SCOTTSDALE – Scottie Scheffler is known for his calm, unflappable demeanor on the golf course. His swing cracks about as often as his smile, which means rarely if at all.
The WM Phoenix Open is anything but calm. It is a party occasionally interrupted by a golf tournament.
But something about the PGA Tour’s wildest, most raucous event evidently clicks with the stoic Scheffler’s personality.
After holding off local favorite Jon Rahm and Canadian Nick Taylor in Sunday’s final round at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, Scheffler has back-to-back WM Phoenix Open championships to prove it.
Although the sponsoring Thunderbird Charities organization stopped keeping “official” attendance a few years ago, the course was again packed throughout tournament week, with the final round coming to an end shortly before kickoff of Super Bowl 57 across the Valley in Glendale.
The crowds were so big that, for the first time in tournament history, organizers declared a sellout for Friday and Saturday and stopped selling tickets.
“I love the environment here,” Scheffler said. “It’s a lot of fun to play. I think the firmness of the golf course really suits me. Having the ability to play a lot of different shots. Hit it high, hit it low.”
He also hit quite a few left during Sunday’s final round but still managed to recover with some critical putts to carve out a final-round six-under-par 65 to finish 19-under, two shots clear of Taylor and five ahead of Rahm, the decorated Arizona State product.
It catapulted Scheffler past Rory McIlroy into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking and came against a stronger than usual WM Phoenix Open field that was bolstered when the PGA Tour listed it as a “designated event” in 2023, boosting the purse from $8.2 million in 2022 to $20 million in 2023.
Scheffler took home $3.6 million for his win Sunday compared to the $1.476 million he pocketed by beating Patrick Cantlay in a playoff to win in 2022.
Just making the cut in this year’s tournament was worth more than $42,000, more than four times what players who made the cut received a year earlier ($17,302).
“It was a good fight out there,” Scheffler said. “Jon played pretty good on the front nine. Then Nick played pretty fantastic the whole day. He was making a lot of putts. It was a good battle. It was a lot of fun. I was fortunate to come out on top this time.”
Scheffler is the first player to win back-to-back in Phoenix since Hideki Matsuyama accomplished the same feat in 2016-17. And he joins a prestigious list of seven players with at least two consecutive victories at the event, including Johnny Miller, Ben Hogan, Lloyd Mangrum, Jimmy Demeret and Arnold Palmer, who won three in a row.
However, only Matsuyama and Scheffler have pulled it off since the tournament moved to Scottsdale in 1987.
“It’s definitely good to get a first win of the year,” Scheffler said. “I hadn’t won since the Masters. So it’s definitely a lot of fun to kind of get this one done, especially in the fashion that I did it – with those guys both playing great golf. Me just kind of being able to extend myself there a little bit at the end and make some key putts was definitely a lot of fun.”
Scheffler took the lead through 54 holes with a second-round 64 and never looked back despite unusually breezy conditions that swirled through the mounds that make TPC Scottsdale such a spectator-friendly venue.
“I felt like I’ve been playing pretty solid,” Scheffler said. “I talked a little bit at the beginning of the week about kind of being on the outside looking in going into Sundays and not really having a chance. So I was definitely excited going into today being in the final group.”
Throughout the early rounds of the tournament, the cold morning temperatures and windy conditions were a defining factor for multiple golfers. Conditions kept scores high and prevented the first and second rounds to be completed before sunset, pushing play forward by a day for both of those rounds.
The wind affected players such as McIlroy and Adam Hadwin, who seemed unsure of their club selection.
“When you’ve got that 90-degree wind the whole time, if it changes just slightly one way or another, it’s a completely different shot, completely different club,” McIlroy said. “I got caught out by that a couple of times coming in, which wasn’t ideal.”
“Tricky conditions for sure,” Hadwin said. “We definitely found the wind to be swirling a little bit. It was kind of bouncing all around between north and east, and it just depended on a little bit of what gust you got. You had to stay patient, had to try and just pick your shots, execute, and if you got gusted, it is what it is.”
Scheffler managed the windy conditions as well as anybody over the first three rounds and was 13 under par heading into Sunday.
“I think around this place when you’re hitting fairways and you’re hitting it well, the golf course can kind of open up for you,” Scheffler said. “But the opposite can happen in a hurry because there’s trouble lurking on basically every hole.”
Scheffler knew that with Rahm and Taylor in the final group, and the potential to go low at TPC Scottsdale possibly bringing other challengers into contention on Sunday, he had to be on top of his game to repeat. Consecutive winners on the PGA Tour are rare.
“I knew it was going to take a great round,” Scheffler said. Nobody was going to give this golf tournament to me. I had to go out and earn it. I was definitely proud of the result.”