Scheffler turns the Masters into another Sunday yawner with a dominating win

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler drained all the drama out of the Masters.

Which has become a familiar storyline at Augusta National.

Despite that familiar refrain about the tournament not beginning until the back nine on Sunday, it’s become a rarity for it to be decided at the closing holes

Scheffler, the world’s top-ranked player, kept that trend going with a flourish.

Coming into the first major championship of 2024 as the overwhelming favorite, he more than fulfilled the enormous expectations by cruising to his second green jacket in three years with a four-stroke victory over Masters rookie Ludvig Aberg.

If there was ever any doubt, the golfing world now belongs to Scheffler.

Everyone else is in chase mode.

“Scottie is an amazing golfer,” said Max Homa, one of those who’s got his work cut out for him. “It’s really impressive.”

Scheffler was briefly in a four-way tie for the top spot on the final day, but his challengers crashed and burned with a succession of blunders in Amen Corner.

Then Scheffler came through, as steady as can be, which wasn’t the least bit surprising given at all the success he’s already had this year.

The Masters marked his third win in the last four starts, tacked on to his triumphs in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship. The other finish in that stretch? A runner-up showing at the Houston Open, where Scheffler missed a short putt at the final hole.

Even though his first child will be arriving shortly, Scheffler isn’t about to back off the throttle.

“I don’t plan on taking my eye off the ball anytime soon,” he said ominously to anyone plotting to take him down.

There haven’t been a whole lot of stirring finishes at the Masters in the past decade or so, and Scheffler made sure this one wasn’t either with his dominating performance.

It was the seventh time in the last 11 years that the Masters champion winner cleared the field by at least three strokes.

Of the other four, three were decided by single stroke in regulation, but even that’s a bit misleading. Hideki Matsuyama in 2021 and Tiger Woods in 2019 both clinched their one-shot wins with bogeys at the final hole.

Scheffler, whose three-shot win in 2022 wasn’t really that close (he four-putted the final hole), was relentless again in the latest Augusta blowout.

“I feel like I’m in as control of my emotions as I’ve ever been, which is a good place to be,” he said. “It’s hard to argue with the results of the last few weeks. I’ve played some really good golf.”

Scheffler didn’t take much time to savor the victory. He was eager to get back to Texas, where his wife, Meredith, is expecting the couple’s first child before the month is out.

“It’s a very special time for both of us,” Scheffler said. “I can’t put into words what it means to win the Masters for the second time. I really can’t put into words what it’s gonna be like to be a father for the first time.”

With that, he was off.

With another green jacket in the suitcase.

WINNING AT NO. 1

While Scheffler’s victory was hardly a surprise, it’s certainly not a given that the world’s top-ranked player claims the Masters title.

He became just the fifth player to win from the No. 1 spot since the rankings were instituted in 1986.

Ian Woosnam did it in 1991, Fred Couples followed suit in ‘92, Woods accomplished the feat back-to-back in 2001 and ’02, and Johnson joined the list at the pandemic-delayed 2020 tournament.

“I really want to win,” Scheffler said. “I think that’s how I’m designed. That’s the way I’ve been since I was a kid.”

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Aberg had a shot at becoming the first player to win the Masters in his first appearance since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

The 24-year-old Swede closed with a 3-under 69 to stamp himself as another player to watch in the years to come.

“I did a lot of things very well this week,” Aberg said, even though he conceded, “I was very nervous today. I was shaking on the first tee.”

Other than dunking a ball in the water at No. 11, and having a nutrition bar knocked out of his hand while bumping fists with the patrons, Aberg’s nerves never showed.

“Finishing well in the Masters is a dream come true,” he said. “I’m super proud of myself.”

MAD MAX

Max Homa faltered a bit on the weekend, struggling to make birdies on the way to a pair of 73s. But he still claimed a tie for third — albeit seven shots behind Scheffler — along with Colin Morikawa and Tommy Fleetwood.

It was by far the best major showing of Homa’s career and perhaps a springboard to contending more regularly in the biggest events.

A six-time winner on the PGA Tour, the 33-year-old Homa has been a big bust in the majors. His only notable finishes were a tie for 10th at last year’s British Open and a tie for 13th at the 2022 PGA Championship.

In Homa’s other 15 major appearances, he missed the cut nine times and didn’t finish higher than 40th when he did advance.

“I thought I handled myself great,” he said. “Didn’t make any putts, but really didn’t feel like I blinked.”

LIV AND LET LIVE

Golf’s civil war savored a brief detente at the Masters, where the upstart LIV circuit did not make much of an impact.

Of the 13 LIV players who received invitations, eight made the cut and three of those — Bryson Dechambeau, Cameron Smith and Tyrrell Hatton — finished in the top 10.

But none of them made a serious run at the green jacket. DeChambeau and Smith both finished nine shots back, while Hatton was 11 strokes off the pace.

Now, with a supposed merger still unresolved, the rival tours head their separate ways until the PGA Championship at Valhalla next month.

FADING TIGER

Woods can always find a way to create some excitement at Augusta National, which he did this time by making the cut for a record 24th consecutive time.

But the weekend showed his battered, 48-year-old body can no longer handle the grind of 72 holes with so little preparation.

Before the Masters, Woods had played just 24 competitive holes since the beginning of the year. The rust certainly showed at the final two rounds, where he went 82-77 to finish last among players making the cut.

The 16-over 304 was the highest 72-hole score of a career that spans three decades.

If Woods can’t get into good enough shape to play a few warm-up tournaments, it’s hard to see how he’ll claim that sixth Masters title he says is still possible.

“It was a good week all around,” he insisted. “Coming in here, not having played a full tournament in a very long time, it was a good fight on Thursday and Friday.”

Unfortunately for Woods, it takes four rounds to win the tournament.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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