Bengaluru: Scottie Scheffler completed the job he may have been left incomplete in his first two visits here in 2021 and 2022, when he finished second at the Hero World Challenge. He stayed bogey free on the final day for a 68 to win the 2023 World Hero Challenge, an event he confessed he had watched for a good part of his life.
Scheffler, who received his Tiger Trophy from Woods and Dr Pawan Munjal, Executive Chairman of Hero MotoCorp, admitted, “It was really cool for me two years ago just to get into this tournament. I had seen the Hero World Challenge pretty much my entire life and it seemed like such a fun time, only 20 guys – 20 of the best in the world coming down to play Tiger’s event.”
He added, “It’s definitely nice to win and also nice to be consistent. Finishing second is not nearly as good a feeling as finishing first.”
Scheffler, starting the day three clear, totalled 20-under and finished three ahead of Seep Straka (64), who rocketed up the leader board with the day’s second best card and a total of 17-under.
Matt Fitzpatrick (70) and Justin Thomas (67), the only players inside five shots of Scheffler with 18l holes to go, never really mounted a challenge as the World No. 1 polished off his third win of 2023 and ensured he would go into 2024 with even more confidence.
Tiger Woods had a mixed bag with a 72 that had five birdies and three bogeys as he finished even for the week and 18th.
Neither the score nor the position mattered. All that mattered was that he lasted 72 holes and was smiling and sounding confident.
“I think I have come a long way from being a bit rusty to playing four rounds,” Woods said. “Just the physicality of playing and competing again, I haven’t done this in a while so it was nice to get out there with the guys and have some fun.
Scheffler looked in command as he started the final round. Two birdies on either side and no bogey did not allow anyone any chance. He had back-to-back birdies on sixth and seventh and then again on 14th and 15.
He said, “I was kind of on the outside looking in the last couple years on Sunday and I needed a good back nine to finish second and give myself an outside chance. Going into today was definitely nice being in the lead and I played solid golf to kind of finish it off.”
On how he will take this going in 2024, he went on, “Yeah, great confidence going into next year. Only probably I think we have maybe four weeks until we leave again, so it’s definitely nice kind of having the momentum of a win as I go into preparing for next season. Yeah, I mean, couldn’t get better momentum than this, you know.”
Scheffler’s confidence for 2024 will come from his putting, which from being below average has become amazingly good.
Scheffler began the 2023 HWC with three bogeys in the first six holes and had only four more in his next 66 holes. Round 2 had two dropped shots, while round 3 had one and the final round had none. Overall, he had two eagles, both in the third round, 23 birdies and seven bogeys.
Scheffler said, “I was optimistic going into this week. I think I just played solid today and kept my distance from the rest of the guys. It was the same game plan as always.”
Woods, who plans one tournament every month next year, added, “I just wish I could have played a little cleaner but there is always next time. I think if you ask me right now, I am a little bit sore.
“Maybe I can get into the rhythm of something like one tournament a month.
“That was the plan going into next year and I don’t see why that would change.”
Woods parred the first and double bogeyed the par-three second but drained a sensational birdie putt from 34 feet out on the par-three fifth. Three other birdies on sixth, 14th and the 15th were eutralized by bogeys on eighth, 11th and 16th.
Woods had struggled on the back nine throughout the week and was over par for it on the first three days but was even par on the final day. The birdies on Par-5 15th was particularly satisfying after a double bogey on the first, a bogey on the second and a par on the third. In the final round, He drove 357 yards and followed with a fine second shot to inside 40 feet, but just off the green. A nice chip to under six feet set him up for birdie, which he holed.
Finishing behind the world No 1 was Sepp Straka, who last year had come as a replacement when Woods pulled out at the last moment. Straka fired a bogey-free 64 with eight birdies to move to 17-under and second.
Justin Thomas had six birdies against one bogey for 67 and a total of 16-under, as Tony Finau (67) and Matt Fitzpatrick (70) were fourth at 15 under.
The 2021 and 2022 champion, Viktor Hovland after a sedate 73-73 on the first two days improved on the third to 70 and then exploded on the final day with a 63 that had three birdies and eagle on either side and one bogey on the 16th.