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Masters win highlights staying power of Scottie Scheffler

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Scottie Scheffler with the Masters trophy after winning the 2024 Masters Tournament. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Scottie Scheffler with the Masters trophy after winning the 2024 Masters Tournament. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

    Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin

    AUGUSTA, Ga. – Scottie Scheffler stood in the second cut that borders Augusta National’s 13th fairway and faced what the club’s co-founder, Bobby Jones, once famously described as a “momentous decision.”

    His ball lay 215 yards from the hole, a distance he could easily cover with a single swing. There were several factors that made this anything but an easy choice, though.

    He’d need to alter his swing to adjust for the steep cant of the fairway, and Augusta National’s version of rough, short as it may be, would still reduce his ball’s spin rate by several hundred RPMs, making it harder for his shot to stay on a green that was growing firmer by the minute. Then there was the tiny tributary of Rae’s Creek that meanders around the putting surface, a featherweight of a penalty area that punches much harder than its size would insinuate. Though a player could leap across it in a single bound, that thin ribbon of water has wrecked many players’ Masters chances.

    “Should we go for it?” Scheffler asked his caddie, Ted Scott, who over the past two years has seen enough to never doubt his boss’ abilities. Scott replied confidently in the affirmative.

    “Absolutely,” he said. “Why don’t we do what we’re good at?”

    Scheffler, the best iron player on the planet, striped a 4-iron into the middle of the green, then two-putted from 75 feet for a birdie that nullified the one Ludvig Åberg was making one hole ahead. Scheffler’s lead remained at two strokes with five holes remaining, and only grew larger after a tap-in birdie at No. 14 and another at No. 16, where he made a 9-footer.

    “He just seemed focused on doing Scottie Scheffler things,” Scott said after the round. The obvious question now is how long he can continue doing such things. How long can he sit atop the golf world, seemingly invincible? It’s not a question that Scheffler is interested in answering.

    “I try not to think about the past or the future too much,” Scheffler said Sunday evening. “I love trying to live in the present. I've had a really good start to the year, and I hope that I can continue on this path that I'm on. I'm going to continue to put in the work that's got me here. That’s pretty much it.”

    Scheffler, who already was the No. 1 player in the world at the start of 2024, has somehow become even more dominant. He now has three wins and a runner-up in his past four starts. He won a Signature Event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, by five. A week later, he shot a final-round 64 to win THE PLAYERS by one despite a neck injury that sapped his swing of power. And now he has his second Masters victory in the last three years, adding this green jacket to the one he won two years ago.

    Scheffler finished this Masters at 11-under 277 (66-72-71-68), four shots clear of runner-up Ludvig Åberg. Tommy Fleetwood (69), Max Homa (73) and Collin Morikawa (74) tied for third, seven shots back.

    With the win, Scheffler joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win multiple PLAYERS and Masters titles, and became just the fifth player to win two Masters before turning 28 (Nicklaus, Woods, Seve Ballesteros and Horton Smith are the others). Just weeks earlier, Scheffler became the first player to win back-to-back PLAYERS Championships.

    He now has nine PGA TOUR victories, all of them coming since February 2022. After becoming the first player since Woods to win the PGA TOUR Player of the Year Award in consecutive years, he’s presumably clinched a third in a row. It would take his closest competitors months, at the minimum, to supplant him from atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

    While we’re all wondering how long his reign can endure, Scheffler is not one to ruminate or speculate. That characteristic can leave fans and media wanting but also is a key to his success. Scheffler likes to keep things simple. He has had the same swing coach, Randy Smith, since he was 7 years old, and they still focus on the same fundamentals. Scheffler only recently retired his GMC Yukon that had accumulated hundreds of thousands of miles. And he is married to his high-school sweetheart, Meredith.

    “Simple sometimes works best,” Smith said.

    On Sunday, Scheffler wasn’t interested in basking in the afterglow of his victory. He said he wanted to get home as soon as possible to see his pregnant wife, the one who he tears up when talking about. It was Meredith Scheffler who delivered the inspirational speech two years ago that helped Scottie overcome his anxiety about holding the Masters lead. With her at home in Dallas this week and expecting the couple’s first child, she was replaced in Scottie’s Augusta rental home with a group of friends from Dallas. Though he didn’t shed tears like he did two years ago, Scheffler did share with them his thoughts about what awaited that Sunday afternoon.

    “I was a bit overwhelmed. I told them, I wish I didn't want to win as badly as I do. I think it would make the mornings easier,” Scheffler said. “But I love winning. I hate losing. I really do. And when you're here in the biggest moments, when I'm sitting there with the lead on Sunday, I really, really want to win badly.”

    Scott once referred to his boss as “psycho competitive,” sharing a story about the premium $200 paddle that Scheffler bought before his peers gathered at his house for ping-pong battles during THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson in his hometown. Even when playing pickleball in his downtime at PGA TOUR events, he isn’t afraid to risk injury and dive for shots, even hours before a tee time. Scheffler and Sam Burns host a retreat for dozens of college golfers each year through their involvement with College Golf Fellowship. The ministry’s president, Brad Payne, said Scheffler will talk for hours with the attendees, then defend them in a basketball game like he’s playing in the NBA Finals.

    “He’s diving for balls and talking trash like no one’s business, and then he will serve you and encourage you and sit there for an hour answering any questions openly and honestly,” Payne said. “It’s really a paradox. He’s a ferocious competitor, from dice to gin to anything, but afterward he wants to know about your family, your kids and encourage you.”

    Scheffler isn’t driven by the money or fame or acclaim, illustrated by the fact that he spends most of his time staring at his shoes while walking between shots. Instead of looking around at the adoring fans, his gaze is focused a few feet ahead of him. It is his attempt to put himself in a protective cocoon during the most stressful moments.

    “It’s inside him. He’s such a competitive athlete. He takes pride in what he’s doing,” said Smith, when asked why Scheffler has such staying power in such an unpredictable game. “I think the pride in what he is doing pushes himself to the higher (level).

    “He loves showing off, he loves competing. He wants to be the one with the ball. He really does.”

    Even for the game’s most dominant player, the road to a four-shot victory wasn’t without its challenges, also. And this is where Scheffler shined this week. He thrived at the times when victory seemed most at risk. He led by one when he made the turn Saturday, only to play his next two holes in 3-over par. He fell from first to sixth on a packed leaderboard, but eagled No. 13 and made birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

    He was two ahead when he birdied the third hole Sunday. Four holes later, though, he was in a four-way tie for the lead after bogeys at Nos. 4 and 7. That’s when he exerted himself, turning a tight race into a rout rather quickly. He made three consecutive birdies to take a two-shot lead into Amen Corner. Scheffler holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 eighth, nearly holed his 90-yard approach on the next hole and made a 9-footer for birdie at the 10th.

    All around him, his competitors were succumbing to the pressure. Morikawa, who played with him in Sunday’s final group, made double bogey on the ninth hole. One group ahead, Åberg double-bogeyed the 11th after hitting his approach shot into the water and Homa took 5 on the famous par-3 12th.

    “He is pretty amazing at letting things roll off his back and stepping up to very difficult golf shots and treating them like their own,” said Homa. “He's obviously a tremendous talent, but I think that is his superpower.”

    He showed that this week and in the preceding months. Scheffler’s 2023 was marked by incredible consistency – his 17 top-10s in 23 starts were the most on TOUR since 2005 – but also his struggles with the putter. He grew frustrated with the constant inquiries about his putting, and with his inability to capitalize on his record-setting ballstriking. Scheffler put in the work to solve the problem instead of letting it sink him. He enlisted putting coach Phil Kenyon late last year and switched to a mallet putter before Bay Hill, a move that coincided with this record run.

    Scheffler’s unmatched ballstriking means he always has sufficient birdie opportunities, which is why he’s unbeatable if he’s even putting like the average TOUR player. He leads the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green again this season after also finishing first in that metric last year and fourth in 2022. No one can match his iron play, and he’s longer than average, as well. It’s a combination that is tough to beat.

    Last year, Scheffler averaged 2.6 strokes gained per round from tee to green. It was the highest mark in that metric since Tiger Woods in 2006. Scheffler is even better this season, averaging 2.8 per round.

    And he has an incredible short game that serves as a perfect complement to his unmatched ballstriking, allowing him to recover from the rare wayward shot. It was a skill developed as a kid growing up at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, forged from many short-game competitions with the PGA TOUR pros who practiced there. He makes birdies from unpredictable locations, as evidenced by chip-ins and hole-outs in the final round of his wins at Augusta National two years ago and his two triumphs at TPC Sawgrass.

    The numbers never tell the whole story, however. It is his faith that serves as his bedrock, the firm foundation on which he rests, even when the scores are higher than desired or the wins aren’t happening as often as he’d like. Scheffler says often that his identity is not found in golf, that he doesn’t define himself by what he shoots. He said that becoming a parent will move his vocation to No. 4 on his list of priorities. He admits that he does not read golf articles, keeping a healthy distance from golf lest it consume him.

    “My buddies told me this morning, my victory was secure on the cross,” he said. “And that's a pretty special feeling to know that I'm secure for forever and it doesn't matter if I win this tournament or lose this tournament. My identity is secure for forever.”

    Golf isn’t everything to Scottie Scheffler. That allows him to accomplish almost anything.

    Sean Martin is a senior editor for the PGA TOUR. He is a 2004 graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Attending a small school gave him a heart for the underdog, which is why he enjoys telling stories of golf's lesser-known players. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.

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