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Scheffler, with newborn on hand, takes Memorial

Written by 
Published in Breaking News
Sunday, 09 June 2024 19:12

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Winning has become a habit for Scottie Scheffler, except there was nothing typical about his victory Sunday at the Memorial.

He made only one birdie. He closed with a 2-over 74, his highest final round in two years. And victory wasn't assured until Scheffler had the mettle to put a firm stroke on a downhill putt from 5 feet above the hole to take out the break.

It went right in the heart for a 1-shot victory over Collin Morikawa, and a handshake with tournament host Jack Nicklaus. Their exchange said it all.

"You're a survivor," Nicklaus told him.

"Thanks," Scheffler said. "Yeah, you made this place brutal today."

Scheffler endured more stress than he wanted and got the victory everyone has come to expect, his fifth of the season -- one week into the month of June -- as he heads for another tough test next week in the U.S. Open.

Muirfield Village was so demanding with its ultra-firm greens and swirling gusts throughout the afternoon that only six players broke par and the average score was a fraction under 75.

Scheffler, who started 4 shots ahead, never lost the lead. He never felt safe, either, not with Morikawa and Adam Hadwin on his heels all afternoon, and on a back nine where making par seemed like hard work. Par is what it took on the 18th hole.

"This is a tough place to close out," Scheffler said. "I didn't do a whole lot great today, but I did enough."

Just barely.

Scheffler was leading Morikawa by 1 shot and both hit approach shots that bounced hard and high off the green and into the rough. Both chipped to about 5 feet. Scheffler buried his putt to win, and the force of his fist pump to celebrate showed how tough this day was on him, and practically everybody.

Making the day even more special was a recent memory with Nicklaus at the Memorial, and cradling month-old son Bennett at his newborn's first PGA Tour event.

Scheffler thought back to 2021, when he missed a 6-foot putt on the final hole that ended any chance of a playoff. Walking off the green, Scheffler recalled Nicklaus telling him one day he would make the putt on 18, "and I'll be walking off to shake his hand."

"It was pretty special thinking about that as I was walking over to shake his hand," he said.

Morikawa, who played in the final group of both majors this year, holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th hole and stayed on Scheffler's heels the rest of the way. He shot 71, the only one from the final 13 groups to break par.

Hadwin was right there with them until closing with three straight bogeys for a 74 to finish alone in third.

Scheffler finished at 8-under 280 and won $4 million from this signature event and its $20 million purse. That pushes him over $24 million for the year, breaking the PGA Tour season earnings record -- and it's barely June -- that he set last year in this era of rising purses.

He's the first player with five wins in a season overall since Justin Thomas in 2016-17 (also five). He also became the first player since Tom Watson in 1980 to have won five times on the PGA Tour before the U.S. Open.

That's next week at Pinehurst No. 2, and Scheffler will be a huge favorite. This was his 11th consecutive tournament with a top-10.

Morikawa picked up $2.2 million and now has a big cushion as he tries to sew up the fourth spot for the Americans going to the Paris Olympics this summer.

Hadwin was within 1 shot of the lead before finishing the front nine with a pair of bogeys. He stayed in the hunt until he closed with a pair of bogeys for a 74. Still, his third-place finish moves him ahead of Corey Conners for the second Canadian spot in the Olympics.

The world ranking after the U.S. Open determines who goes to Paris.

Scheffler had only one birdie -- a 10-foot putt on the sixth hole -- and he missed two birdie chances inside 10 feet on the back nine that could have provided a cushion.

But he made the biggest one on the par-3 16th.

Scheffler and Morikawa were both short of the super-slick green some 90 feet away. Scheffler used putter and hit it weakly, coming up 15 feet short. Morikawa chipped from the collar and also hit a pedestrian chip some 20 feet short.

Morikawa missed his par putt, and Scheffler buried his for a 2-shot lead.

Scheffler dropped his final shot on the 17th, however, and he was clinging again to a 1-shot lead playing the tough 18th that he ended with one last putt.

Next up is the so-called toughest test in golf, and players felt like they just got finished with one at Muirfield Village.

"You could look at it one of two ways," Hadwin said. "Either it's good prep for next week or we just got our butts kicked before going into next week."

For Scheffler it's another victory, his 11th of his career on the tour and 12th worldwide. He has finished strong to win big or come from behind. He has pulled away when it was tight at the start. This time, he nearly lost a 4-shot lead.

It was his highest closing round since a 74 in the British Open at St. Andrews in 2022. But it goes in the book as another big win against the strongest fields. He now has won three signature events (Bay Hill and Hilton Head were the others) to go along with the Players Championship and his second green jacket at the Masters.

Only Scheffler and Tiger Woods have won the Memorial, Players and Masters in the same year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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