Scottie Scheffler completed a routine three-shot victory to win his maiden major title at the Masters as Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry secured second and third place at Augusta National.
Scheffler had an unassailable 5-shot lead coming down the last and could afford to four-putt the 72nd green for a one-under 71 meaning he was the only player to shoot under-par rounds every day.
It’s fitting that the best player in the world won, despite its rarity and Scheffler becomes just the fifth world number one to don a green jacket.
It was quite a facile victory for the American who started the day with a three-shot lead. That was trimmed down to the minimum after Cameron Smith opened with two birdies before Scheffler remarkably chipped in for birdie on the third as Smith dropped a shot. The gap was three again and Schleffer admitted that was the turning point;
“I would say what is most pivotal was getting that ball up-and-down (on the third). To have it go in was obviously off the charts, but my main goal was just to get up-and-down, and see it go in was definitely special. Parring 4 and 5 was huge as well.
“After that I kind of just started cruising. I felt comfortable with pretty much most of the aspects of my game. My swing maybe felt a little bit off, but other than that, I feel like I wasn’t ever really going to make a bogey. That was my goal. I just tried to hit good shots, and that’s really all I was thinking about.”
From there, Scheffler kept the field at arm’s length, his magical short game ensured he turned in 34 and anytime the field threatened to make things interesting the 25-year-old slammed the door shut with some clutch chipping and putting.
Smith’s chances died at the famous 12th hole as he became the latest golfer to find a watery grave at the worst possible time. The Aussie had just reignited his hopes with a birdie on 11 and had the honour at Golden Bell. A triple-bogey six left McIlroy as Scheffler’s nearest challenger.
“Just a really bad swing at the wrong time,” said Smith. “It was actually a really good number. It was a really nice 9-iron. Wasn’t even trying to go near that pin, and, yeah, just a really poor swing.
“I feel like I hung in there tough a couple of days. Friday, I feel it probably could have got away from me a little bit, and then again this afternoon, so it was good, mate. My game feels really good. I feel really confident in my game. I feel really comfortable around here.
“I love this place. I’ll be back here next year and trying to put up another one.”
In truth, there was minimal drama in the final group and aprt from Schleffer’s win the final round belonged to McIlroy even if the green jacket didn’t. The four-time major champion shot a stunning eight-under 64 to match the lowest final round in Masters history and finish in second on 7-under.
McIlroy is an enigma, we love him as much as he frustrates us. Finishing second without having a realistic chance of winning is textbook Rory McIlroy and while it was great to see him steal the show at Augusta it is another freewheeled top-10 from nowhere.
Had Rory birdied the 2nd and 15th the two shots he left on the course there would have been serious hype for a few seconds when Scheffler stood over that fourth putt, but it wasn’t to be.
The Holywood native opened his round with a birdie on the first before adding further gains on the third, seventh and eighth to turn in 32, his best front nine at Augusta National. A superb chip-in birdie made Irish golf fans sit up briefly before a stunning eagle on the 13th sent a roar around the pines.
We dared to dream.
But that dream soon died as shades of Abu Dhabi came rushing back as the troublesome left miss off the tee returned at 14, 15, 17 and 18.
Rory failed to hit any fairway and hit just the one green in his last four holes when he had the outside of outside chances to perhaps ambush Scheffler’s procession.
However, the McIlroy of old returned on the 18th and a dramatic hole-out for a sensational closing birdie from the right greenside bunker was the highlight of the day. Rory was celebrating like a kid, it was fearless golf for the most part. Bottle it. Take it forward.
The reality is it’s becoming increasingly difficult for McIlroy to win the Masters. He ended up beating the entire field except for the world number one who was playing in just his third Masters. The talent pool shows no signs of shallowing.
Shane Lowry will wonder what might have been. Had it not been for some sloppy bogeys on Saturday and a calamitous triple-bogey he might have had a stronger say on proceedings.
However, the Clara native achieved a podium place and his best Masters finish to date as he shared 3rd with Smith after a three-under 69 and not to be outdone by his Irish compatriot also finished with a flourish as he birdied the 18th.
Seamus Power saved his best for last with a two-under 70 for a four-over total and a T-27th finish on his major championship debut.
A brilliant learning experience for Power who finished ahead of Tiger Woods and other major champions such as, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, while he tied with Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland.
The Tooraneena native finished strongly with birdies at 13 and 16 to come home in 35.