With only six holes to play in Scottsdale, Arizona, not many, including Scottie Scheffler himself, gave him much of a chance of lifting the trophy.
“If you would have told me on the 13th tee I was going to be in a playoff, I would have been pleased,” Scheffler said afterwards. “I felt a little bit out of it at that point.”
Scheffler had just bogeyed the 12th, was even par on the day and three strokes behind. Less than two hours later, however, Scheffler was sinking a 25-foot birdie on the third playoff hole to win his first PGA Tour title, beating his good friend Patrick Cantlay in the process, who missed an 11-foot birdie put to take the playoff to a fourth hole.
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“I’ve been playing great, and I was getting so frustrated because I was scoring so poorly,” Scheffler said. “To kind of put things together yesterday and get through all the mistakes I made today and still pull it out is pretty amazing.”
Rewind back to the 13th tee, and Scheffler followed up the bogey on the 12th with three straight birdies, then another on the 17th.
The WM Pheonix Open was Scheffler’s 71st tour start. Before Sunday, the 25-year-old from Dallas, Texas, career highlights were beating Jon Rahm at Whistling Straits in September in the United States Ryder Cup victory over Europe and shooting an astonishing 59 in the 2020 Northern Trust.
“I think the first one is probably always the hardest, and I definitely made it pretty difficult on myself today,” Scheffler said. “I kept telling myself there would be some bumps in the road,”
This was the first time Cantlay had played in this event. He added it to his schedule this year as he figured it would be easier to play three straight weeks than it would to fly back and forth to his Florida home between two of his favourite events of the year in California either side of the Phoenix Open. A good decision as the FedEx Cup Champion almost left with his third victory in six starts.
“Scottie, obviously, played really well this weekend and deserved to win,” Cantlay said. “I didn’t make any bogeys, and I hit a lot of good putts and didn’t really get anything to go in all day,” he said.
Scheffler began the weekend nine strokes back but shot a 62 on Saturday to pull himself within two strokes of tournament leader Sahith Theegala and squeeze into the final group.
Theegala, the 24-year-old rookie from Orange County, California, led after each of the first three days and only lost his share of the lead with a bogey on the par-4 17th after slicing his drive out left into the water.
“I thought I hit a great shot on 17,” Theegala said. “It was cutting. As long as it’s another yard right, I think that’s perfect. Kick straight, and it’s good. Kicked left into the water.”
That yard cost Theegala, and he tied for third with Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka at 15-under.
If he had won, Theegala would have been the first player since Martin Laird in the 2020 Shriners Children’s Open to win on a sponsor exemption.
“I just didn’t hit the shots at the right time when it counted,” Theegala said. “But definitely proud of the way I played this week.”
Koepka, the defending champion and also victorious here in 2015, closed strongly with birdies on 17 and 18.
“I putted it really well. Really solid,” Koepka said. “But the wedges just weren’t up to par.”
Around the same time that the leaders were starting on Sunday, Carlos Ortiz brought the crowd at the 16th hole to life with the second hole-in-one in as many days.
His sweetly struck 8-iron on the 178-yard par 3 landed inches from the pin and rolled in the day after Sam Ryder holed out. Both days play was delayed after fans threw bottles and cans onto the putting surface in frenzied celebration.
“You start trying to watch out for your head because I got actually nailed pretty hard on the back with a beer can on the back,” Ortiz said. “After that, I was just trying to just avoid all the cans I could.”
Ortiz’s ace was the 11th hole-in-one at the 16th since the tournament moved here in 1987 and the second time it has happened twice in a week, and after Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, both accomplished it in 1997.
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