PGA Tour: Can anyone beat Scottie Scheffler?

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Scottie Scheffler tees off on the 11th hole during the final round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands, Sunday, June 23, 2024, in Cromwell, Conn. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) © (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler had to wait out a climate protest on the 18th green and Tom Kim’s tying birdie on the last hole of regulation.

Those events only delayed what seems to be inevitable on the PGA Tour this season: the best golfer in the world walking off with the trophy.

Shrugging off a protest that interrupted the tournament on the 72nd hole while the leaders were lining up their putts, Scheffler won the Travelers Championship on the first hole of sudden death on Sunday for his sixth win of the year, the most in one season on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods had six in 2009.

“When something like that happens, you don’t really know what’s happening, So it can kind of rattle you a little bit,” Scheffler said.

“That can be a stressful situation, and you would hate for the tournament to end on something weird happening because of a situation like that,” he said. “Tom and I both tried to calm each other down so we could give it our best shot there on 18.”

Scheffler closed with a 5-under 65 and a 22-under 258 total at the TPC River Highlands, and Kim matched him with a final-round 66.

Tom Hoge and Sungjae Im tied for third, two shots back, with Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Justin Thomas and Akshay Bhatia tied for fifth at 18 under. Bhatia was also in the final group that was disrupted by the protest.

“I was scared for my life,” he said. “I didn’t even really know what was happening. … But thankfully the cops were there and kept us safe, because that’s, you know, that’s just weird stuff.”

It was Scheffler’s fourth victory of the year in the tour’s $20 million, limited-field signature events, earning him a payday of $3.6 million. He also won the Masters and The Players Championship.

And Scheffler still has two months to go.

“As much as I love him, I would have loved to take that away from him,” said Kim, who shares a birthday and a friendship with Scheffler. “But I’m happy for him, and after I tapped out, after he tapped out, he said some really nice words and it meant a lot to me.”

Scheffler had a one-stroke lead heading to the 18th green on Sunday when six people stormed the course, waving smoke bombs that left a red and white powdery residue on the putting surface. Some wore white T-shirts with the words “NO GOLF ON A DEAD PLANET” in black lettering.

They were tackled by police and taken off.

The activist group Extinction Rebellion, which has a history of disrupting events around the world, claimed responsibility for the protest. In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, the group blamed climate change for an electrical storm that injured two people at a home near the course on Saturday.

After a delay of about five minutes, when tournament officials used towels and blowers to remove the powder and any other marks that might affect play, Scheffler left a 26-foot putt from the fringe on the edge of the cup and tapped in for par.

Kim then made a 10-foot birdie putt for a 66 to match Scheffler.

“Obviously it is a disruption and you don’t want it to happen, but for me it just kind of slowed things down,” Kim said. “It took the meaning of the putt away for a second. Because for the past 17 and a half holes all you’re thinking about is golf, and suddenly when that happens your mind goes into a complete — like, you’re almost not even playing golf anymore. I thought it was a dream for a second.”

The hole location on the 18th was moved for the playoff to avoid the parts of the green affected by the protesters.

Scheffler hit his approach in the playoff to 11 feet while Kim found a greenside bunker. Kim’s blast from a plugged lie ran 36 feet past the hole, leaving Scheffler with an easy two-putt par for the victory. Afterward, his wife, Meredith, met him on the green, carrying their 6-week-old son, Bennett.

“It’s fun competing against your friends,” Scheffler said. “But at the same time, it’s difficult. Because part of me wants him to miss the putt and part of me wants him to make the putt. … But he should remember that putt he made on 18, because it was pretty special. And he’s a great player and a great champion.”

Coming off a tie for 41st in the U.S. Open – by far his worst finish of the year — Scheffler trailed Kim by three strokes after the first round, by two after the second round and by one heading to the tee on Sunday.

Scheffler took a one-shot lead over Kim with three straight birdies on Nos. 13-15 — he had putts for eagle on two of them. While Hoge signed for a 62 to finish at 20 under, and Im joined him there, Scheffler and Kim matched pars over the next two holes to set up the surprising finish.

Scheffler and Kim share a June 21 birthday — Scheffler is six years older — and they celebrated with New Haven pizza before the tournament about 30 miles north. The Dallas-area residents played together in the final group on Sunday, chatting and joking around.

But only one of them could hold the trophy at the end.

And just like it’s been so often, it was Scheffler.

Kim said being in a pack of leaders with his birthday buddy allowed him to focus on his own game.

“You don’t need to worry about him, because he’s going to play well,” Kim said. “Obviously he’s a phenomenal player, world No. 1, all those titles. But at the same time for me he’s just Scottie Scheffler, he’s just a good friend.

“To come down with someone that I play a lot of golf with, who beats me a lot at home — and, unfortunately, he beat me in the playoff too,” Kim said. “But it definitely made it a lot more enjoyable out there.”

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