(Reuters) -Scottie Scheffler ran away with the Players Championship title on Sunday and along with it took the number one world ranking and the PGA Tour’s richest purse of $4.5 million.
It was another clinical effort from the unflappable American, who carded a final round three-under 69 on a gusty afternoon in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for a commanding five-shot win over Briton Tyrrell Hatton, who closed with a 65.
A winning total of a 17-under 271 brought Scheffler his sixth career title and second in his last four starts as the Masters champion signaled he is well prepared for next month’s Green Jacket defence.
Scheffler becomes just the third player, along with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, to hold both the Masters and Players Championship titles at the same time.
“This tournament feels like a major championship to me and this morning was tough,” said Scheffler. “I knew the conditions were going to get really hard late.
“I did a really good job of staying patient, not trying to force things, and then I got hot kind of in the middle of the round and tried to put things away as quickly as I could.”
Scheffler, who needed to finish in a tie for fifth or better to reclaim the number one spot from Jon Rahm, started the day two clear at the top of the leaderboard and got his round off to a slow start by going one-over through seven.
But the 26-year-old stepped on the gas through the turn by carding five consecutive birdies from the eighth to pull away from the field, opening up a six-shot advantage on Hatton, who was bidding to become the first Englishman to win golf’s unofficial fifth major.
Scheffler took his second bogey of the day at the 14th but steered clear of trouble the rest of the way home, including at the TPC Sawgrass’s infamous par-three 17th island green.
Like Scheffler, Hatton could not get much going on his first nine and reached the turn at even par.
But the Englishman caught fire after that and carded seven birdies, including five straight, to bring his round to a spectacular end.
“Considering where I was at the start of the back nine, I was probably tied 34th or something like that, so if you had said that you would finish second in the tournament or tied second and you don’t have to play the back nine, I think you would take that,” said Hatton.
Norway’s Viktor Hovland (68) and American Tom Hoge (70), who carded the Players Championship record low round of 10-under 62 on Saturday, finished in a tie for third, seven shots behind at 10-under 278.
Min Woo Lee, two back of Scheffler overnight, immediately went to work rolling in a five-footer for birdie at the first to cut the American’s advantage to one.
Scheffler’s first bogey at the third moved Lee into a share of the lead but the Australian’s stay at the top would be brief. He crashed down the leaderboard after taking a triple bogey seven at the par four fourth.
Lee’s troubles began off the tee when he punched out of the rough to set up what looked a routine third shot into the green.
But the ball span back into the water, leaving Lee to walk off with seven and hand Scheffler a three-shot lead.
Lee was in big trouble again at the 11th, taking a double bogey on the way to a four-over 76, finishing nine off the lead.
“To make a seven there, it was pretty gut wrenching after I started really well,” said Lee. “But Scottie played really well and it was just a battle from then.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris and Kenneth Maxwell)