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Scottie Scheffler reclaims world number one spot with victory at Players Championship


Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning The Players Championship

Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning The Players Championship

Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning The Players Championship

Scottie Scheffler continued to build up a head of steam for his Masters defence when he cruised to a five-shot win in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass to regain the world number one ranking.

The Texan (26) overcame a slow start and closed with a three-under-par 69 to win by five shots from fast-finishing Tyrrell Hatton on 17-under-par to join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to hold The Players and Masters titles at the same time.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, Scheffler was so much in control by the end he made his sixth career PGA Tour title and second of the season look like a walk in the park.

But his latest victory — all six have come in his last 27 starts — did not look so certain early in the day when he bogeyed the third and parred the rest of the first seven holes.

Two clear of Min Woo Lee overnight, he was under assault from Hideki Matsuyama, who made six birdies in an eight-hole stretch before fading to finish fifth.

Max Homa and Viktor Hovland also made runs, but the biggest challenge came from Hatton, who birdied his last five holes in a homeward nine of 29.

The Englishman's closing 65 saw him set the target at 12-under par, but Scheffler never looked back from the moment he chipped in from pin high for birdie at the eighth for the first of four birdies in a row.

"It definitely got me going,” said Scheffler, who is now joint favourite for the Masters with Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm. "I played great after that. Good birdie on nine and then just the putt went in on 10 and then great birdies on 11 and 12.

"We did a good job of staying aggressive, so it definitely kick-started me a little bit."

He added: "By the time we got to 12, I saw Tyrell had posted his score and there wasn't really anybody else up on the leaderboard that could have made a big move at me, I didn't feel like. I don't know if that's correct. I could be wrong on that.

"But (caddie) Teddy (Scott) and I had a conversation when we were walking down 11 fairway. I was like, 'Hey, I just want to make sure we're on the same page. We're just playing the golf course like we always do'. He said, 'Yeah, of course. Why would you change anything?'"

Scheffler would go on to drop a shot at the 14th, but he safely parred his way home to win for the sixth time in 97 starts with all six wins coming in his last 27 starts or the last 392 days.

Asked to describe that run, he said: "Fun."

As for joining Nicklaus and Woods as the only players to hold the Masters and Players Championship titles at the same time, he said: "I mean, quite a special group of people. We could add all our majors and Players together and I have two now and they have a lot more than that. (Laughing.)

"But any time you can get mentioned in the same breath as Tiger and Jack it's very special. I'm very grateful for that."

Hovland shot 68 to tie for third with Tom Hoge, who followed opening rounds of 78 and 68 with a course record 62 before adding a closing 70 to become the first player to record a first-round score of 78 or higher in a Tour event and go on to finish in the top five since José María Olazábal at the 2007 Players Championship.

Shane Lowry tied for 35th on four-under after a 70, and while he was pleased to bounce back from an opening 77, he knows his putting needs to improve.

"I'm disappointed how I putted," Lowry said. "I've been working so hard on it, and it's just not coming in. I need to just keep my chin up and keep going, keep working, keep grinding away, and hopefully, it'll come in about a month's time."

Lowry played with Hoge for his course record on Saturday, and he was proud of his own comeback.

"To be honest, I played great yesterday, I played great today, so probably should have finished better," Lowry said. "But yeah, it's always nice when you have a bad day Thursday to fight back, and I've done that a few times in bigger tournaments over the years.

"Look at Tom Hoge. He went out yesterday and he had a flight booked home yesterday afternoon and he went out, and now he's out there with a chance to win the tournament. It's a game — golf is a game you're just never out of it."