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The Waste Management Phoenix Open: An Ending Fit for a Great Tournament

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is always one of the marquee events on the PGA Tour, and this year, despite the pre-tournament withdrawals of World No. 4 Viktor Hovland and World No. 5 Xander Schauffele, the tournament still lived up to the hype. Hole 16 at TPC Scottsdale is one of the best recognized on tour, with the stadium atmosphere leading into one of the best closing stretches of any course on the circuit.

On Sunday, there was no shortage of big names in the mix, but some underdogs made for a good story, too. After rain made the second half of the first round be pushed back to Friday, the entire rest of the tournament was completed playing catchup, with the third round not being completed until well into Sunday's playing, and every player in the field played at least 24 holes on Sunday.

Going into the back nine in the final round, there were about a dozen players in contention, but that quickly thinned out into five players, who were World No. 1 (and two-time defending champion) Scottie Scheffler, 2022 third-place finisher Sahith Theegala, World No. 20 Sam Burns, 2023 Canadian Open champion Nick Taylor, and the biggest underdog of all, Charley Hoffman, who lost in a playoff at the 2009 Phoenix Open and hadn't won a tournament on the PGA Tour since 2016.

Hoffman quickly separated himself from the competition with an eagle-birdie-birdie stretch from holes 13-15 propelling him to 21-under, where he would finish. He finished with a three-shot lead, but he was playing several groups in front of the leaders, so he had to wait to watch the rest of the field finish.

Burns, who was playing in the group ahead of Hoffman, finished at 18-under but was all-but eliminated, barring a collapse from Hoffman on hole 18, which would not end up happening, as Hoffman parred the hole.

Scheffler was next to go through the final section, as he was playing in the second-to-last group, just ahead of Theegala, Taylor, and Andrew Novak, who entered the third round in contention but quickly played himself out of it. Scheffler bogeyed hole 14, meaning that he would need to play the final four holes in 4-under to force a playoff, but he only birdied hole 16 and finished at 18-under, three back from Hoffman.

Theegala, playing in the final group, entered the back nine in contention, but after a bogey on 12, he fell back and never really contended, and he ended his round with a birdie on 16 to reach 17-under.

That leaves Taylor. Playing with Theegala and Novak, he looked like he was out of contention at one point, especially after he parred the getable par-5 13th that Hoffman eagled. However, a birdie on 15 brought him back into contention, and a birdie on 16 after taking direct aim at the flagstick brought him within one with two holes to play.

On the driveable par-4 17th, Taylor parred after pitching to about 10 feet and running his birdie putt two feet past the hole, leaving him one behind entering the 18th, which played as the seventh-hardest hole in the final round. Taylor's drive found the right rough, but he hit a fantastic second shot to leave himself a nine-foot birdie putt to force the playoff. Next, he did this:

In the playoff, which would see the players repeatedly play hole 18 until a winner was declared, both players found the fairway with their drives, and both players put their approach shots close to the hole. Taylor left himself 15 feet for birdie, while Hoffman left himself seven feet. Taylor went first, and walked in his putt for birdie, putting the pressure on Hoffman to hole his.

Hoffman responded in kind, making his putt to force a second hole in the playoff. He made sure that he wouldn't leave his putt short, as he put it through the break, and if it hadn't hit the hole, it might have gone 10 feet past.

On the second playoff hole, neither player found the fairway, with Hoffman finding a fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway and Taylor ending up in the right-hand rough, just past a fairway bunker. With their second shots, Taylor, who went first, put his ball to 11 feet, while Hoffman didn't come close, and ended up with 28 feet for birdie.

Hoffman went first, and he narrowly missed his putt for birdie and would tap in for par. That opened up the stage for Taylor to take his fourth career win.

Taylor ensured there wouldn't be a third playoff hole, as he found the bottom of the cup with his birdie putt to clinch the win. It served as an epic moment for the Canadian, as he began celebrating about a foot before the putt hit the hole.

Hoffman was a -700 favorite on DraftKings at one point, and with four holes to play, Taylor's line was +1000. Alas, it wasn't meant to be for Hoffman, just as it was in 2009 when he lost to Kenny Perry in a playoff after the Super Bowl had started.

Main Image via the Waste Management Phoenix Open

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