Rory McIlroy’s ninth stint as world number one lasted just four months after Masters champion Scottie Scheffler regained top spot in determined fashion by retaining his WM Phoenix Open title.
As the Holywood star tied 32nd on four-under after a closing 70 at TPC Scottsdale, Scheffler (26) turned a two-shot overnight lead into a two-shot win – his fifth in the last 12 months.
It was the Texan’s first victory since he won the Masters by three strokes from McIlroy 10 months ago and this win was almost as impressive as he responded to a stiff final-round challenge from Nick Taylor, matching the Canadian’s six-under 65 to win by two shots on 19 under-par with Rahm three shots further back in third after a 68.
Scheffler’s win at Augusta National was his fourth in a magical eight-week run that began with his maiden tour victory in Phoenix and continued with wins in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Both Scheffler and Jon Rahm had the opportunity to knock McIlroy off the top of the world rankings in Arizona and it was the Texan who snatched it with a win that sets up a fascinating battle between the world’s top three as the game builds up to the first major of the season.
Two stokes ahead of Rahm and two-time PGA Tour winner Taylor overnight, Scheffler picked up birdies at the second, third and ninth to lead by a shot from the Canadian and by three from the big Basque with nine holes to play.
Taylor birdied the 10th to draw level, but while he made birdie at the par-five 13th to get to 17-under, it was to remain a shot behind Scheffler, who rolled in a 21-footer for eagle moments earlier to go five-under for the day.
The iconic par-three 16th proved key in the end as Scheffler, Rahm and Taylor all missed the green, but only the eventual champion could make par.
He fist-pumped after holing a 15-footer for his three and looked on as Taylor missed from six feet to fall two strokes behind, then horseshoed out from 16 feet for birdie at the drive-able 17th as Scheffler pitched to five feet and brushed in the putt to take a three-shot lead to the 18th.
Seamus Power tied for 20th on seven-under after carding a bogey-free 69 to remain fourth in the FedEx Cup standings behind Rahm, Max Homa and Keegan Bradley but one spot ahead of Scheffler.
Scottie Scheffler eyes world number one spot as Seamus Power moves up the leaderboard in Phoenix
Scottie Scheffler looking for more duels with Rory McIlroy in 2023