Scottie Scheffler had one of the quickest ever ascents to the top of the rankings and the Masters champion didn’t let go of the world No1 spot for long. Fifteen weeks after being overtaken by Rory McIlroy, Scheffler reclaimed his perch with an excellent victory at the Phoenix Open on Sunday.
The defending champion was pushed almost all the way by Nick Taylor, the Canadian who played well above his ranking of 223. Taylor is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour so is no mug and played some sublime golf to stay on Scheffler’s tail until the 16th hole.
There, he was a fraction left of the pin while Scheffler had a difficult up and down. He showed a lot of courage to chip his second shot whereas 99 per cent of people would have putted it. Scheffler, meanwhile, holed a fantastic effort from 15 feet to go two ahead with two to play, and that was more or less the end of it. Taylor also got incredibly unlucky when his putt lipped all the way round the hole and out at 17.
Scheffler is as cool as a cucumber and took it all in his stride as he wrapped up his first win since the Masters last April. He hadn’t played badly since, finishing outside the top 21 at just four of 17 events, which helped keep him high in the rankings.
He will be defending the Green Jacket at Augusta, too, so to retain a title just a month or two before that shows that he can do it and do wonders for the American’s confidence.
Scheffler wasn’t the only man showing some form in the lead-up to the Masters. Justin Thomas and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth both earned top-six finishes, while Jon Rahm continued his extraordinary start to the year by coming third. Rahm has two wins already this year and four in his eight tournaments, so I’ve got no idea how the Spaniard isn’t world No1.
Rory McIlroy didn’t have a great week as he finished tied for 32nd. The Northern Irishman never really got going after he shot 73 on Thursday and his week petered out in the end. But it was a good week, if not necessarily a good final day, for Tyrrell Hatton, who joined Spieth in a group in a share of sixth place on his first PGA Tour appearance of 2023.
The world rankings are in a fragile spot at the moment, given the flux generated by the LIV Golf tour. I am a huge fan of the rankings on the whole, and it is difficult to make the system fair for everyone, but sometimes it can be baffling, as last week’s result on the DP World Tour also illustrates.
Ockie Strydom won the Singapore Open for his first victory outside of his native South Africa. It was Strydom’s second win in six events, yet he has only climbed to 149th in the latest world rankings. It’s confusing.
Lastly, it was a lovely surprise to hear that Tiger Woods plans to play this week’s Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles. Injuries restricted the great man to just nine rounds of competitive golf last year but this suggests he is on the mend and suggests he has hopes of playing at the Masters. It’s great news for the golf world.
Sam Torrance OBE is a former Ryder Cup-winning captain and one of Europe’s most successful golfers. Follow him @torrancesam