No. 1 Scheffler Beats McIlroy by Three Strokes to Win the 86th Masters

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler is No. 1 at Augusta, too.

The 25-year-old Scheffler, despite a surprising four-putt double-bogey 6 on the final hole, shot 1-under-par 71 to claim his first major victory by three strokes over ninth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in the 86th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

“I was very excited but I tried to look calm, keep my head down and just execute good shots all day,” said Scheffler, whose best previous finish in the Masters was a tie for 18th last year. “I just wanted to play my game and take care of myself, and was able to do that. That hiccup on the last hole was good in a way because it kept me from being too emotional.

“I always think I can win, but I never got this far when thinking about the Masters until I thought about the Green Jacket on Friday, but put that out of my mind quickly. I can’t put into words what it means that I can come back here to Augusta and play in the Masters for the rest of my life.

“I’m just so honored to win this tournament with all my family and friends here to see it.”

Scheffler, who has won four of his last six starts, took a three-stroke lead to the final round, and didn’t blink when sixth-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia birdied the first two holes to pull within one. He collected two birdies on each nine and made his only bogey at No. 10 before his hiccup on the last hole left him with a 72-hole score of 10-under 278.

McIlroy, who needs only a Masters title to complete the Career Grand Slam, holed a brilliant bunker shot for a birdie on the final hole after making an eagle at No. 13, and posted the round of the day with a bogey-free 64.

“I gave it a shot, but came up a little short because Scottie played so well,” said McIlroy, who has finished in the top 10 on seven occasions in the Masters. “I came out today just with the idea of playing my best golf, and I did that, but it just wasn’t enough.

“This was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played in a major championship, holing out from off the green three times, including the one at No. 18. It was fun to cap off the round like that. Scottie still had some tough holes to play and I thought I still might have a chance, but he was too good.

“But I firmly believe I will win here one day.”

Smith, applied that early pressure playing in the final twosome with Scheffler, but the leader chipped in for birdie on the third hole to turn things back around as the Aussie made bogeys on the third and fourth holes.

But Smith, who won the Players Championship in his last start, was still within three strokes after a birdie on the 11th, but then hit his tee shot into the water on the par-3 12th and took a triple-bogey six that virtually ended his chances.

“I just made too many mistakes, the two bogeys on the front nine to take away my momentum, and then I just made a bad swing at No. 12,” said Smith, who finished five shots back in a tie for third with 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry of Ireland, who made two late birdies for a 69. “That shot It was a percent 9-iron, but I just didn’t hit it well and that was the tournament. I wasn’t even aiming at the pin.

“I just have to move on from here and be stronger for it. I played some great golf this week and I love coming here every year for the Masters, where I’ve had some good results. I firmly believe I’ll be wearing that Green Jacket some day.”

Third-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal was playing alongside McIlroy and duplicated his playing partner’s hole-out from the same bunker for a birdie and finished six down in solo fifth, while Will Zalatoris birdied six of the last 11 holes for a 67 to wind up seven shots behind in a tie for sixth with Corey Conners of Canada, who birdied the last two holes for a 70.

Seventh-ranked Justin Thomas made three straight birdies on the back nine en route to a 72 and was nine strokes back in a tie for eighth with Sungjae Im of South Korea, who stumbled to a 75, while Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, the 2011 Masters champion, birdied the last two holes to salvage a 74 and tie for 10th with Cameron Champ of Sacramento, who came in at 70.

Eighth-ranked Dustin Johnson, the 2020 Masters champ, tied for 12th after a 72, defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan also shot 72 to tie for 14th, while second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain had a 69 to wind up in a tie for 27th that included fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway, who finished at 73, and fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA tied for 39th following a 71.

Five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, playing for the first time in more than 16 months after a serious rollover SUV accident early last year that caused a serious right leg injury, closed with a 78 to finish 47th, but said it felt great to be able to walk 36 holes and that he will be back.

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