Scottie Scheffler Becomes World No 1 After Third PGA Tour Victory
During Friday evening, Scottie Scheffler and Matthew Fitzpatrick endured a playoff to see who would qualify from Group 5.
A mere two days later and Scheffler had been crowned champion of the World Golf Championship, whilst also attaining the alluring world No. 1 spot.
Throughout the week, the American put on an exhibition of impressive and brave golf, although there were certainly a few scares along the way.
Jon Rahm qualified from Group 1 with 2 points, as both Patrick Reed and Sebastian Munoz finished their three matches with 1.5 points.
Collin Morikawa qualified from Group 2, whilst Will Zalatoris defeated Viktor Hovland in a playoff for Group 3.
Kevin Kisner was the dominant force in Group 6, finishing with a perfect record of three wins – which included Justin Thomas, Luke List and Marc Leishman.
Dustin Johnson, Tyrrell Hatton and Brooks Koepka were the other golfers to progress with 100% records, whilst Richard Bland fought valiantly to secure qualification through his group.
Adam Scott, Corey Conners, Abraham Ancer, Billy Horschel, Kevin Na, Seamus Power and Takumi Kanaya completed the Round of 16 line-up.
Round of 16
The first knockout round took place with an array of story lines on offer, no larger than Bland – who needed to beat Johnson to secure his Masters tee time.
The Englishman started in brilliant fashion too, holding a two-up lead at one stage, before succumbing to the powerhouse that is Johnson.
Scheffler was drawn against Horschel – which emulated last year’s final – and the younger player eliminated the defending champion for the ultimate revenge.
Power comfortably defeated Hatton, whilst Conners and Ancer had dealt with Kanaya and Morikawa so efficiently.
Kisner arguably produced the performance of the weekend, as he won the final four holes to pick up a narrow one-up victory.
Zalatoris and Na battled hard during a four-hole playoff, but the former managed to edge his way into the quarter-finals.
With only eight players left, the tournament’s outcome started to take shape, as a plethora of possibilities became apparent.
Scheffler, who was drawn against a spirited Power who had beaten the likes of Hatton, Patrick Cantlay and Sungjae Im, managed to contain the Irishman and progress to the semi-finals.
The heavyweight tie of this stage of the tournament was Koepka against Johnson, and the latter managed to narrowly progress after a two-up victory.
Zalatoris, who had played so magnificently across the week, was defeated rather comfortably by Kisner, who absolutely loves Austin Country Club.
Conners completed the semi-final line-up after he defeated Ancer by two in the final quarter-final.
Sunday morning produced an exhilarating passage of golf, as Scheffler looked determined to become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.
Having been drawn against Johnson, this semi-final featured two members of the world’s top 10 whilst Kisner and Conners battled behind.
Scheffler had earned a lead as promising as five-up before Johnson started to bite back, which culminated in him winning four consecutive holes.
With the 25-year-old seemingly struggling, the par-5 16th should have played into the hands of Johnson, but Scheffler’s incredible second shot was enough to win the hole and halt his opponents’ relentless pressure.
Another victory on the following hole would secure Scheffler’s presence in the final, whilst Johnson prepared for the consolation match.
The alternative match was much closer throughout, without either player taking a gigantic lead at any time.
Eventually, Kisner’s refusal to make any mistakes exhausted Conners, who threw away the final two holes to lose two-down.
The consolation match between Conners and Johnson teed off roughly 45 minutes before the final, and Johnson started in similar fashion to the semi-final.
Conners raced into a healthy lead before Johnson started to claw his way back into the match during the back nine.
The damage was effectively done, however, as Conners picked up $852,000 to finish third at this year’s match play event.
Although the kitty would almost triple for the eventual winner, there were more pressing matters at hand – like becoming the best player in the world.
Scheffler started aggressively – which is the way to play against the match play wizard that is Kisner – and won three of the opening six holes.
Five halves followed, as both players went through that stretch having parred every hole, before a rare mistake on the par-5 12th for Scheffler.
Leaving his ball in a difficult position, his duffed chip went a matter of yards and found the green-side bunker.
His opponent’s eyes lit up as he looked certain to slash his deficit, only for Scheffler to hole out from the bunker for a birdie and a half of the hole.
Another birdie on the 14th hole took him to four-up with four to play and the subsequent half was enough for a 4 & 3 victory in the final.
Scheffler, who was win-less only six weeks ago, has picked up three titles in his last five starts and he has earned his world No. 1 position.
The PGA Tour remain in Texas this week, as the players look to finalize their Augusta preparations – you can read our preview here.