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19D AGO

Process over outcome: Runner-up finish provides Scottie Scheffler another dose of perspective

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    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    HOUSTON – There’s a Scottie Scheffler story from the old WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where after both the 2021 and 2022 events, Scheffler and his wife Meredith had a big dinner with friends in Austin, Texas, his college town.

    The 2021 dinner followed a runner-up finish, as Scheffler lost to Billy Horschel in the final match. The next year, it was to celebrate a victory. From the joyful tone at dinner, though, the difference was indecipherable.

    This anecdote, first shared on the “Golf. Life. Faith.” podcast, is instructive when evaluating Scheffler’s mentality, which will be a popular point of discussion into next week’s Masters Tournament, where the world’s No. 1 player will eye his second green jacket.

    Scheffler finished runner-up to Stephan Jaeger on Sunday at the Texas Children’s Houston Open, missing a 5-footer on the final hole of regulation that would have forced a playoff at Memorial Park Golf Course – and extended his chances of a third consecutive TOUR title in as many starts. It wasn’t meant to be, as Scheffler’s birdie try burned the edge, but his performance in his adopted home state continued a multi-year run of form that has rivaled Tiger Woods at his statistical peak, with the accompanying results.


    Behind the scenes with Scottie Scheffler after PLAYERS win


    Scheffler earned his first TOUR title at the 2022 WM Phoenix Open, and that was just the precipice. He has recorded 21 top-three finishes on TOUR since that win – no other TOUR player has recorded more than 10 in that span – and he has added seven more TOUR titles, including the 2022 Masters. He leads the TOUR this season in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green by a wide margin (he averages 2.798 strokes gained per round, nearly a stroke more than No. 2 Xander Schauffele at 1.817.) Last season, Scheffler gained 2.615 strokes per round, nearly seven-tenths of a stroke more than No. 2 Rory McIlroy.

    Scheffler, 27, is blessed with incredible talent, only matched by a natural work ethic that allows him to find joy in the process. Practice sessions are fun for him and always have been, dating back to his childhood days when he’d beg his dad for a ride to the range on ice-cold winter days in Montvale, New Jersey, and then at Royal Oaks in Dallas after the Scheffler family moved to Texas.

    These tales have been well-told through Scheffler’s rise from acclaimed junior player to college player to Korn Ferry Tour player to PGA TOUR player to PGA TOUR superstar. They’re also a clue as to his sustained form.

    Scheffler isn’t driven by the results; he’s driven by the process, having said as recently as last week that his home life hasn’t been changed much by success in professional golf. He’s as fiery as ever inside the ropes – there was a club slam after his second shot found the water on the par-4 16th Friday at Memorial Park – but that demeanor shifts quickly once he exits the arena. After each round last week, he lit up when saying hi to Meredith and friends, offering a smile and his trademark exuberant wave upon recognition.

    Following Sunday’s narrow runner-up finish, Scheffler met the media at an interview area adjacent to the player parking lot. It was a mentally taxing week on the course – the central narrative, whether could he become the first to win three straight TOUR starts since 2017, came oh-so-close to fruition – and he had a frictionless exit ramp if he chose to take it. But he returned to the front of the clubhouse, signing for fans and engaging in lighthearted banter with them. That wasn’t for show; it was because he wanted to, and the playful conversational tone suggested that he had already mentally detached from the tournament’s outcome.

    “Winning is fun, but it only lasts a few seconds or a few minutes,” he said in Houston. “It's funny, it seems like you think my life would have changed a lot, but it really only has changed out here (on TOUR). At home, it hasn't changed that much. That will change significantly in the next month when our baby comes, that'll be the big change. But at home, no. We still have the same friends, still have a great support system.”

    Not only does Scheffler love the game, he’s in love with the game – he appeared happy as a clam in the minutes before his final-round tee time in Houston, carrying a large-sized bucket of range balls and testing himself in different ways: bump-and-run pitch shots, bunker shots, short-sided pitches over the bunker. No entourage nearby, not even caddie Ted Scott (who was close at hand if needed), just Scheffler, a wedge and some practice balls.

    That practice served him well as he hit a series of crafty pitches to stay in the mix Sunday – including one from short-right of the par-5 third green, starting on a line 20 feet right of the flag and bumping it off the slope; the ball rolled to 6 feet and he drained the birdie putt.


    Scottie Scheffler chips it tight to set up birdie at Houston Open


    These types of shots will come in handy at Augusta National, as Memorial Park was a worthy precursor – minimal rough, tightly mown areas around the green that allow for creative short-game decision-making. Scheffler ranked a pedestrian 26th for the week in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green – down comparatively from his No. 4 ranking this season – but his short game kept him in it down the stretch Sunday, making crafty up-and-downs for par on Nos. 10 and 12 before ultimately finishing one back of his playing partner Jaeger, who made nine consecutive closing pars.

    Scheffler would have preferred a victory in the Lone Star State, of course – a stroke-play TOUR title in his adopted home state continues to elude him – but he’ll arrive at Augusta National as the oddsmakers’ clear favorite, and deservingly so. He’ll take this week off before heading to the land of the loblolly pines.

    Scheffler’s form is as good as ever, and he knows the Masters will end the same regardless of the outcome – with a goofy wave to his family. Therein lies intangible power.

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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