Scottie Scheffler tames TPC Sawgrass to win Players Championship

AP photo by Charlie Neibergall / Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning The Players Championship by five strokes Sunday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Scottie Scheffler was fearless on a course that can jangle the nerves on every hole.

The wind was getting stronger, the targets looked smaller, and all he wanted was to make sure his lead got larger in The Players Championship.

"You can't limp in on this golf course," he said of the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. "You've got to hit the shots."

He did every bit of that Sunday in a masterful performance that only enhanced his reputation as a player who's at his best when playing the best in the world.

Scheffler ran off five straight birdies in the middle of his round, built a six-shot lead and left all the drama to everyone else on his way to a 3-under-par 69 to win the richest prize on the PGA Tour by five shots.

As a half-dozen players tried to make a game of it, Scheffler took on the daunting course as if he was playing alone — and that's how he made it look.

"Just looks like he's calm, just doing his business, not really worrying what everyone else is doing and churning out birdies," said Cam Davis, who finished nine shots back of Scheffler, who wound up at 17-under 271.

The victory was worth $4.5 million and sent Scheffler back to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the second time this year. The 26-year-old American now has six victories in his past 27 starts on the PGA Tour, including the four wins he had last year culminated by his Masters title.

When he poured in a 20-foot par putt on the final hole Sunday, Scheffler had the largest margin of victory in this event since Stephen Ames won by six in 2006. Scheffler became only the third player to win at TPC Sawgrass with all four rounds in the 60s.

"I got hot in the middle of the round and tried to put things away as quickly as I can," Scheffler said.

He was leading by five and standing on the 16th green when he looked across the lake and saw Davis hit his tee shot over the island green at the par-3 17th, and then Tommy Fleetwood came up short, too.

Scheffler's goal had been to build a big lead so that even if he joined the dozen players who hit into the water in the final round, at least it couldn't cost him. Like everything else for Scheffler on this day, it was no problem. He hit an ideal shot to 10 feet, made par and the rest was easy.

And then the celebration was on with his wife, parents, sister and 87-year-old grandmother, who kept pace with him for much of the day. That's something the strongest field of the year couldn't do.

England's Tyrrell Hatton birdied his last five holes for a 65, finishing when Scheffler was making the turn. Tom Hoge (70) and Norway's Viktor Hovland (68) were seven shots behind in a tie for third, each making nearly $1.5 million from the $25 million purse. Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (68) was fifth at 9 under.

Australia's Min Woo Lee, making his Players Championship debut, briefly was tied for the lead but finished with a 76 and wound up at 8 under, tied with six others.

Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell (70) tied for 35th at 4 under, one stroke ahead of fellow Baylor School graduate Stephan Jaeger (70), who shared 44th place.

As for Lee, he made one too many blunders, not that it would have changed anything the way Scheffler lit up the course. One of them came on the par-4 fourth, when Lee was tied for the lead. He chipped out of the rough only to have his third shot spin back into the water, leading to a triple bogey.

By the time he recovered, Scheffler was racing away.

It started when he chipped in from the collar of a bunker on the par-3 eighth, and he closed out the front nine with an aggressive play on the par-5 hole that set up a chip-and-putt birdie.

Hatton, who started the final round nine shots behind, teed off two hours ahead of Scheffler. The Englishman capped his closing run of five straight birdies as Scheffler headed for the back nine. Hatton, the first player to shoot 29 on the back nine in this tournament on a Sunday, was the clubhouse leader at 12 under.

The wind was gusting close to 30 mph, which only adds to the trouble on this course. Scheffler stayed aggressive, though, holing an 18-foot birdie on the 10th, two-putting from 70 feet on the par-5 11th and taking on the reachable par-4 12th with a 3-wood to pin high just right of the green. That set up his fifth straight birdie and a six-shot lead.

For the final two hours, it was a money grab for everyone else — and some wasted cash for those who fell victim to the wind and water and the cruel course.

Hatton won $2,725,000, just more than $1 million more than his Arnold Palmer Invitational victory in 2020.

Matsuyama was within one shot — this was before Scheffler went on his birdie run — only to take a double bogey on the 14th, fail to birdie the par-5 16th and make a bogey to close. He had been 7 under for the round through 13 holes.

The biggest meltdown belonged to PGA Tour rookie Taylor Montgomery, who was tied for fourth until a bogey on the 15th, a double bogey on No. 16 (without hitting in the water) and two balls in the water on the 17th — a full shot and a chip — for a quintuple-bogey 7. He dropped 40 spots on the leaderboard, and at No. 55 in the world, that kept him from cracking the top 50 in the ranking and likely securing a spot in the Masters.

Ultimately, though, this was a one-man show.

Scheffler won for the sixth time in the past 13 months, all of the victories against some of the strongest fields in golf. Commissioner Jay Monahan introduced him as the PGA Tour player of the year in 2022, and now the Players champion in 2023.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, whose tie for 19th Sunday was his best result in this event since sharing fourth in 2014, knows what Scheffler's success on this Sunday signaled.

"He's in a good position," Spieth said, "to be able to continue to do this a while."