Hook em! Scottie Scheffler wins Match Play and goes to No. 1
Mar 27, 2022, 3:54 AM | Updated: 6:04 pm
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Winning by now should be old hat for Scottie Scheffler. Sunday in the Dell Technologies Match Play was special for so many reasons, and the new No. 1 player in the world couldn’t hide it.
Moments after Scheffler closed out Kevin Kisner on the 15th hole to win for the third time in five starts, the 25-year-old Texan was overcome by tears and hugs, from his wife to his parents and sisters and pretty much everyone who could get a piece of him at Austin Country Club.
From a top junior in Dallas to four years as a Texas Longhorn to his time outside the ropes at the Match Play watching the world’s best, all Scheffler wanted to do was play alongside them.
And now he’s the one everyone is chasing as No. 1 in the world.
“I never really got that far in my dreams,” Scheffler said at the trophy presentation, choking up and wiping away more tears. “I just love to play golf. I love competing. I’m happy to be out here, you know?”
The hottest player in golf now has the ranking to prove it.
One year after losing in the championship match, Scheffler never trailed against Kevin Kisner, building a 3-up lead through six holes and giving him no chance to catch up. Scheffler closed him out with a par on the 15th for a 4-and-3 victory.
Scheffler led the whole way in his 3-and-1 semifinal win over Dustin Johnson, either — he went the final 57 holes in Country Club without trailing — and he was so solid in the championship match that Kisner didn’t win a hole.
“I don’t know if anybody is playing better than he is,” said Kisner, who joined Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy as the only players to reach the championship match at least three times. Kisner won the Match Play three years ago.
So much was going Scheffler’s way that on the par-5 12th, Scheffler got too cute with an eagle chip that caught a slope and rolled into a bunker. Kisner had 6 feet for birdie, looking to cut the deficit to 1 down with seven to play.
And then Scheffler holed the bunker shot for a birdie.
Kisner had to make the putt to keep from losing more ground. By then it was getting late, and Scheffler went 4 up with four to play when Kisner bogeyed the 14th.
Scheffler is so good at blocking out so much around him that he wasn’t even aware of the No. 1 scenario until Saturday. Jon Rahm, who had been atop the ranking since the British Open, lost in 19 holes in the fourth round. That meant Scheffler would go to No. 1 by winning.
That he did, looking every bit like the cool customer who won the Phoenix Open in a playoff six weeks ago, followed by a rally to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
“Pretty cool to do that in front of my family. They’ve supported me so much along the way,” he said. “I really don’t know what to say about that. I don’t feel like that. I don’t feel like No. 1 in the world. I feel like the same guy I was four months ago, and I hope that doesn’t change.”
He is the sixth-youngest player to reach No. 1 since the world ranking began in 1986.
Scheffler joined Kisner as the only players to win the Match Play the year after losing in the championship match.
“I’ve thought about winning this tournament ever since last year,” Scheffler said. “It left kind of a poor taste in my mouth getting so close and ultimately coming up short. So it feels really good to finish the job this time around.”
Scheffler had to hold his breath in the semifinals Sunday morning against Johnson. He seized on Johnson’s worst round of putting to build a 5-up lead through 11 holes, only for Johnson to win the next four holes. Scheffler was 1 up on the par-5 16th when Johnson missed a 4-foot putt, and the match ended on the 17th.
That championship match was never in doubt, except to Scheffler. He was well aware of Kisner’s record at Austin Country Club — 22-6-1 going into the title match — and his record rally from 3 down with four holes to play to beat Adam Scott the day before.
Kisner, who outlasted Corey Conners of Canada in 18 holes in the morning, began with a wedge to 3 feet for birdie. Scheffler followed with a shot to 8 feet and the Texas crowd roared when he made the putt to match birdies.
Kisner lost the second hole with a bogey from a tough lie in the bunker, Scheffler went 2 up with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth and hit a beautiful chip from behind the green on the par-5 sixth to go 3 up.
They halved the next seven holes, each one moving Scheffler closer to the title.
He earned $2.1 million for the win — that’s $5,736,000 for his last three wins — and heads to Augusta National as one of the leading favorites.
Conners won the first three holes in the consolation match and beat Johnson, 3 and 1.
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