Scottie Scheffler makes PGA Tour history with 2024 Players Championship win, title defense

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Scottie Scheffler refused to relinquish the Players Championship trophy.

It didn’t matter if he suffered from neck pain, or if he fell as many as nine strokes off the pace in the third round, Scheffler made no excuses. He slapped it around until his neck improved on Sunday and fired a final-round 8-under 64 at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass to edge Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman and Xander Schauffele, three of the top-10 players in the world, and become the first player to repeat as champion in the 50-year history of the Players.

“It’s tough enough to win one Players,” said Scheffler, whose final-round 64 tied for the lowest for a Players champion, joining Couples in 1996 and Love in 2003, and he tied Justin Leonard in 1998 with his five-shot comeback. “So to have it back-to-back is extremely special.”

The final round played on the Pete Dye-designed masterpiece turned into great theater on Sunday. Schauffele, the reigning Olympics champion, entered the final round with a one-stroke lead and remained in front with six holes to go thanks to a splendid short game. But he made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15 to drop two back. He bounced back with a birdie at 16 but missed a golden opportunity from 7 feet at 17. When his second shot at 18 flew 62 feet past the hole to the back ridge of the green, he placed his hands on his knees in disappointment as if he knew he’d let the title get away. Schauffele, who closed in 70, is winless the last six times he’s been in the final pairing.

Harman, the reigning British Open champion, rallied from an opening-round 72, and made four birdies in a five-hole stretch on starting at No. 7 to join the fray. He closed to within one with a birdie at 15 but managed just pars on the closing three holes. His 17-foot birdie putt to force a playoff at 18 never had a chance and he closed in 68.

Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion, made bogey at 14 and fell to 17 under, but he added a birdie at 16 and stuffed his approach to 4 feet at 17 for another one. His 17-foot birdie putt at 18 was the last-ditch effort to force overtime and it caught the left lip and cruelly spun out the right side. Clark covered his mouth with his right hand in disbelief.

“I don’t know how that putt doesn’t go in,” said Clark, who shot 69. “It was kind of right center with like a foot to go, and I knew it was going to keep breaking, but it had speed and I thought it was going to go inside left, and even when it kind of lipped, I thought it would lip in. I’m pretty gutted it didn’t go in.”

Scheffler, who was warming up on the range in case of a playoff, heard a groan that said it all. He won for the second straight week but this one was a pain in the neck – literally. On his second hole of his second round, he felt pain in his neck that required two separate mid-round sessions with his personal physical therapist to continue.

“I told my wife Friday night, I don’t see him playing this weekend,” said Scheffler’s caddie, Ted Scott. “His mobility was maybe 10 degrees.”

The 27-year-old Scheffler received treatment after the round and woke up the next day feeling a touch better. He took one more club on most shot shots and as he put it, “slapped it around,” closing with four birdies in his final five holes to stay in the trophy hunt.

“He found a way, which is what the great players do,” Scott said.

Scheffler said he felt “close to normal” on Sunday, though Scott isn’t buying it. On the range before the final round, Scheffler, who wore two strips of KP tape on the left side of his neck, asked Scott to check his alignment.

“His hips and his shoulders were great when he set up but when he opened up to hit the shot his hips opened up 20 degrees. He couldn’t turn his head,” Scott said. “I didn’t know how today would go. Adrenaline is a crazy thing.”

The juices were flowing when Scheffler holed out from 92 yards for eagle at the fourth hole. Scheffler clenched his fist, then slapped hands with Scott who flashed six fingers to Scheffler, noting it’s his sixth hole out of the season. Scheffler followed with an 18-foot birdie putt on 5. He warmed up around the turn making four birdies in a five-hole span beginning at No. 8.

“Maybe this could be our day,” Scott recalled thinking.

It didn’t hurt that Scheffler played bogey-free over his last 31 holes. At No. 11, Clark looked at the leaderboard for the first time all day and noticed Scheffler, who’d beaten him the week before too at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, had made his move. He chuckled and said, “Of course.”

“It’s just another week,” Schauffele said.

Indeed, Scheffler is going to be a pain in the neck to beat for some time. Scheffler splashed out of a pot bunker to a foot at 16 to set up his final birdie and reach 20 under, the lowest winning score at the Players since Greg Norman’s record 24 under aggregate in the 1994 Players.

Scheffler became the seventh man to win the Players multiple times, joining Jack Nicklaus, Hal Sutton, Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington and Tiger Woods. It marked Scheffler’s eighth wins in 26 months, and he’s got an iron-clad hold on world No. 1. But Scheffler isn’t the type to let any of it go to his head. He recalled that just last month he hit a tee shot at the Genesis Invitational and a fan yelled out, “Congrats on being No. 1 Scottie. Eleven more years to go.”

That’s all it will take to match Tiger Woods’s reign at the top of the mountain of men’s professional golf. He did note that he’ already matched Woods with two wins at the Players. After the trophy ceremony, Scheffler was prepping to take photos with his family and gripped the golden trophy loosely with one hand. His sister, Callie, offered to help him, but Scottie would hear none of it. “I’ve got it, I’ve got it,” he said.

He most definitely does – and for a second straight year.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek