Scottie Scheffler cements superstar status with stunning comeback for Players Championship repeat

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Maybe now Scottie Scheffler will break from the shadows of unassuming and overlooked and be properly recognized as the superstar he is in the world of golf.

If the No. 1 world ranking for the past 10 months wasn’t enough to showcase and define just how good the 27-year-old New Jersey native is, then perhaps this week — and specifically Sunday — will add the exclamation point that’s been missing.

Legends are made from virtuoso performances and results like the one Scheffler delivered at this week’s Players Championship at the venerable and memorable TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course as he became the first player in the 50-year history of the tournament to defend his title.

Scheffler, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last Sunday for the second time in three years, won his second consecutive Players Championship and he did it in stunning comeback fashion, beginning the final round five shots behind 54-hole leader Xander Schauffele.

Scottie Scheffler poses with the Champions trophy after winning The Players Championship golf tournament on Sunday. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Scheffler won at 20-under par, with reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, reigning British Open champion Brian Harman and Schauffele, the defending Olympic gold-medal winner, all finishing 19-under par.

The end was positively scintillating.

Scheffler had posted 20-under for the week after shooting 8-under-par 64, fidgeted around the clubhouse and then the practice range while Harman, Schauffele and Clark all played the 72nd hole at 19-under and needing a birdie to force a playoff.

None of the three could convert and Scheffler stood alone at the top. Again. It was his eighth victory in the past 26 months, and aside from his 2022 Masters victory, it was perhaps his most impressive and memorable.

Harman pushed his 18-foot putt to the left and missed.

Then Schauffele, who’d missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole moments before that would have tied the lead, failed to drain a long one on 18.

And finally, Clark watched his 18-foot birdie putt cruelly do a 360 around the hole and dip halfway into it before rimming out.

Scheffler knew by the collective groans from the massive crowd around the 18th green the putt failed to drop and he hugged his caddie, Ted Scott, in celebration.

Scottie Scheffler flips his club as he reacts to missing his birdie putt on hole 18 during the fourth and final round of The Players Championship PGA golf tournament. Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

“It’s tough enough to win one Players,” Scheffler said. “So, to have it back-to-back is extremely special.’’

What added to how special this week really was, was Scheffler shrugging off a scary neck and shoulder ailment that popped up in the middle of his second round Friday.

He summoned a physiotherapist, who massaged him between shots for about four holes and Scheffler would power through the pain to shoot a 3-under-par 69 to stay in it.

“I’m a pretty competitive guy, and I didn’t want to give up on the tournament,” Scheffler said.

Scheffler tied the largest comeback in tournament history and he tied the tournament record for lowest final-round score by the winner with his 64.

He didn’t make a single bogey over the final 31 holes leading up to those dramatic final moments, specifically that final birdie try by Clark, who was halfway into stepping into a celebratory fist pump before the ball rimmed out.

“I don’t know how that putt doesn’t go in,’’ Clark said afterward. “Even when it kind of lipped, I thought it would lip in. I’m pretty gutted it didn’t go in.’’

Scheffler’s magical round was highlighted by a bit of pixie dust on the fourth hole, where he holed out from 92 yards for eagle to put a charge into his day after he’d started out with three ho-hum pars.

“I knew I had to go 4- or 5-under on the front nine to have a chance,’’ Scheffler said.

He followed the eagle with a birdie on No. 5 and then two more on Nos. 8 and 9 to make the turn at 31, 5-under for the front.

Clark said he first noticed Scheffler’s name on the leaderboard on the 11th hole and said, “I kind of chuckled and I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ I mean, he’s the best player in the world.’’

Scottie Scheffler, center, talks with family members after after the fourth and final round of The Players Championship PGA golf tournament. Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

For Schauffele, this was particularly devastating because, despite the fact that he’s won seven PGA Tour tournaments and is the reigning Olympic champion, he’s desperately seeking a signature win after having some close calls at major championships (two runners-up, six top-5s and 11 top-10s).

“I’m going to lick my wounds,’’ Schauffele said. “These suck. When I went to bed last night, it’s not exactly how I envisioned walking off the 18th green. My dad told me a long time ago to commit, execute and accept. I’m swallowing a heavy dose of acceptance right now.’’

As for Scheffler and his place in the game right now, you have to wonder what, down I-95 from TPC Sawgrass in South Florida, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus — the two most dominant players in golf history — are thinking about what he’s doing.

You cannot hide dominance. And whether the ultra-humble Scheffler wants to acknowledge it or not, that’s exactly what he is right now.

When asked if he ever dreamt about becoming dominant like Woods, his idol, once was, Scheffler said, “That’s a funny question,’’ and recalled a funny moment he experienced at the Genesis Invitational last month at Riviera.

“I hit my tee ball and this guy yells out, ‘Congrats on being No. 1 Scottie … 11 more years to go,’ ’’ he said, referring to how long Woods held the No. 1 ranking. “Anytime you can be compared to Tiger I think is really special, but the guy stands alone in our game. This is my eighth tournament win now out here. I’ve tied him in Players Championships (two wins). Outside of that, I got 14 more majors and 70-some PGA Tour events to catch up.’’

He’s on a pretty impressive path at the moment.

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