PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler has gotten so used to the putts he needs to make going in during his rise to stardom, when they don’t, it’s a surprise.
And during the final round of the PGA Championship, a little cruel, too.
While Scheffler put together a game charge during the final round on Sunday, his 5-under 65 was tainted with what might have been. Scheffler saw a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first hole spin around the hole before staying out. So did an 8-foot par putt on the ninth.
Those go in and maybe Scheffler tracks down the front-running Brooks Koepka. They didn’t, evidence that the game can punish even the best in the world sometimes too.
Scheffler called the two lip-outs “the worst” he’s ever seen. Yet in typically modest fashion, he declined to blame them on his inability to catch Koepka. He had 72 holes to try to beat Koepka and even though he made fewer bogeys (seven) than everyone else in the 156-man field, he didn’t.
“I gave the guys on top of the leaderboard something to think about, and I kind of made a little bit (of) a move, but Brooks just played some fantastic golf this week,” Scheffler said.
The kind of fantastic golf that’s become the norm for Scheffler over the last 16 months, a stretch that includes a victory at the 2022 Masters and a stint atop the world golf rankings, a spot that he returned to after draining a birdie on the 18th to assure himself of a tie with Viktor Hovland for second at 7 under.
Scottie Scheffler returns to world No. 1, usurping Jon Rahm after his T-2 finish at the #PGAChamp.
Brooks Koepka moves to No. 13 after his win. pic.twitter.com/EawCWd8lsy
— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) May 21, 2023
Not that Scheffler is constantly hitting refresh on his phone to check.
“It’s an algorithm,” he said with a laugh, adding “ I don’t play for world ranking. I play to come out here and compete. Right now, I’m a little sad that I wasn’t able to get the tournament done, but I’m proud of how I fought, I’m proud of how I played the back nine today to give myself a chance.”
Red numbers were rare during the first three rounds at Oak Hill, where only seven players began the final day under par.
The venerable East Course relented a bit on Sunday, softened by steady rain on Saturday and pin placements designed to maximize scoring.
Five players — Scheffler, Cam Davis, Kurt Kitayama, Sepp Straka and Cam Smith — carded a 5-under 65, tied for the lowest final round ever in seven majors at Oak Hill. The average score for the 76 players who made the cut was 70.66, a massive drop from the 73.11 average of the first three days.
“The conditions have been different every day, it seems like,” Kitayama said. “But it’s still a hard course no matter what happens with the weather. Maybe just with the greens soft today, I noticed a few more low scores, but still nothing crazy low.”
RAHM AND RORY
Jon Rahm’s stay at No. 1 in the world is over — for now — after finishing in a tie for 50th. The Masters champion made the cut despite opening with a 6-over 76. but spent most of the weekend far down the leaderboard.
McIlroy birdied the first hole, but couldn’t string anything together, trading five birdies with four bogeys on his way to a third straight 1-under 69 to finish at 2 under, good enough for a tie for seventh.
The 34-year-old hasn’t won a major since capturing the 2014 PGA at Valhalla, but was pleased with his ability to be in the mix despite feeling a little off all week.
“I don’t need my best stuff to compete,” said McIlroy, who has placed in the top 10 in seven of his last nine starts in majors. “I feel like I need my best stuff to win, but you know, I don’t need my best stuff to compete and hang in there.”
LIV-ING ON THE EDGE
Just like they did at Augusta National, members of Saudi-backed LIV Golf were a factor on the weekend.
Eleven of the 16 LIV players who came to the East Course made the cut. Koepka became the first LIV player to win a major, while four others — Bryson DeChambeau (T5), Smith (T9), Mito Pereira (T18) and Patrick Reed (T18) — finished inside the top 20.
“We’re still out there,” Smith said. “We haven’t forgot how to play golf. We’re all great golfers out there, and we know what we can do, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Harold Varner III was among those who had a chance to play their way into the next major at the PGA Championship. Now, he has to go through U.S. Open qualifying.
The U.S. Open exempts the top 60 in the world ranking that was published Sunday evening after the PGA Championship. Varner tied for 29th and moved up only one spot to No. 64.
Varner plays for LIV Golf, which does not get world-ranking points. The U.S. Open takes the top 60 on June 11, the Sunday before U.S. Open week begins at Los Angeles Country Club.
Cam Davis not only played his way into the Masters with his tie for fourth, the Australian moved up from No. 68 to No. 49 and won’t have to go through U.S. Open qualifying in two weeks.
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR
The top 15 and ties earned an invitation to next year’s PGA at Valhalla. While most of the players near the top of the leaderboard likely didn’t have to worry about it — pending a decision on how LIV Golf factors into the world-golf rankings — the invitation is a very big deal for PGA Tour rookie Eric Cole and club pro Michael Block.
Cole — who briefly led the tournament when the first round was suspended due to darkness on Thursday — finished in a tie for 15th with Block. Block a club pro from California, also tied for 15th at 1 over after a storybook week in which he aced the par-3 15th hole on Sunday.