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No other golfer is doing what Scottie Scheffler makes look easy

No other golfer is doing what Scottie Scheffler makes look easy

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The aw-shucks earnestness of Scottie Scheffler means his fiery competitive streak isn’t always obvious. His fire, his motor and his drive are masked by understated wholesomeness. The 27-year-old Texan met with reporters this week and dropped two “goshes,” a “golly” and a “y’all,” reminding everyone that he doesn’t define himself by the leader board or a scorecard.

“I feel like I say it a bunch: Golf’s something that I do,” he said. “It’s a tremendously huge part of my life. But it doesn’t define me as a person. It’s just something that I do. And I happen to be good at it some weeks”

Again, an understatement. Scheffler is swinging a golf club better than anyone else in the world. The world’s top-ranked player enters the Masters as a heavy favorite to win a second green jacket. Talk to anyone around the course, and you hear comparisons not to other champions in the field but to Tiger Woods in his prime. A win here will forever change Scheffler’s narrative, catapulting him into a new tier of golf greats.

“You have to go back to the Tiger Woods days to find a player who’s dominated the PGA Tour the way Scottie Scheffler is and who arrives there with every facet of his game — the most important facets of his game — needed to win the Masters,” Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said. “Nobody has even come close to having them in the order — not even Tiger Woods — in the order that Scottie Scheffler has them.”

The pieces certainly are exquisite. No one is cracking jokes about his footwork on the tee box or wincing over his putting. He’s the best ball-striker in the field, a monster from tee to green who wields a wedge like a magic wand.

The missing piece was his putting, which had been inexplicably inconsistent. Every other part of Scheffler’s game — every other part of Scheffler — had been so reliable from week to week. But he was climbing atop leader boards, hoisting trophies even, despite unpredictable play on the greens.

But at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month, Scheffler started carrying a mallet putter in his bag. The result: He won the tournament by five strokes, leading the field in strokes gained putting. One week later, he successfully defended his title at the Players Championship, again by five strokes.

“There’s a reason his odds are in Tiger territory,” ESPN analyst Scott Van Pelt said. “They’re as low as anyone’s we’ve seen since Tiger. That’s because … if he putts adequately, he wins.”

His dominance is unmatched. No one since Woods has created as much separation from the field. Scheffler has finished outside the top 10 only once since August. In fact, he hasn’t played a round above par since August. And he hasn’t missed a cut since August 2022. Sportsbooks have him listed as a 4-1 favorite to win this week. No one else is better than 10-1.

To be sure, it only looks effortless. Scheffler has tinkered endlessly with his putting, switching from blade to mallet to blade and now back to mallet. On the driving range this week, fans saw the world’s best player swing with a grip club and practice with alignment sticks — same as he does every day back home in Dallas.

“Maybe people think I don’t think about my fundamentals very much, which I do,” he said. “It’s a big part of my practice.”

The results are on full display from week to week. He is as steady as anyone in the field, making the most challenging shots look routine.

“When I step up onto the tee at a tournament, my thought process is always about my preparation,” he explained this week. “So, when I step up on the first tee, I just remind myself: I’ve done the work. I’ve done everything I could. I’ve checked all the boxes. And I’ve done everything to where I can go out here and play well. So I can go out and compete freely knowing that I’ve done what I’m supposed to do in my preparation.”

Scheffler avoids social media. He makes no bold proclamations. He could walk through a shopping mall without creating a stir.

“You don’t worry about Scottie Scheffler as a player and as a person,” said Rich Lerner, the longtime Golf Channel commentator. “If Scottie were your doctor, if he were your kid’s high school basketball coach, you would feel good.”

Scheffler also entered the 2022 Masters ranked No. 1 in the world. Just 25 at the time, he was dominant and held off a late charge from Rory McIlroy to win by three strokes. Even though he now has a green jacket stored and waiting for him at Augusta National, the win did nothing to dull his awe and wonder of the place.

“Sometimes I still can’t believe it myself walking in the champions locker room,” he said.

That perspective can be as important as iron play.

“He works at it,” said Curtis Strange, a Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst. “He doesn’t look like he’s getting too big for his britches. He’s had a good run. He’s doing everything he needs to do leading up to a major championship. He’s in good form. He’s got a good mentality about him. It’s all working for Scottie right now.”

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