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The unstoppable Scheffler wins another green Masters jacket

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler had no doubts going into this Masters, and no one watching had any doubts.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler had no doubts going into this Masters, and no one watching had any doubts. He hit great shots just before the turn on Sunday and powered through on the back nine at Augusta National, shooting a 4-under 68 to earn his second green jacket in three years.

Scheffler is simply unstoppable right now, and he had the help of a staggering group of competitors that made it look easier than it was.

Much like Tiger Woods, he ensured that the result looked inevitable with outstanding control. The difference was that he wore a peach shirt instead of Sunday red and didn't wear fist pumps until it was over.

After hugging caddy Ted Scott and Collin Morikawa, Scheffler turned to the crowd with his arms raised. “WOOOOOO!” he screamed and punched.

Scheffler won by three shots in 2022 with a meaningless four-putt on the final hole. This time too there was no drama.

No climb in golf is more beautiful than the path to the 18th green at Augusta National, where thousands of spectators rise at every step to recognize the game's best player. Scheffler made a 3-foot par putt to secure a four-shot victory over Masters newcomer Ludvig Aberg of Sweden, who did his best to make it a fight.

Aberg, one of four players who held a share of the lead at one point, lost ground when his approach went into the pond left of the 11th hole and made double bogey. These mistakes are not easy to overcome against a player like Scheffler.

Aberg finished with a 69 and took second.

Morikawa, who fell out of the hunt with two double bogeys, shot 74 to tie for third place with Tommy Fleetwood (69) and Max Homa (73), whose hopes ended with a double bogey from the bushes on the par-3 12th. not Rae's Creek.

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., was the top Canadian, finishing 38th with 7 overs. Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., was tied for 53rd after 12 overs.

The 27-year-old Scheffler is the fourth youngest player with two green jackets. He extends his lead at No. 1 in the world to levels not seen since Woods' heyday. Scheffler now has three wins in his last four starts against the strongest competitors – Bay Hill, The Players Championship and the Masters. The other was a second place finish in Houston.

Woods closed with a 77 and finished at 16-over 304, the highest 72-hole score of his career.

Scheffler said he had tears in his eyes before the final round in 2022 when he led by three shots in his first major. His wife Meredith gave him the reassuring words and he sailed to victory. His wife had to watch this film from home in Dallas, where she is expecting the couple's first child at the end of the month.

“You’re going to make me cry right here in Butler Cabin,” Scheffler said when asked about the impending birth.

“It's a very special time for both of us. I can't put into words what it means to win this tournament again. I really can't describe what it will be like to be a father for the first time.” I'm excited to come home and celebrate with Meredith. It’s been a long week without her, but I’m just excited to get home.”

Scheffler finished the season at 11-under 277 and earned $3.6 million from the $20 million purse, increasing his season total on the PGA Tour to over $15 million in just nine tournaments.

Perhaps even scarier for the rest of golf is that Scheffler still hasn't had a round over par this year. He has 10 victories worldwide, starting with his first PGA Tour title at the Phoenix Open just two years and two months ago.

During that time, Scheffler finished in the top 10 a whopping 65 percent of the time.

Scheffler had a lonely walk to the goal area without his wife. His two sisters, Sara and Molly, were the first to greet him, followed by his parents and Randy Smith, the only coach he ever had.

It was the fourth Masters in a row when the winner came to the 18th green with one arm in the green jacket. That doesn't mean Sunday was a stroll through golf's most beautiful garden.

Four players had a lead at various points along the front nine, and then Scheffler began to assert himself with three straight birdies at the turn.

He got it up and down with a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 eighth. He hit the perfect wedge that caught the ridge and came within inches of it on No. 9, giving him a tap-in birdie. And then he holed another 10-foot birdie putt on the 10th to build a two-shot lead.

“I didn’t have a lot of good iron shots, which is a little unusual for me,” Scheffler said. “And when I went to No. 9, it was nice to get the feeling of hitting a really well-struck shot and then I had a chance to have a really nice back nine.”

And then, just like in Woods' best days, he let everyone else do the big numbers.

In the group ahead of him, Aberg crashed off the bank into the water as he approached the 11th, resulting in a double bogey.

Homa made a difficult par on the 11th, but then hit it so long over the par-3 12th that the golf ball plummeted deep into the bushes, leaving him no choice but to take a penalty drop. His chip didn't reach the green and two putts later he had a double bogey.

Morikawa was already starting to slide, needing two strokes to get out of a deep bunker left of the ninth green and make double bogey. On the 11th, he nearly sealed his fate with a shot into the water and a double bogey.

Aberg was the only one who fought back and Scheffler kept answering with birdies. He two-putted and two-putted the 13th green for birdie. His approach to the 14th hit the back slope and rolled to within a foot of the pin.

His last birdie came on the 16th from just under 10 feet away.

Defending champion Jon Rahm, now with Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf, finished with a 76 and finished tied for 45th, 20 shots behind Scheffler. He was at Butler Cabin to help Scheffler get into the green jacket.

Rahm hasn't competed against Scheffler all year and has seen what PGA Tour players struggle with every week. His game from tee to green is reminiscent of Woods, although certainly not in terms of emotion, global appeal or number of wins.

Scheffler falls by the wayside in his own little world, which could be a good thing. At the moment, no one is close to him in the game.

AP Golf:

Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press