The Players: What next for Scottie Scheffler after world No 1 return and PGA Tour win at TPC Sawgrass?
Scottie Scheffler dominated the final day of The Players to claim a five-shot victory and return to world No 1; Scheffler will defend titles at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and The Masters in the coming weeks
By Ali Stafford at TPC Sawgrass
Last Updated: 13/03/23 10:51pm
Scottie Scheffler sat in front of the golfing media ahead of the final round at The Players and insisted tournament victory was more important than a world No 1 return, although has both safely now in his possession.
The American started the PGA Tour's flagship event as one of three players who could end the tournament top of the world rankings, but Jon Rahm's mid-tournament withdrawal and Rory McIlroy's missed cut removed all the permutations and put destiny back in Scheffler's hands.
The lack of Rahm and McIlroy meant that a top-five finish was going to be enough for Scheffler, who moved ahead with a third-round 65 before dominating an inexperienced leaderboard on the final day to claim an impressive five-shot win.
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Victory earns Scheffler $4.5million and sees him become just the third player in history to hold The Players and The Masters at the same time, following in the footsteps of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, with the latest win his sixth PGA Tour title in little over 13 months.
What does world No 1 mean to Scheffler?
Scheffler first burst to world No 1 last March after winning four tournaments in a six-hole stretch, including a maiden victory at The Masters, then enjoyed a one-week stint last month after successfully defending his WM Phoenix Open title.
Rahm replaced him a week later with his Genesis Invitational victory, with the Spaniard starting The Players as world No 1 for the second successive year after both McIlroy and Scheffler failed to move ahead of him at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this month.
Scheffler's latest success gives him breathing space over his closest rivals ahead of a busy stretch of the season, his third spell at the top of the world rankings, but although isn't overly concerned about where he sits among golf's current leading trio.
"I think the ranking is just an algorithm," Scheffler said after his third round. "For me, I would much rather win the tournament than get back to No 1. My focus is just going out and having a solid round of golf, and the rankings will be the rankings.
"It's tough to rank professional golf, and the OWGR [Official World Golf Ranking] has done a good job of that over a long period of time but at the end of the day, for me, it's just an algorithm."
How has Scheffler made it to world No 1?
Scheffler narrowly missed out on FedExCup victory last August when he squandered a six-shot lead at the Tour Championship and allowed McIlroy to snatch the $15million jackpot, although the 26-year-old has enjoyed remarkable consistency this season on the PGA Tour.
He has finished no worse than 12th in his last nine starts, with victories at TPC Scottsdale and now TPC Sawgrass part of a run that includes a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge, a tied-third at Mayakoba and a share of fourth place at Bay Hill.
"I'm always hopeful to play well," Scheffler explained. "I prepare to come out here and play well. When I'm at home getting ready for tournaments, I'm hopeful that I'm going to be in this position and I've been fortunate so far this year that the hard work is continuing to pay off.
"I've been on a lot of leaderboards and - I've said it a few times - it's a lot of more fun being in the lead than it is being in 20th and shooting two under and finishing 30th or whatever it is. It's a lot more fun being in the arena and being in the moment."
What is coming next for Scheffler?
Scheffler takes a week off ahead of his title defence at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas from March 22-26, where he will look to join Woods as the back-to-back winner of the event.
He defeated Kevin Kisner in the 2022 final and will be among the favourites once again, while Scheffler could still be top of the world rankings when he heads to Augusta National for the opening men's major of the year.
Scheffler will be looking to become just the third world No 1 this century to win The Masters, while a successful defence would see him become the first back-to-back winner of the Green Jacket since Woods in 2002.
"I think I'm just comfortable with where my game is," Scheffler said after his latest victory. "I feel like I'm improving. I'm definitely learning more and more. I would say that's probably the most valuable thing is knowing what you feel like and being able to prepare for it.
"Going into the Masters, it's going to be a fun week. Champions Dinner, there's going to be a lot of fun stuff that I get to do that week. By the time we tee it up Thursday, everybody starts at even par, so it probably doesn't have much of an effect."
Can Scheffler enjoy more success in the coming weeks? Watch the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play this month and The Masters from April 6-9 exclusively live on Sky Sports.