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Scottie Scheffler defends title with win at 2023 WM Phoenix Open, will return to world No. 1

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Scottie Scheffler refused to give up the title of WM Phoenix Open champion. The 26-year-old Texan made a clutch 15-foot par putt at 16 and shot 6-under 65 at TPC Scottsdale to win the WM Phoenix Open for a second straight year. In doing so, Scheffler held off a star-studded leaderboard and a pesky underdog who chased him to the finish.

“I’m proud of how I fought today,” Scheffler said. “I didn’t have my best stuff, I grinded it out today. I didn’t hit it well off the tee, my irons didn’t feel as sharp but I played a great round of golf.”

Scheffler’s 19-under 265 total was two strokes better than Nick Taylor and secured his fifth career PGA Tour title and first win since the Masters in April. It also lifted him back to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Scheffler had relinquished No. 1 to Rory McIlroy, who edged him out at the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup in October. This week, the likes of world No. 3 Jon Rahm, fellow major winners Jordan Spieth and Jason Day and Rickie Fowler, who is on the comeback trail, were hot on his heels. But it turned out to be Canadian Nick Taylor, a Scottsdale transplant who practices and plays at TPC Scottsdale and had never experienced any success at the WM Phoenix Open, who put up the biggest fight. In his previous eight starts in the tournament, he had never finished better than T-40. He labeled himself the underdog and at No. 223 in the world, he was the party crasher at the$20-million-designated event. He made six birdies in his first 13 holes and was bogey-free until missing a 7-foot par putt at 16. He matched Scheffler with 65, finishing two strokes back in second, and earning the largest check of his career.

Scheffler was even par on the par 5’s for the first three rounds, doing most of his damage on the par 4s, where he led the field with a 12-under total. But in the final round he man-handled the par 5s, sinking a 10-foot birdie putt at the third. Taylor caught Scheffler with a birdie at No. 10, knocking his approach to 3 feet, but Scheffler took control of the tournament for good by hitting driver and an 8-iron to 22 feet at the par-5 13th and rolling in the eagle putt. Scheffler raised his putter when the ball was still several feet from the cup as there was never a doubt in his mind. He clenched his right fist in delight.

Scheffler overcame an erratic driver – he didn’t hit his first fairway until the eighth hole – with pinpoint irons and a putter that was more friend than foe. He ranked first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, SG: Approach-the-Green and scrambling (14 of 16).

A year ago, Scheffler rallied from two strokes behind to win his maiden title. This time, it looked as if he would need the two-stroke cushion he built going into the final round. Scheffler saved par with his clutch par putt at 16 and moments later Taylor missed. Scheffler’s lead grew to two and he tacked on a birdie at 17 for good measure.

In the 87-year history of the tournament, Scheffler became the seventh player to successfully defend his title, joining the likes of Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Lloyd Mangrum, Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller, all of whom are in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and most recently Hideki Matsuyama in 2017.

Rahm, who had a chance to reclaim World No. 1 had he won, shot 67 and finished third, five strokes back. Reigning PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas closed in 65, the 65th time he’s shot 65 or lower since the beginning of 2015, to finish fourth.

Fowler, the 2019 WM Phoenix Open champion, made a hole-in-one at the 216-yard par-3 seventh hole, but followed it with back-to-back bogeys and shot 70 to finish T-10.

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