Scheffler wins, Tiger finishes 18th at Hero World

NASSAU, Bahamas — Scottie Scheffler has made great gains in his putting. Add that to the rest of top-ranked game, and he made it look easy Sunday. He closed with a 4-under 68 for a three-shot victory in the Hero World Challenge.

Scheffler, a runner-up in the Bahamas the last two years, played bogey-free at Albany and didn’t let anyone get closer than two shots on the back nine as he ended the year with his fifth victory worldwide.

The Hero World Challenge is an unofficial event, though its 20-man field receives world ranking points and Scheffler only solidified his spot at No. 1.

The week wasn’t a total loss for Tiger Woods, the tournament host playing for the first time since surgery to fuse his right ankle a few weeks after the Masters in April.

Woods finished 72 holes for only the third time in the last two years. He has played six tournaments following the recovery from his February 2021 car crash in Los Angeles that badly injured his right leg.

“Just like I said to you guys on Tuesday, I’m curious … what this is going to look like,” Woods said. “I haven’t done it in a while — I haven’t done it with my ankle the way it is now and I was excited each and every day to kind of get through it and kind of start piecing rounds together again. I haven’t done this in a long time so it was fun to feel that again.”

Woods closed with a 72 and finished 18th.

Sepp Straka had three late birdies for a 64 to finish second. Justin Thomas had a 67 to finish alone in third. It was his third straight finish in the top 5 dating to September.

Scheffler led the PGA Tour in just about every important statistical category — off the tee, shots to the green — until he got onto the putting surface. He sought help from highly regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon and is starting to see immediate results.

“I played solid and kept my distance,” Scheffler said. “I was just trying to hit good shots and get as many looks as I could for birdies.”

Scheffler had not played since the Ryder Cup — this was his first 72-hole tournament since the Tour Championship in late August. He said he was optimistic about the work he put in with Kenyon before the Ryder Cup.

“It’s nice to see some fast results,” Scheffler said. “It’s paid off pretty good this week.”

Scheffler didn’t make his first birdie until he chipped close on the par-5 sixth and then pitched up the slope on the drivable par-4 seventh to 2 feet.

Straka, Thomas and Jordan Spieth at times were poised to make a run. Scheffler answered with birdies at the right time to hold them off. He missed a birdie putt on the 17th from just inside 3 feet. It was his only miss inside 5 feet all week.

Rarely is this holiday event without some measure of drama, and such was the case on Sunday. Collin Morikawa was given a two-shot penalty before he teed off for using material in a greens-reading book on the fourth hole Saturday.

Turns out his caddie had used a level on the practice green and put some notations in the book. According to new rules, such notes can only come from traditional methods, without outside devices.

Morikawa was informed 15 minutes before his round, frustrated because he says he has been told by other officials and caddies that it was OK.

“Apparently if they tell you something wrong one day in a different tournament (it) does not carry on, and I understand that. We made the mistake,” Morikawa said. “From our understanding, it was fine to use a level on the practice green and see how putts break and write that down. Obviously, it’s not.”

Morikawa (68) finished seventh.

Woods was never in the mix after each round, which was not the primary objective. He knew there would be rust, and he felt he knocked a little off each day. But not all of it. He had a pitch roll back toward his feet on the par-3 second hole for a double bogey, and he hit another poor chip that led to bogey on the par-5 11th.

Woods remained optimistic he could play one tournament a month in 2024.

“If you ask me right now, I’m a little bit sore,” he said. “Once a month seems reasonable. It gives me a couple of weeks to recover. Maybe I can get into a rhythm. That’s what the plan was going into next year. I don’t see why that would change.”

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