|-17 S Scheffler (US); -12 T Hatton (Eng); -10 V Hovland (Nor), T Hoge (US)|
|Selected: -9 H Matsuyama (Jpn); -8 J Rose (Eng), MW Lee (Aus); -6 A Rai (Eng); -5 D Willett (Eng), T Fleetwood (Eng)|
Scottie Scheffler will return to the top of the world rankings after a commanding five-shot victory at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
The American holed five birdies on the trot midway through his round to race away from the field as he closed with a three-under 69 to win on 17 under.
England’s Tyrrell Hatton finished second on 12 under after birdieing his final five holes in a 65.
Viktor Hovland’s 68 lifted him into joint third on 10 under with Tom Hoge.
Scheffler will overtake Jon Rahm at the top of the rankings when they are updated on Monday after the Spaniard pulled out of the tournament following the first round because of illness.
Solid round enough to win
The victory sees Scheffler become just the third player to hold the Players and Masters titles at the same time, emulating Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
It also earns him $4.5m from a record $25m (£21m) purse at the PGA Tour’s flagship event. Last year’s winner Cameron Smith earned $3.6m, while Rory McIlroy’s winning cheque in 2019 was $2.25m from a $12.5m pot.
Scheffler started the final round with a two-shot lead over Min Woo Lee of Australia but that advantage had been wiped out by the third hole. Lee birdied the opener and Scheffler bogeyed the third to leave them tied on 13 under.
However, a triple-bogey seven on the fourth derailed Lee and he also had a double-bogey seven on the par-five 11th as his challenge further faded. He eventually signed for a 76 to finish on eight under par.
The threat to Scheffler strolling to the title appeared to be coming from Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Hatton, who enjoyed a barnstorming finish.
Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, holed seven birdies to reach 12 under after 13 holes but his challenge stalled with a double bogey on the 14th and he eventually finished on nine under.
Hatton was level par for his first nine holes but then birdied the 10th, 12th, and every hole from the 14th to play the final nine holes in a tournament record-equalling 29 and set a clubhouse target of 12 under.
But just as Hatton was finishing up, Scheffler was chipping in for a birdie on the par-three eighth to get to 14 under and that sparked his run of five successive birdies that took him into a six-shot lead with six to play.
“I did a really good job of staying patient and not trying to force things [early on] and then I got hot in the middle of the round and tried to put things away,” said the Texan.
“The final stretch is tough, especially with how windy it was getting. The shots on 17 were challenging and I made a great par on 18. I’m relieved and tired.”
Hatton’s 65 was the lowest round of the day by three shots and earned him $2.725m as he climbed 24 places up the leaderboard.
“I was tied 26th going out, so me playing the back nine compared to the leaders is a different kind of pressure. Going out you don’t feel you have a chance,” he said on Sky Sports.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t [want to climb as high as possible]. It wasn’t as much to get close to Scottie, it was more a goal of mine to try and finish with as many birdies as possible. I gave myself some great chances and the putter cooperated.”
Contrasting fortunes for English players
Hatton was not the only English player to climb the leaderboard.
Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, improved his total by one to finish on eight under, although he double bogeyed the short 17th after hitting his tee shot into the water to fall back from 10 under.
And 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett, who made the cut for the first time in six attempts at the Players, carded a 69 – his lowest round of the tournament – to finish on five under.
That left him on the same score as Tommy Fleetwood, who was playing in the next to last pairing out and started the day nine under, five shots adrift of Scheffler.
However, three bogeys in his opening six holes to effectively ended his challenge, and although he atoned for those with three successive birdies from the 10th, double bogeys on the 14th and 17th holes proved costly as he closed with a 76.
Aaron Rai, who also started on nine under, mixed three birdies with three bogeys in his opening dozen holes as his challenge failed to materialise. And the man who aced the par-three 17th on Saturday walked off with a six on Sunday after hitting his tee shot into the water. A three-over 75 left him six under on his Players debut.