Masters: Scottie Scheffler wins first major as Rory McIlroy finishes second

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World number one Scottie Scheffler cemented his place as the dominant force in the men’s game by winning the Masters and clinching his first major.

Scheffler won with a one-under 71, missing two short putts for a double bogey on 18, to finish 10 under par and claim the Green Jacket at Augusta.

The 25-year-old American finished three shots clear of Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who shot an extraordinary 64.

Australia’s Cameron Smith, in the last pair with Scheffler, hit a 73.

World number six Smith was aiming for a rare double of Players Championship and Masters victories, but ended up finishing third on five under alongside Ireland’s Shane Lowry.

McIlroy, who started the day one over, raised hopes of a sensational comeback when he holed out of the greenside bunker amid incredible scenes on the 18th, moving within three shots of the lead.

However, Scheffler remained steady and extended his advantage, which meant his late wobble on the 18th green did not matter.

The US Ryder Cup star held a three-shot overnight lead and continued his recent dominance with another commanding performance in Sunday’s final round.

Afterwards Scheffler revealed he “cried like a baby” on Sunday morning because he doubted if he was ready to win one of the sport’s most iconic tournaments.

Because of the composure he shows on course, Scheffler’s candid admission about the “overwhelming” emotion he felt before Sunday’s round was a surprise.

It was also surprising because he has been the outstanding player on the PGA Tour this year and his ascension to major champion at Augusta this week looked to be a natural progression.

But the magnitude of the Masters, and the weight of history at Augusta, makes it a different proposition to the rest.

Scheffler had not won a tour event until this year, triumphing at the Phoenix Open in his 71st senior tournament, then adding two more victories sat the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

While he is the standout player in 2022, Smith is not far behind.

As well as the Players Championship, the Australian also won the Tournament of Champions which means the two men had won five of the year’s six strongest tournaments between them.

That set up the prospect of a tantalising duel on a gorgeous spring afternoon which offered the chance for birdies.

The highlight of Scheffler’s round was a stunning chip-in for birdie on the third, which turned momentum back in his favour after 28-year-old Smith had already reduced the gap to one shot.

On holing out the bump and run, Scheffler said: “I was very excited and a bit surprised, it was not a shot I expected to go in.

“I wouldn’t say it changed the complexion of the day but it helped me get on a roll.”

Smith, also bidding for a maiden major, still applied pressure before seeing his chances irreparably damaged with a triple bogey on the iconic par-three 12th.

Unruffled by McIlroy’s charge and Smith’s troubles, Scheffler converted more birdies at 14 and 15 to lead by five shots with three holes left.

A majestic display ended with the uncharacteristic wobble on the 18th as Scheffler, finally showing signs of emotion as tears filled the eyes of his wife Meredith, took four putts to confirm victory.

When the final shot dropped to an even louder cheer, a relieved smile broke out across Scheffler’s face as he celebrated his fourth victory in the past six tournaments.

“I tried to keep my head down and execute shots. I knew if I took care of my stuff and played solid stuff, I’d get the job done,” he added.

“I’m kind of glad I missed those putts at the end because it meant I didn’t get too emotional.”

Following a steady if not spectacular opening three rounds, McIlroy said his target for Sunday’s finale was clinching a seventh top-10 finish at Augusta.

The Northern Irishman achieved his aim with an electrifying performance which saw him race up the leaderboard and create a buzz of excitement on the course.

McIlroy also threatened to break several Masters records as he attempted to achieve an audacious comeback.

Starting 10 shots behind Scheffler, he was aiming to match the biggest final-round comeback to win a major, set by Paul Lawrie at the 1999 Open Championship.

Birdies on the first and third got the confidence flowing, with three more on seven, eight and 10 giving McIlroy an extra spring in his step as he suddenly moved into joint third.

Then came the conversion of an eagle putt on the par-five 13th to put him seven under for the day and the course record of 63 in his sights.

McIlroy rescued pars on 14 and 15 after wayward drives left, with two more pars on 16 and 17 leaving the course record – set by Nick Price in 1986 and Greg Norman in 1996 – out of reach.

But there was one more highlight – which McIlroy said made him as happy as he had “ever been on a golf course”.

In the bunker on the right of the green, McIlroy splashed out and holed for birdie, sparking some of the most fervent celebrations ever seen by the four-time major champion.

That moved him within three shots of Scheffler, providing a slim hope of victory, but ultimately the final-day charge proved too late as another opportunity to win all four men’s major

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