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Scheffler seizes No. 1 ranking

PHOENIX (AFP) — Scottie Scheffler outdueled Canada’s Nick Taylor down the back nine Sunday to repeat as PGA Phoenix Open champion and overtake Rory McIlroy for the world number one ranking.

It was the 26-year-old American’s first title since capturing last year’s Masters and returned him to the rankings summit he surrendered to Northern Ireland’s McIlroy last October.

“It feels pretty good,” Scheffler said.

Scheffler fired a six-under-par 65 in Sunday’s final round to complete 72 holes at TPC Scottsdale on 19-under 265 and defeat Taylor by two strokes for the $3.6 million top prize and his fifth career PGA title.

“I’m just proud of how I fought,” Scheffler said. “I didn’t have my best stuff. I grinded it out today.”

“I wasn’t hitting it good off the tee. My irons didn’t feel as sharp. But I played a great round of golf.”

Spain’s third-ranked Jon Rahm, who also had a chance to become world number one with a victory, settled for third on 270 after a closing 68 with two-time PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas fourth on 271 and Australian Jason Day, the 2015 PGA Championship winner, fifth on 272.

Scheffler became the seventh back-to-back Phoenix Open winner and the first repeat champion since Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama in 2017.

He joined McIlroy and Max Homa as the only players to successfully defend PGA titles so far this season.

Scheffler won his first PGA title last year at Phoenix to launch an incredible two-month run that included triumphs at Bay Hill and the WGC Match-Play before taking his first major crown at Augusta National.

Taylor and Scheffler were deadlocked for the lead with six holes to play.

Scheffler reached the green in two at the par-5 13th and rolled in a clutch 22-foot eagle putt to reach 18-under while Taylor answered with a seven-foot birdie putt to stay only one adrift.

At the famed par-3 16th hole, with 20,000 rowdy spectators in a stadium atmosphere, Scheffler was booed for missing the green with a 9-iron and Taylor’s 8-iron drew boos by rolling off to the left as well.

After relief from a grandstand, Scheffler chipped 15 feet past the hole while Taylor pitched to just inside seven feet.

Scheffler rolled in the tense par putt to spark a loud roar from the crowd, pumping his right fist in joy at the feat, while Taylor missed right of the hole moments later for his first bogey of the day to stumble two back with two holes remaining.

“It was a big putt,” Scheffler said.

“Definitely a lot of fun to see that one go in.”

Taylor had a horseshoe lip-out on a 16-foot birdie putt at the 17th and Scheffler followed with a birdie tap-in from inside five feet to reach 19-under and lead by three. Taylor birdied 18 to shoot 65 but it only trimmed the final margin.

McIlroy fired a second straight 70 to finish on 280 and share 32nd.

Rickie Fowler aced the par-3 seventh hole with a 6-iron from 216 yards. It was the American’s first hole-in-one at a PGA event since 2015.

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