Scheffler makes history as repeat champion with major comeback


Wow.  The Players was a nail biter.  A popcorn, pretzel, Chex Mix or veggie chomper.  

Scottie Scheffler was trying to become the first THE PLAYERS champ to defend his title.  Meanwhile, Xander Schauffele wanted to add another marquis tournament to his victory total. But that’s not the way it began.  

It started with Schauffele one ahead of Wyndham Clark, everyone anticipating that Clark would play the same way he did at last year’s U.S. Open.  The two traded shots as the front nine got underway.  For the first hour, it definitely looked like the winner would come from the final group.   

But everything changed when Scottie Scheffler holed out at the fourth. It was a sign.

If you know anything about golf at all, you know this is right.  Scheffler had reared his championship head. He was not giving up. With visible KT tape peeking out from under the collar of his golf shirt, to patch up his injured neck, Scheffler did miraculous Scheffler-like things. 

He started making birdies, and he didn’t stop. He was not going down without a fight. It was a case of beware the injured golfer.  

After the hole-out, Scheffler birdied the fifth, the eighth and ninth.  By the time he got to the nith hole, he was five-under for the day and at 17-under, but he had not taken the lead.

That still belonged to Xander Schauffele who was one shot better at 18-under.    

Meanwhile, Clark battled, but when he made bogey at the 10th and then the 14th, it looked like it was not his day. Appearances were deceiving.

Brian Harman passed Clark, making three birdies in a row to end the front side, and he then added birdies on the two par fives, the 11th and 16th on the back nine.        

Schauffele started struggling in the middle of the back nine.  After a birdie at the 12th, he made two bogeys at 14 and 15. 

By the time he reached the 16th tee, he was at 18-under, and Scheffler had finished his round at 20-under par. 

Could Schauffele make two birdies on the last three holes to force a playoff? Or was Scheffler, the man seemingly made of indestructible stuff, going to walk away with another Players title?  Would he become the first player in 50 years to go back-to-back at The Players?

Schauffele reached the edge of the 16th green in two and lagged his ball to assure a score of 19-under par, tied with Harman, who had made a big back-nine charge. But both were still one shot short of Scheffler.

There were only two holes remaining.  Harman and Schauffele each needed one birdie to tie and force a playoff. 

Clark needed to become Clark Kent, step into the hospitality structure and change into a superman outfit to get a hole-in one at 17 or birdies at both remaining holes.

He hit a shot at 17 that landed 4 feet 5 inches.  When he made the putt to tie Schauffele and Harmon, the crowd went crazy. He still needed one more.

Then it was Schauffele’s turn at 17, and he, too, delivered.  His shot landed 6 feet 8 inches from the pin. When he struck his putt, the moan from the crowd told the story.  He shook his head.  

Schauffele and Clark went to the 18th hole, each needing one to tie Scheffler and force a playoff.  Meanwhile, Harman finished his round, missing his birdie chance to tie the lead.   

The final two weren’t done yet.

Clark, who had birdied the 16th and 17th, hit his approach shot at the final hole to 17 feet, while Schauffele’s was a monster 61 feet.  Neither were good birdies opportunities particularly not Scheffele’s.  But a chance is a chance.

In the end, Schauffele’s putt ran by on the right.  Clark’s made one of the rudest lip outs ever seen in golf. The ball was halfway in the hole and spun out.  Neither could make birdie, handing the victory to Scheffler.

“I was hoping to be in this position,” Scheffler said after the exhausting afternoon.  “I put up a good fight for four days. That's really all there was.”

He credited his caddie, Ted Scott, for keeping his head in the right place.

“We had a great finish yesterday, and then got off to a slow start today, but then the hole-out on 4 kind of propelled us a little bit,” Scheffler continued. “I'm a pretty competitive guy, and I didn't want to give up in the tournament. I did what I could to hang around until my neck got better. Today it felt really good.”

Good?  It must have been great.

So, is Scottie Scheffler made from Kevlar?  Is he tungsten?  Stainless steel? Diamond-coated? 

For certain, he’s the first person ever to repeat as champion in the 50 years of The Players. 

THE PLAYERS, final round, Scottie Scheffler, repeat champion