win percentage in a sport with tournament fields of greater than 130 players.
In February, Scheffler won the Phoenix Open. A couple of weeks later, he finished first on the Arnold Palmer Invitational and, late last month, he won a World Golf Championships Match Play event. From the primary win, it took Scheffler only 42 days to ascend to the No. 1 rating.
Despite his recent successes, Scheffler has remained something of an unknown to casual sports fans because he had not won a tour event before this yr. But there have been signs last season that Scheffler was starting to search out his rhythm on the upper level of men’s competitive golf. Within the last three majors of that season, he finished tied for eighth on the British Open, tied for seventh on the U.S. Open and tied for eighth on the P.G.A. Championship.
Scheffler, like Smith, is one in all a latest generation of younger golfers who have gotten frequent tour winners. The highest seven golfers in the lads’s world golf rankings are 30 or younger.
McIlroy, who has won every major golf championship except the Masters, was not expected to be a part of the late-round heroics on Sunday. He had broken par in just one in all his first three rounds. But with birdies on two of his first three holes, McIlroy suddenly looked more comfortable than he had in any recent final round on the Masters. He shot a four-under 32 in his first nine holes, then roared onto the back nine with birdies on the tenth hole and an eagle on the par-5 thirteenth, which moved him to 6 under par — just 4 strokes behind Scheffler, who was playing several groups behind McIlroy.
McIlroy continued his hot streak with three consecutive pars but didn’t capitalize on the par-5 fifteenth hole, which is commonly reachable in two shots. As an alternative, McIlroy settled for par, a rating he also made on the sixteenth and seventeenth holes.
But McIlroy had a final, unexpected flourish. He sent his approach shot to the 18th green right into a bunker to the best of it, but then lofted a splash from the sand onto the putting surface and watched the ball traverse a swale along the green and at last sink into the cup for a birdie.
McIlroy, who has not had much to rejoice within the closing moments of a Masters, flung his wedge into the sand and thrust each arms over his head.
A couple of minutes after McIlroy holed his bunker shot, his playing companion, Collin Morikawa, blasted from the identical hazard and sank his shot. The 2 left the green area arm in arm.
While McIlroy was surging, Smith also made one other run at Scheffler with a birdie on the eleventh hole that kept Scheffler’s lead to a few strokes. Next up was the pivotal and devilish par-3 Twelfth hole, where the tournament is commonly decided and where tournament leaders for a long time have seen their title dreams drown in the opening’s small but dangerous water hazard.
Smith had the honors on the tee, which he ascended before Scheffler. He appeared desperate to apply pressure. But Smith’s 9-iron faded off the clubface immediately and was caught within the fickle winds that swirl around Amen Corner. Smith dipped his head in disappointment just as his golf ball plunked in Rae’s Creek in front of the green — to the best of the flag, which is probably the most common spot for a failed Twelfth-hole tee shot on a tense Masters Sunday.
Scheffler missed the green, but he kept his tee shot dry after which chipped to inside 10 feet before sinking a nervy par putt. Smith made a triple bogey and slid well down the leaderboard.
“Probably the worst swing of the week for me,” Smith said of his tee shot on the Twelfth hole. “And on the worst possible time.”
Scheffler later prolonged his lead over Smith and McIlroy with a birdie on the 14th hole that was arrange by a spectacular approach shot. Then, on the par-5 fifteenth hole, Scheffler rifled his second shot around a grove of pine trees to clear the pond fronting the green and arrange a final birdie.
As for his misadventure while putting on the ultimate hole, Scheffler took it in stride.
“As I said, I didn’t break my concentration all day; the one time I did was on the 18th green,” he said, smiling. “I used to be pondering that now I can enjoy this. And also you saw what happened.”