The world’s No.1 ranked golfer, Dallas’ own Scottie Scheffler, was hoping to cap the best season on the PGA Tour with a FedEx Cup title on Sunday.
Instead, Scheffler made history for the wrong reasons, blowing a 6-stroke lead he held after 54-holes, tied for the largest lost lead after 54-holes in PGA Tour history. The last one to lose that large of a lead after 54-holes was Dustin Johnson in 2017 at the HSBC Champions.
Rory McIlroy, the most ardent defender of the PGA Tour during a tumultuous year, was the benefactor of Scheffler’s collapse, coming from behind to win the Tour Championship and become the first three-time winner of the FedEx Cup.
McIlroy won $18 million, pushing his PGA Tour earnings to over $26 million for the season. He closed with a 4-under 66 in the final round to overtake Scheffler, who made only one birdie in his 3-over 73 final round.
Scheffler, who led the PGA with four wins on the Tour this season, including the Master’s championship, was the No.1 seed, granting him a two-stroke lead to begin the tournament. He did not trail all tournament until after the 16th hole in the final round.
Scheffler finished in a tie for second place with Sungjae Im, who had a double bogey on the 14th hole yet still managed a 66 final round. Scheffler and Im each won $5.75 million.
“The money definitely didn’t creep into my mind. I wanted to win the season-long title,” Scheffler said. “I’ve had a really great year and I wanted to finish it off with a win here, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that.”
McIlroy needed plenty of help from Scheffler, who birdied four of six holes Sunday morning to finish the third round with the six-shot lead. Later that day, however, Scheffler lost the lead in the first seven holes of the fourth and final round.
McIlroy referred to the final round as a “spectacle,” but not because of the heavily pro-McIlroy crowd chanting his name during the last holes.
“Two of the best players in the world going head-to-head for the biggest prize on the PGA Tour, and I hope everyone at home enjoyed that,” he said.
It was a nail-biter to the end at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, but it all turned on two shots.
McIlroy connected on a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th hole to tie for the lead.
After hitting a shot past the green by some 20 yards on the 16th, his follow-up shot was headed off the front of the green when it hit the pin and settled 7 feet away. McIlroy connected on his next attempt to save par.
Meanwhile, Scheffler blasted his shot out of a bunker to just inside 10 feet and missed the subsequent putt, making a bogey that put him behind for the first time all week.
Scheffler badly mishit a 10-foot birdie on the 17th that would have tied it again, putting the Tour Championship and $18 million on the line at the final hole.
Scheffler’s second shot on the par-5 18th sailed short and right into a bunker, and he blasted the next shot out over the green. McIlroy got a massive stroke of luck again as he went left against the grandstand, and the ball ricocheted onto the green for an easy par.
McIlroy won the FedEx Cup in 2016 and again in 2019, but this might have been the sweetest of them all. This win comes off a year in which the PGA Tour has been embroiled in a feud with the new LIV Golf league, which has attracted some two dozen players away from the PGA Tour.
“I believe in the game of golf. I believe in this tour, in particular. I believe in the players on this tour,” McIlroy said in the trophy presentation. “It’s the greatest place in the world to play golf, bar none, and I’ve played all over.”