Scottie Scheffler dominates Albany to win Hero World Challenge
It’s still 2023, but boy can Scottie Scheffler putt.
Three months ago, when Scheffler was polishing off one of the greatest ball-striking seasons in PGA Tour history, that was almost an unthinkable statement.
Scheffler led the PGA Tour in 2022-23 in a staggering nine statistical categories including strokes gained: total, strokes gained: off-the-tee, strokes gained: approach green, strokes gained: tee-to-green and greens in regulation.
But the stat everyone talked about was the one in which he ranked 162nd: putting. Scheffler’s woes on the greens were well-documented and he only won two times on the PGA Tour despite the gaudy numbers.
Then he showed up in the Bahamas, armed with a new putter and putting coach, and put on a show.
Behind that hot new putter and with Tiger Woods watching as he made his return to competition, Scheffler raced out ahead at the Hero World Challenge and coasted Sunday to a final-round 68 and three-shot win at Albany over Sepp Straka at 20 under.
Scheffler was making his first start in stroke play in three months since the Tour Championship in August. However, it has been much longer since the unquestioned World No. 1 won the on the PGA Tour.
He put together 17 straight top-12 finishes in 2022-23, but won only two times in that span, claiming the WM Phoenix Open and the Players Championship. He started the Tour Championship with a two-shot lead by virtue of the FedEx Cup standings, but let it slip away for the second straight year.
When we saw Scheffler last, he gave us more questions than answers as he was part of a losing American effort at the Ryder Cup. There, he was nearly brought to tears on Day 2 after he and Brooks Koepka were on the losing end of a historic 9 and 7 beatdown in foursomes.
But Scheffler put all of that behind him at Albany as he returned to his historic ball-striking prowess, leading the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green. He also, surprisingly, finished sixth in the 20-man field in putting. Had the Hero been an official event, it would mark the first time Scheffler had finished inside the top 10 in the statistic since his debut win at the 2022 WM Phoenix Open nearly two years ago.
But none of this should have come as a surprise for Scheffler at Albany, where he’s finished second the last two seasons, and has gone a combined 51 under now in three starts.
Straka fired a 64 in the final round to briefly pull within two shots of Scheffler, but birdies at 14 and 15 by the 2022 Masters winner put it away. Scheffler’s putting was actually last in the field for the fourth round, including a short birdie miss at the 17th, however like he had for much of the year, his ball striking did all the work he needed it to.
Justin Thomas shot a 67 Sunday to finish solo third, marking his third straight top-5 finish worldwide after a season in which he missed the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time. Woods, the tournament host, finished at even par, for an 18th-place finish in his first competition in seven months after ankle surgery.