Scheffler takes Green Jacket after Amen Corner bares teeth

Published April 16, 2024
SCOTTIE Scheffler of the US poses with the trophy after winning the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club.—AFP
SCOTTIE Scheffler of the US poses with the trophy after winning the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club.—AFP

AUGUSTA: Unflappable American Scottie Scheffler claimed a second Masters title in three years on Sunday, the world number one holding steady while his biggest challengers self-destructed making their way through the infamous Amen Corner.

Scheffler, the Green Jacket winner in 2022, began the day with a one-stroke lead over twice major winner Collin Morikawa and posted a final round of four-under 68 to finish 11-under for the week, four clear of Swedish young gun Ludvig Aberg.

“I did my best to stay calm out there,” said Scheffler, after becoming the 18th player to win the Masters multiple times. “I tried to stay patient on the course and was able to make some key shots and key putts today to keep my round going. Ludvig played great today. He made a good move at me there on the back nine and I was fortunate to hold him off towards the end.”

Aberg closed with a 69 to take solo second spot and cap a sensational majors debut.

Morikawa, after tumbling down the leaderboard with double-bogeys at nine and 11, recovered with birdies at 13 and 15 to help secure a share of third place with American compatriot Max Homa and Britain’s Tommy Fleetwood at four-under.

Scheffler, the red hot favourite coming into the year’s first major, leaves Augusta National as the planet’s undisputed best with three titles and a runner-up finish in his last four starts.

The performance was all the more remarkable as the 27-year-old played with the added distraction of knowing he might have to return home at any moment to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

“It’s a very special time for both of us,” said Scheffler, before last year’s winner, Spaniard Jon Rahm, slipped the Green Jacket on him. “I can’t put into words what it means to win this tournament again. I really can’t put into words what it’s going to be like to be a father for the first time. I’m looking forward to getting home and celebrating with Meredith.”

It is said the Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday, with many a Green Jacket won or lost with a trip through Amen Corner, the treacherous three-hole stretch that begins at the par four 11th.

The drama actually started a little earlier at the ninth this year where Scheffler had a tap in birdie, that he nearly holed out for an eagle, to lead by one heading into the turn.

All around Scheffler challengers were unravelling. Morikawa taking a double-bogey at nine to fall three shots off the pace.

As Scheffler was piling on the pressure with birdies at eight, nine and 10, Amen Corner bared its teeth to sink the hopes of three Green Jacket contenders — Aberg, Morikawa and Homa.

Aberg and Morikawa found water at 11, taking double-bogeys, while Homa suffered a double-bogey at the 12th after losing his ball in the bushes.

Even Scheffler could not escape Amen Corner unscathed, his run of three birdies ending with a bogey at 11.

But a birdie at 13 allowed Scheffler to walk away from Amen Corner at nine-under, holding a three-shot lead over Aberg with five to play.

Aberg, however, was not waving the white flag, undoing the damage done at the 11th with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14 to stay in sight of the leader at two back.

“It was a dream come true to be in this situation, to feel the pressure coming down the final holes,” Aberg said.

But Scheffler did not take his foot off the gas either, answering with a tap-in birdie at 14 and another at 16 to seal the victory.

Scheffler matched Tiger Woods as the only players to win the Masters twice while atop the world rankings.

He also became the fourth-youngest multiple Masters winner at age 27 behind Woods, Jack Nicklaus and the late Seve Ballesteros.

“Scottie is an amazing golfer,” Homa said. “It’s really impressive.”

Second-ranked Rory McIlroy, who needs only a Masters victory to complete a career grand slam, fired a 73 to finish on 292.

“Hasn’t been my year this year but I’m going to keep coming back until it is my year,” McIlroy said.

Third-ranked Jon Rahm, the 2023 winner, fired a 76 to finish on 297.

Hours before the leaders took to the stage the spotlight belonged to Woods, with massive galleries lining every hole from tee to green perhaps fearing this could be one of the last times to see the golfing icon at work.

Woods had Augusta buzzing when he claimed a record 24th consecutive made cut at Augusta National on Friday and then boldly predicted a sixth Green Jacket was in reach.

But the American great, who has conjured up a long list of magical Masters moments, could not produce another, enduring perhaps the most miserable weekend of his career.

The 48-year-old’s injury-battered body appeared to quit on him Saturday as he carded a 10-over 82, his worst major round as a professional, and followed up on Sunday with a five-over 77.

He said he plans to play the year’s other three majors. “Hopefully the next three my body will cooperate,” Woods said.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024



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