Scottie Scheffler repeats, reclaims world No. 1 at WM Phoenix Open
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Wins in the wind despite hitting just 10 fairways all weekend
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The great ones find a way.
In tricky winds, Scottie Scheffler hit just five of 14 fairways for the second straight day at TPC Scottsdale, but he led the field in approaches and scrambling, made only two bogeys all week, and scratched out a final-round 65 (19 under par total) to successfully defend his WM Phoenix Open title.
Nick Taylor (65) finished second, two back, and Jon Rahm (68) was third, five behind.
Justin Thomas (65) finished solo fourth, six back.
Scheffler, who now retakes the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking from Rory McIlroy (70, T32), was the first to go back-to-back here since Hideki Matsuyama in 2017. He’s the third player to successfully defend a title this season, after Max Homa at the Fortinet Championship and McIlroy at THE CJ CUP in South Carolina.
“Yeah, I think today was probably pretty good example of that,” Scheffler said of winning at less than his best. “I hit some wild shots off the tee that were pretty uncharacteristic for how I usually shape the ball. I was just able to grind it out, make a lot of putts.”
Just like last year, he celebrated with caddie Ted Scott and wife Meredith. His pal Sam Burns (68, T6) also watched from behind the 18th green, as did five friends who flew in from Dallas.
How did the two Phoenix victories differ?
“It was a lot more stressful this year playing with Jon Rahm, who went to school here and knows the desert very well,” said caddie Scott. “And then Nick Taylor lives out here and it seemed like he knew every shot, every putt. Also, there were expectations this year, where last year I think we were on 14, like, hey, if we make some birdies, we might have a chance.”
This time, Scheffler was tied for first after the second round and first alone after the third.
Scottie Scheffler defends his title at WM Phoenix Open
“Nobody was talking about him last year,” Scott continued, “nobody was thinking about him. We woke up today, and he knew all the pressure was on him to try and stay ahead if he could. But it was fun, and it shows the resilience he has and how many different weapons he has because he didn’t have his complete game today, but he still pulled it off.”
Taylor, who came into the week at No. 223 in the Official World Golf Ranking, credited a change to his putting grip last fall after finishing fourth in Strokes Gained: Putting on the week.
Rahm, who matched Taylor’s career PGA TOUR win total, two, just last month, was considered the more dangerous chaser, but he hit just six of 14 fairways for the second straight day.
“I didn't feel like I made bad swings, but I put myself in bad spots,” Rahm said. “… If you told me early in the week 19-under was going to be winning I would think they would have won by six or seven because of the wind conditions we had all week.”
Scheffler’s victory here a year ago touched off a run of four wins in six starts, a performance that ultimately saw him voted PGA TOUR Player of the Year. His putting fell off slightly after his victory at the Masters Tournament, and he let a big lead slip as McIlroy overtook him in the final round at the TOUR Championship at East Lake, winning the FedExCup.
Now, though, Scheffler has done it again, and at the course where it all began. And he did it by stringing together a succession of birdies and pars from what caddie Scott called “the boonies.”
“Bad shots are going to come,” Scheffler said. “You're not going to play 72 holes of perfect golf. A lot of it is how you respond. I felt like I did a really good job of that this week.”
This marked the third straight year he’s played in the final group on the final day.
“I love the environment here,” he said. “It's a lot of fun to play. I think the firmness of the golf course really suits me. Having the ability to play a lot of different shots. Hit it high, hit it low.
“The wind this week brought a new challenge that we hadn't had around this golf course since I've been playing this tournament,” he added, “so it was definitely a good challenge and was a fun week.”
Productive, too. As the first full-field designated event of the season, the WM Phoenix Open featured a $20 million purse, with $3.6 million to the winner. Scheffler also keeps his bragging rights at TPC Scottsdale, retakes the No. 1 ranking, and moves to fifth in the FedExCup.
He’s not superstitious, he said, adding that he stayed in a different hotel this year. Now he heads into The Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles, another designated event that will feature a rare start by tournament host Tiger Woods. That’s intriguing, but so is Scottsdale Scottie, who accomplished a lot after leaving here a winner last season. He didn’t have his best this time but still won fairly comfortably. One wonders just how far he’ll go.