The statistics behind Scottie Scheffler’s incredible season
5 Min Read
Aon Risk-Reward Challenge illustrates strategic thinking that led to his 4 wins
Written by Justin Ray, @JustinRayGolf
Scottie Scheffler’s unique footwork | Tracers and analysis
Scottie Scheffler hadn’t won, then he had, and then he couldn’t stop winning.
He won on the West Coast Swing (WM Phoenix Open); in the Southeast (Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard); and close to home (World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play).
And then, of course, he won the Masters Tournament, his fourth title in a dizzying six-week stretch.
“I don't know what to say, to be honest with you guys,” he said after donning the green jacket and sitting with the media. “I'm just really thankful to be in this position. You know, I didn't get to the press room in my dreams, so you guys are going to have to ask me some questions.”
Here’s a question: How did this happen?
Two things stand out. Scheffler has pelted a ridiculous number of greens in regulation (72.2%) this season, leading the PGA TOUR in that category. The other big factor, maybe the biggest, was the addition of caddie Ted Scott late last year. Scheffler had no experience winning anything, let alone the Masters, but Scott, who’d been on the bag for two victories at Augusta National, had course knowledge to burn. Together they form a formidable team.
That is confirmed by the fact that Scheffler won the Aon Risk-Reward Challenge, the season-long competition that highlights golf’s best decision makers by rewarding the players who perform the best on the TOUR’s most strategic holes.
"Decision making on the golf course is something that's really important and it's not always easy," Scheffler said, "so for me to be able to win a competition like this, it definitely gives me a lot of confidence going forward that we are making the right decision."
No one has changed the trajectory of his career more than Scheffler this season. In the blink of an eye, he went from winless to No. 1 in the FedExCup and Official World Golf Ranking. (He’s still tops in both by a fair margin.) He also has three runner-up finishes, including a playoff loss to his friend Sam Burns at the Charles Schwab Challenge. To be fair, Scheffler had a lot going on that week; he attended his sister-in-law’s wedding immediately after the tournament.
As the FedExCup Playoffs begin, here’s a look at the statistics that tell the story behind his climb to becoming this season’s top decision maker and 2022 Aon Risk Reward Challenge champion:
-0.97: Scheffler’s average score in relation to par on Aon Risk-Reward Challenge holes. His average was 0.05 strokes lower in average relation to par than No. 2 Cameron Smith, winner of this year’s PLAYERS and The Open.
1: Scheffler is the only player to rank in the top 10 of par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring average, illustrating his well-rounded game that allowed him to win on a variety of courses.
11: Birdies for Scheffler on the Aon Risk-Reward Challenge’s par-4s, the most of anyone in the competition and a result of his knowing when to play aggressively. He went for the green 89% of the time on the Aon Risk-Reward Challenge’s par-4s, tied for the highest rate of anyone on TOUR this season.
69.8%: Scheffler has gained nearly 70% of his strokes on the Aon Risk-Reward Challenge holes with his short game (Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and Putting), a statistical corollary to the improvements he made in both of those facets of his game this season. Scheffler jumped from outside the top 100 in Strokes Gained: Putting in 2021 to 36th in 2022. On average, Scheffler gained about one-tenth of a stroke per AON Risk-Reward Challenge hole on shots around-the-green over his competition – a number that added up over the course of the season.
13.6%: Scheffler’s improved performance around and on the greens also led to a steep decrease in the number of bogeys he is making per round. Scheffler ranked a respectable 62nd on the PGA TOUR in bogey avoidance in 2020-21, but catapulted into the top 20 in that stat this season. Scheffler has made 60 fewer bogeys this season than he had entering the FedExCup Playoffs in 2021.
72.2%: Scottie Scheffler’s TOUR-leading greens hit percentage. He improved from 83rd in Strokes Gained: Approach last season to sixth in 2022. Scheffler and Hideki Matsuyama are the only two players on the PGA TOUR this season to rank in the top 20 in both average proximity from the fairway and from the rough.
1991: Scheffler’s next stop after claiming the top position in the OWGR? The Masters, of course, where he picked up his first major championship victory. Scheffler was the second player in OWGR history to make his first start as No. 1 at Augusta National. Incredibly, the only other man to do it – Ian Woosnam in 1991 – also won the green jacket. Scheffler became the first player since Arnold Palmer in 1960 to leave Augusta with four PGA TOUR wins, including the Masters, in that season.
2: In addition to Scheffler’s four victories, he’s also finished runner-up three times this season on the PGA TOUR, including at the U.S. Open. Scheffler is the eighth player since 2000 to have seven or more top-two finishes in a single PGA TOUR season. The last player to do that and not win PGA TOUR Player of the Year was Vijay Singh in 2003, who was edged out by Woods for the honor.
50: Scheffler has no glaring weakness in his game, a fact clearly articulated by Strokes Gained metrics. This season, Scheffler is ranked in the top 50 in all four of the key Strokes Gained disciplines: Off-the-Tee, Approach the Green, Around the Green and Putting. Only four other players share that distinction in 2021-22: Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick and Xander Schauffele.