A GREEN Jacket for Scottie Scheffler, world number one and a winning machine.
But once again, a tale of what might have been for Rory McIlroy.
Scottie Scheffler is the 2022 Masters champion[/caption]
Scheffler was given the iconic Green Jacket from last year’s winner Hideki Matsuyama[/caption]
Despite one of the greatest final day rounds in Masters history, a stunning eight-under par 64 crowned by a spectacular holed bunker shot on 18, the Northern Irishman is still waiting to join the career grand slam club.
A blemish-free round comprising an eagle on 13 and six birdies, left McIlroy to rue the reality that he left himself mission impossible after the first three days.
Starting five holes before overnight leader Scheffler, but ten shots behind, McIlroy knew his only chance was to pull out something special – and hope the 25-year-old adopted Texan choked.
McIlroy certainly completed the first part of that equation as the sun finally beat down on a glorious Augusta National Sunday, matching the tournament’s all-time lowest last day score.
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Rory McIlroy enjoyed a stunning final round of 64 to finish second[/caption]
But, unfortunately for McIlroy, Scheffler declined to fulfil his part of that bargain.
The American held his nerve, demonstrating just how swiftly he has gone from being PGA Tour up-and-comer to its new shining light.
Just 57 days ago, Scheffler was picking up his first winner’s cheque at the Phoenix Open.
Now he has four wins in eight weeks, including a first Major and that place at the summit of the rankings.
Scheffler celebrates with a kiss from his wife Meredith Scudder[/caption]
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Despite an astonishing FOUR-putt from 45 feet on the last, he sealed a three-shot win with a 71 and a total of 10-under par 276.
McIlroy, though, could have done little more.
From the gun, he was a speeding bullet, holing from nine feet to get back to level par, adding another on the third – the hole which was, in the final analysis, to prove pivotal to Scheffler’s success.
By the time he rolled in from off the green at seven and added another from seven feet at the par five eighth, the story behind him was evolving.
Scheffler, who began three clear of Aussie Cameron Smith, had wobbled down the back nine on Saturday – and teetered on the brink as he began like a nervous kitten.
Back to back birdies from Smith whittled the lead to a single shot and when Scheffler pulled his tee shot on three miles left and saw his wedge from the pine straw roll back 25 yards from the top of the slope, it might have brought an implosion.
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But after Smith incredibly mirrored Scheffler’s error, the American was in joyous disbelief as he pitched into the bank to soften the chip and watched the ball run on and on before dropping below ground.
Smith, who had been eyeing the lead, collapsed, his challenge disintegrating from the moment he missed his three-footer for par, while Shane Lowry killed his chances with a triple-bogey on the fourth.
McIlroy, though, was still on the charge, even after a short-range miss on nine.
An unlikely chip-in from the back of 10 took him third and on 13, pandemonium as he sailed his approach over Rae’s Creek to 10 feet and sank the eagle putt.
Despite Smith’s meltdown alongside him, Scheffler kept his head, nudging in a tiddler for birdie on seven and holding firm after a pulled approach at 10 cost him a bogey.
Scheffler has Bubba Watson’s former caddie Ted Scott on the bag[/caption]
The American retrieves his ball after chipping in on the third – a major turning point[/caption]
Still four behind, McIlroy had to turn a great round into one for all the ages.
His drive left on 15 took the green in two out of the equation and his wedge landed half a pace too far to come back down the slope towards the flag.
As he stood over the seven yarder one greenside fan predicted: “This place will go nuts if he makes it.”
But the ball shaved the hole and stayed above ground, as did the 22-footer through the dogwood shadows on 16.
And while McIlroy celebrated wildly when his second sand shot of the 18th nestled in the bottom of the cup for another birdie, he knew it was not enough.
Scheffler exited Amen Corner with three shots in hand.
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And back-to-back birdies at 14 – floating a delightful wedge to five feet from 140 yards – and 15 meant he could enjoy a three-hole victory lap.
McIlroy could only reflect on another near-miss. Maybe he will never get to wear that Green Jacket.
Cameron Smith’s challenge faded away after an impressive start[/caption]