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Scottie Scheffler wins another Masters green jacket

ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Scottie Scheffler celebrates his win at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Scottie Scheffler celebrates his win at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

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Scottie Scheffler wins another Masters green jacket

AUGUSTA, Ga. >> Scottie Scheffler had no doubts about this Masters, and neither did anyone watching. He pulled ahead with magnificent shots Sunday around the turn and poured it on along the back nine at Augusta National for a 4-under 68 to claim his second green jacket in three years.

Scheffler is simply unstoppable at the moment, and he had help from a faltering cast of contenders to make it look easier than it was.

Much like Tiger Woods he made the outcome look inevitable with sublime control, the difference being a peach shirt instead of Sunday red, and no fist pumps until it was over.

After sharing hugs with caddie Ted Scott and Collin Morikawa, Scheffler turned to face the crowd with both arms raised. “WOOOOOO!” he yelled, slamming his fist.

Scheffler won by three shots in 2022 with a meaningless four-putt on the final hole. There was no drama this time, either.

No uphill climb in golf is sweeter than toward the 18th green at Augusta National, thousands of spectators rising to their feet with every step to salute the best player in the game. Scheffler made a 3-foot par putt for a four-shot victory over Masters newcomer Ludvig Aberg of Sweden, who did his best to make a battle out of it.

Aberg, among four players who had a share of the lead at one point, lost ground with his approach went into the pond left of the 11th hole and he made double bogey. Against a player like Scheffler, those mistakes are not easy to overcome.

Aberg closed with a 69 and was the runner-up.

Morikawa, who had two double bogeys to fall out of the hunt, shot 74 and tied for third with Tommy Fleetwood (69) and Max Homa (73), whose hopes ended on the par-3 12th with a double bogey from the bushes, not Rae’s Creek.

The 27-year-old Scheffler is the fourth-youngest player to have two green jackets. He stretches his lead at No. 1 in the world to levels not seen since the prime of Woods. Scheffler now has three victories against the strongest fields — Bay Hill, The Players Championship and the Masters — in his last four starts. The other was a runner-up finish in Houston.

Woods closed with a 77 and finished at 16-over 304, the highest 72-hole score of his career.

Scheffler said he was in tears before the final round in 2022 when he had a three-shot lead going for his first major. His wife, Meredith, gave him the assuring words and he sailed to victory. His wife had to watch this one from home in Dallas, where she is expecting the couple’s first child at the end of the month.

“You’re about to make me cry here in Butler Cabin,” Scheffler said when asked about the impending birth. “It’s a very special time for both of us. 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.

“Its been a long week here without her, but I’m just looking forward to getting home.”

Scheffler finished at 11-under 277 and earned $3.6 million from the $20 million purse, pushing his season total on the PGA Tour to over $15 million in just nine tournaments.

Perhaps even more daunting for the rest of golf is that Scheffler still hasn’t had a round over par this year. He has 10 victories worldwide dating to his first PGA Tour title at the Phoenix Open just two years and two months ago.

During that stretch, Scheffler has finished in the top 10 a staggering 65% of the time.

Scheffler had a lonely walk toward the scoring area without his wife. His two sisters, Sara and Molly, were the first to greet him, followed by his parents and Randy Smith, the only coach he has ever had.

It was the fourth straight Masters when the winner came to the 18th green with one arm in the green jacket. That doesn’t mean Sunday was a walk in golf’s most gorgeous garden.

Four players had a share of the lead at various points along the front nine, and then Scheffler began to assert himself with three straight birdies around the turn.

He got up-and-down with a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-5 eighth. He hit the perfect wedge that caught the ridge and came inches within going in on No. 9, leaving him a tap-in birdie. And then he holed another 10-foot birdie putt on the 10th to build a two-shot lead.

“I hadn’t hit many good iron shots, which is a bit unusual for me,” Scheffler said. “And going into No. 9, it was nice to get that feeling of hitting a really well-struck shot and then it set me up to have a really nice back nine.”

And then, just like in the best days of Woods, he let everyone else make the big numbers.

In the group ahead, Aberg’s approach to the 11th slammed off the bank and into the water, leading to double bogey.

Homa managed a tough par on the 11th, only to hit it so long over the par-3 12th the golf ball plunged deep into bushes and left him no choice but to take a penalty drop. His chip didn’t reach the green, and two putts later he had double bogey.

Morikawa already had begun to slide by taking two shots to get out of a deep bunker left of the ninth green for double bogey. He all but sealed his fate with a shot into the water on the 11th and took double bogey.

Aberg was the only one who battled back, and Scheffler kept answering with birdies. He hit the 13th green in two and two-putted for birdie. His approach to the 14th hit the slope toward the back and rolled down to a foot from the pin.

His final birdie came from just inside 10 feet on the 16th.

Defending champion Jon Rahm, now with Saudi-funded LIV Golf, closed with a 76 and tied for 45th, 20 shots behind Scheffler. He was in Butler Cabin to help Scheffler into the green jacket.

Rahm had not faced Scheffler all year and witnessed what the PGA Tour players are up against each week. His tee-to-green play is reminiscent of Woods, though certainly not the emotion, the worldwide appeal or the number of victories.

Scheffler stays in his own little world on the course, which might be just as well. No one is close to him in the game at the moment.

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