AUGUSTA, Ga. — That new No. 1 ranking for Scottie Scheffler looks even better in a Masters green jacket.
Two months after Scheffler, 25, broke through for his first PGA Tour victory, he capped off an incredible 56-day stretch by making his fourth win the biggest of them all, the Masters by three shots over Rory McIlroy for his first major title Sunday.
He was the model of calm as he methodically worked his way around the most stressful course in major championship golf.
Sunday morning was different. That turned out to be the toughest test he had all day.
“I cried like a baby (Sunday) morning. I was so stressed out. I didn’t know what to do,” Scheffler said. “I was sitting there telling (wife) Meredith, ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this.’ … And I just felt overwhelmed.”
His only stumble came at the end when Scheffler needed four putts from 40 feet before he could claim the win, and that mattered only in the record book.
He closed with 1-under 71 for a three-shot victory at 10-under 278 over McIlroy, who holed out from the bunker on the final hole for a record-tying final round of 64.
For a guy who had won three of his previous five tournament, who reached No. 1 in the world, who entered the day with a three-shot lead, why was Scheffler overcome with doubt in the morning?
“I think because it’s the Masters. I dreamed of having a chance to play in this golf tournament. I teared up the first time I got my invitation in the mail,” Scheffler said.
“If you’re going to choose a golf tournament to win, this would be the tournament. You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get. And so having a chance … I don’t know if you get better opportunities than that. You don’t want to waste them.”
McIlroy, still needing a Masters win to complete the career Grand Slam, did his best to put pressure on Scheffler. He not only matched the best final round in Masters history, he had his best round at the Masters and the only bogey-free round of the week by any golfer.
In the clubhouse with Scheffler on the course, McIlroy could only hope that Sunday pressure at Augusta National might get to him.
But the Sunday theater belonged to everyone else.
Scheffler overcame a nervy moment early in the round by chipping in for birdie. He delivered key putts to keep at bay Cameron Smith, who began the day in second, and never looked rattled, even as he was swatting at short putts at the end.
Smith was the one who felt as though he let one get away. He was still in the game, three shots out of the lead, when he dumped a shot with his 9-iron in Rae’s Creek on the par-3 12th hole for triple bogey and ended his hopes.
“Just a really bad swing at the wrong time,” Smith said.
Smith closed with a 73 and tied for third with Shane Lowry (69).
Scheffler’s big moment came early in the round, and it was no less significant.
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He watched Smith open the round with two straight birdies to the cut his lead to one, and then Scheffler’s approach on No. 3 from the pine needles left of the third fairway came up short and rolled back down the slope.
His pitch was racing toward the hole when it banged into the pin and dropped for an unlikely birdie, and a two-shot swing when Smith from the same position made bogey.
No one got closer than three the rest of the way. Only the contenders changed.
McIlroy created some magic of his own. McIlroy went bunker to bunker on the par-4 18th hole, leaving himself right of the green and aiming his third shot some 25 feet right of the flag. The ball rode the slope all the way into the hole for birdie, setting off one of the loudest roars of the week.
Playing partner Collin Morikawa followed him in from the same bunker, different angle, same result, and McIlroy could only laugh.
“This tournament never ceases to amaze,” McIlroy said. “That’s as happy as I’ve ever been on a golf course right there. Just having a chance — and then with Collin, we both played so well all day — and for both of us to finish like this, I was just so happy for him, too. (Morikawa finished with 67 and alone in fifth at 4 under.)
“I’ve never heard roars like on the 18th green.”
The best ones were saved for Scheffler, who on Feb. 13 was still seeking his first tour win. Since then, he has won the Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the World Golf Championship Match Play and the Masters, and become No. 1 in the world.
“He’s sort of been head and shoulders above everyone else this week,” McIlroy said.