Why Scottie Scheffler’s blown 6-shot lead at Tour Championship wasn’t a meltdown

Scottie Scheffler of the United States congratulates Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland on the 18th green after McIlroy won during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on August 28, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Scottie Scheffler blowing a six-shot lead to Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship earned an ignominious designation.

It marked the eighth time on the PGA Tour that a player with a six-stroke lead with 18 holes to play did not go on to win, the Tour record for largest blown lead in a final round.

Greg Norman was infamously part of one of those instances at the 1996 Masters.

Norman bogeyed nine through 11, doubled 12 and 16 and let Nick Faldo pick up 11 shots on him as the latter won the green jacket by five.

Scheffler’s Sunday at East Lake? It felt nothing like that, even if he did hit only nine greens.

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“I just for whatever reason, I couldn’t get enough looks,” Scheffler said after the round. “Maybe if I could take a few shots back, I’d probably take back the drive on 16. I’d probably — that would be the one I’d like to have back.”

Scheffler’s tee shot on 16 was pulled left and settled down in the Bermuda rough, the direct line to the green blocked off by trees. From there, he punched his approach into the front left greenside bunker, a spot from which he had a more than reasonable chance of getting the ball up and down.

His bunker shot was less than stellar, but he still gave himself a makeable putt, less than nine feet down the hill, for par.

“I hit a good putt and it hoped off something a foot and a half from the club,” Scheffler said. “I don’t know the angle y’all had on the cameras, but if it was down the line you would have seen it hop off a little bit.”

That was Scheffler’s only bogey of the back nine.

Sure, a final-round 73 was not what he wanted, and one could reasonably assume he thought he deserved the FedEx Cup title after winning four times this season, including the Masters.

But a meltdown this was not. He showed way too much fight to apply that word to his performance.

Scheffler made par putts when he had to on the 7th from five-and-a-half feet, the 11th from five feet and the 12th from 11-and-a-half feet. He also executed stellar chips on 9 and 13 from difficult spots, part of a run when he got up-and-down in five out of seven holes. He made birdie on the 8th to regain his solo lead after McIlroy caught him.

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Scheffler was never out of the tournament, even giving himself a chance to tie on 18 with birdie, despite clearly not being as sharp as he had been all season with his ball striking.

“I put myself in position to win this tournament when I wasn’t playing my best today, and so I’m proud of how I fought,” Scheffler said.

His slow start was compounded, he said, on the 6th hole, when he made his third bogey of the round because of a mental error. He played the wrong shot from short left of the green at the par-5 to a front left pin.

“I should have just played it out to the right like I normally would, and for some reason I tried to force it in there,” Scheffler said. “So just little mental errors like that. After No. 6, I locked in pretty good and I just wasn’t swinging it well.”

After the bogey on the easy par-5, Scheffler played even-par golf on his way to the finish. He had one final chance on the 72nd hole, putting his second shot in one of the front right greenside bunkers on East Lake’s other par-5.

“I hit the bunker shot exactly how I wanted to and there was no sand in the bottom of that bunker,” Scheffler said. “Club skips up into the equator of the ball and goes over the green.”

He did well to get up-and-down from that position, just like many of his other holes in the final round.

In the end, Scheffler summed up his afternoon in a deeply relatable way.

“It’s a tough break. It’s just golf,” he said. “You get good ones and bad ones.”

And it wasn’t all bad. Scheffler’s consolation prize: $5,750,000.

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