Scottie Scheffler overturned a five-shot deficit to become the first player to successfully defend the Players Championship in the tournament’s 50-year history.

Scheffler carded an eagle and six birdies in a flawless closing 64 at Sawgrass to finish 20 under par, a shot ahead of US Open champion Wyndham Clark, Open champion Brian Harman and Xander Schauffele.

Clark birdied the 16th and 17th to keep his hopes alive but agonisingly lipped out for another birdie on the last to force a play-off.

Overnight leader Schauffele paid the price for dropped shots on the 14th and 15th and also missed from seven feet for birdie on the treacherous 17th.

“It’s pretty special,” Scheffler told CBS. “It’s something you don’t really get the opportunity to do very often.

“It’s tough enough to win one Players so to have it back-to-back is extremely special and I’m really thankful.

“I put up a good fight for four days, Teddy (Scott, his caddie) kept me in a good head space. We had a great finish yesterday, got off to a slow start today and then the hole-out on four kind of propelled us a little bit.

“I hit a lot of good shots today, did a lot of good things this week and it’s nice to come out on top.”

Asked how he had coped with the neck injury he suffered during Friday’s second round, Scheffler added: “I’m a pretty competitive guy and didn’t want to give up in the tournament.

“I did what I could to hang around until my neck got better and then today it felt really good.”

Scheffler, who also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five shots last week, kickstarted his challenge by holing out from 92 yards for an eagle on the fourth and also birdied the fifth, eighth and ninth to race to the turn in 31.

That gave the world number one his first share of the lead and although Schauffele moved back in front with birdies on the seventh and ninth, Scheffler birdied the 11th and then drove the green on the short par-four 12th to set up another.

Schauffele picked up a shot on the same hole to take the outright lead again, but Scheffler birdied the 16th to draw level before Schauffele crucially dropped shots on the 14th and 15th.

Mark Selby produced a vintage display to sweep past Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-0 and secure his place in the semi-finals of the Players Championship in Telford.

World number one O’Sullivan had looked pretty much untouchable this season, with four major ranking titles already.

However, it was Selby, himself a four-time world champion, who produced a high-quality display with half-century breaks or higher in five frames to end O’Sullivan’s 16-match unbeaten run.

There had been a controversial start to the match in the opening frame when referee Desislava Bozhilova failed to warn O’Sullivan after a second missed attempt when he could see one side of a red.

She swiftly realised her error, apologised to both players and promptly informed the world number one he would forfeit the frame if he did not hit a red with his next shot.

O’Sullivan’s response was to smash into the reds, opening up the table which allowed Selby to eventually clinch the frame with a break of 65.

Selby, who will play either China’s Zhang Anda or John Higgins in the semi-finals, soon built early momentum following a clearance of 91. After O’Sullivan did not make the most of a chance in the third, another break of 81 further extended his advantage.

It was turning into a vintage display from the Jester from Leicester, who produced another fine break of 105 to go into the mid-session interval in complete control at 4-0.

Following the resumption, O’Sullivan continued to make some wayward shots, going in off a red and into the top pocket as Selby went on to take the fifth frame with a 59 clearance.

The Rocket finally kicked into gear in the next frame with a break of 58, only to run out of position and then see an attempted safety shot back up the table edge the green to leave a red on.

Following couple of tense exchanges, Selby sunk a long red at pace into the bottom left corner and then dropped in a deft final red after O’Sullivan had left it just over the pocket before clearing the colours to take the frame 70-58, completing a memorable win.

During Thursday’s afternoon session at the International Centre, Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen came through a marathon four-hour contest to beat Gary Wilson 6-4.

Allen, celebrating his 38th birthday, moved into an early 2-0 lead after two half-century breaks and went into the interval 3-1 ahead with a run of 75.

Wilson, who won the BetVictor Welsh Open on Sunday, then mounted a recovery as he fought back to level at 3-3 on the back of a 76 break.

World number three Allen, though, dug in again to take frames seven and eight, before missing a match-ball chance in the next and then eventually getting the job done with a 69 break.

Allen, who had beaten former world champion Mark Williams in the first round, goes on to play Ali Carter for a place in Sunday’s final.

Ronnie O’Sullivan reeled off five frames in succession to beat Zhou Yuelong 6-2 and reach the quarter-finals of the Players Championship.

Competing for the first time since withdrawing from the Wales Open due to anxiety, O’Sullivan was far from his fluent best in the early stages but improved markedly after the interval in Telford.

The seven-time world champion produced a superb total clearance of 136 in the sixth frame, won the next after Zhou inexplicably missed a simple green and wrapped up the win with a run of 73.

O’Sullivan was in no mood to give any insight into his performance, however, telling ITV4: “I don’t assess my performances really, I make that a golden rule. Bit of match practice, take what I can from the tour and move on.

“I’m just trying to get away with playing as least as I can, I feel happier doing that.

“This is all icing on the cake for me, whatever I get off this tour. I’ve got my exhibitions, my ambassador work and that’s my main thing – I just fit in a few tournaments around that.”

Mark Allen earlier made three consecutive centuries, including a tournament record 146, on his way to an impressive 6-3 win over three-time world champion Mark Williams.

Allen followed his 146 in the opening frame with breaks of 112 and 102, restricting Williams to a solitary point in the process, and also made breaks of 94, 70 and 68 to ease into the quarter-finals.

“Any win against Mark is a good win, but to play like that and score like that, that’s what I needed because I haven’t been doing that much,” Allen told ITV4.

“I’m not going to go into it, but I am trying something a bit different this week so we’ll see if it works. It is a timing issue that I feel like I’ve had in recent months so the technical change I’ve made I’m hoping will correct that.

“I started the match as good as you could with three centuries and disappointed not to make four, but that’s the way you need to play.

“I lost a few (against Mark) early on when I first turned pro and I think that’s nine of the last 10 I’ve won now so maybe that’s in his head a little bit as well.”

Allen will play Gary Wilson in the quarter-finals after he came from 2-0 down to beat Hossein Vafaei 6-4, the Welsh Open winner sealing victory with a break of 95.

Ali Carter will take on Judd Trump after breaks of 116, 97, 66 and 69 helped secure a 6-2 victory over Tom Ford.

Luke Littler failed to follow up his stunning Players Championship debut as he fell to a second round defeat in the second tournament in Wigan on Tuesday.

Littler, who had hit a nine-dart finish on his way to winning the title on Monday, was pipped 6-5 by Radek Szaganski.

The teenage sensation had looked set to launch back-to-back assaults on the final stages after opening with an impressive 6-4 win over experienced former UK Open winner Danny Noppert.

Former world champion Gary Anderson won the title on Tuesday with an 8-5 win over Ryan Searle, the same player whom Littler had beaten in the final on Monday.

Anderson was on blistering form, recording a career-high 117.12 average in his first round win over Andy Baetens and missing double 12 for a nine-darter on three occasions during the day.

“Yesterday I felt like a kid at a new school, I was nervous but today I felt more settled and it showed in my performances,” Anderson told

“It’s been a long day and I’m happy to come out on top against a great player in Ryan.”

Teenage sensation Luke Littler produced a stunning display to win the opening Players Championship event on his debut in the competition.

After hitting a nine-dart finish in one of the earlier rounds, 17-year-old Littler dug deep to beat fellow Englishman Ryan Searle in a thrilling final.

Littler took it 8-7, capturing the £15,000 winner’s purse and a first ranking title after continuing his rich vein of form. He averaged 110 and notched seven 180s.

Littler became a household name during a shock run to the final of the World Championship at the turn of the year.

‘The Nuke’ then went on to beat Michael van Gerwen to win the Bahrain Masters in January, becoming the youngest player to hit a televised nine-darter in his quarter-final victory over Nathan Aspinall.

Littler’s strong form continued as he was beaten by home favourite Van Gerwen in the final of the Dutch Masters the following week.

His nine-dart finish at the Players Championship event in Wigan came as he wrapped up a 6-1 win against Michele Turetta, then he accounted for quarter-final opponent James Hurrell 6-3 before edging out Alan Soutar 7-6.

“I know my game is there, I know I can beat anyone, and I’m really happy to have won,” Littler told the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) website.

“Me and my manager know what I have to do to qualify for the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix.

“I want to try and qualify for everything, and I’ve just got to play my game. I’m taking it in my stride. It takes huge pressure off me, and now hopefully I can settle and enjoy it.”

Former world champion Gerwyn Price, meanwhile, withdrew halfway through his third round match after what he claimed were “absolutely pathetic conditions”.

Price was trailing 4-2 on legs against Brendan Dolan in a best-of-11 encounter when he forfeited the match at Robin Park Tennis Centre and Dolan was handed a bye into the next round.

The Welshman later wrote on Instagram Stories: “Absolutely pathetic conditions, travel all the way to Wigan to play in a professional game and we have to play in less than amateur conditions.

“Never have (a) ever given a game up, well that’s me out tomorrow as well. Gutted because my game was really good today and I rely on these events so much.”

Price did not elaborate on why he felt the playing conditions were so poor. The second Players Championship event takes place at the same venue on Tuesday.

A PDC spokesperson told the PA news agency: “Gerwyn decided not to complete his match against Brendan Dolan and left the venue immediately.

“We understand he felt the venue was cold.”

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