Scheffler's seismic shock waves

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Golf's sheriff reinforced his position as the game's best. M. James Ward reviews what lies ahead for the two-time Masters champion and can the competition regroup and insert themselves back into the picture.
Posted on
April 16, 2024
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

AUGUSTA, GA. Winning when you're expected to do so is never easy. The slightest miscalculation or error will be magnified by a whole host of 19th hole critics.

Tiger Woods during his peak competitive years lived in that space and routinely flabbergasted those who could not believe the mindboggling exploits he would perform.

Now with Scottie Scheffler securing his second green jacket it's important to outline just how good the world-number-one is.

Over his last four starts  the 27-year-old has won three times. Becoming the first to successfully defend his title at The Players and now winning for the second time at Augusta in just five total starts.

Scheffler was challenged at different intervals throughout the final 36 holes but just as the final groups were about to enter the last nine holes the Texan put his game into hyperdrive with three consecutive birdies beginning at the par-5 8th.

Matters were aided by the trio of Max Homa, Ludvig Åberg and Collin Morikawa executing critical errors that only padded the final results.

Coming into the 2024 season Scheffler's main flaw had been a balky putting stroke. When he won his first Masters in 2022 the ending was both amusing and concerning. No winner at Augusta had ever four-putted the final hole and still won. Fortunately, the cushion when teeing off the final hole was five strokes.

Scottie Scheffler celebrates after a birdie on the 18th hole gave him a one-shot lead after 54 holes of the Masters
Scottie Scheffler celebrates after a birdie on the 18th hole gave him a one-shot lead after 54 holes of the Masters (Ashley Landis/AP)

Scheffler's team realized correcting that issue was needed in order to supplement what is the best tee-to-green game in the sport. In 2023 Scottie was dominant until he reached the putting greens where he ranked 162nd out of 192 players. Keep in mind, his adjusted scoring average of 68.63 was the seventh-lowest in PGA Tour history, and the best by anyone not named Tiger Woods.

In short - if you can't putt and you can't chip – you don't score as low as you should.

Recognition is the first step in getting things corrected. Scheffler reached out to noted putting instructor Phil Kenyon and his overall improvement with the flatstick has been noticeable.

Scheffler finished the Masters in third position in terms of putts per green reached in regulation.

At critical moments it was Scheffler's putter that made a huge difference. Consider how he double-bogied the 10th and then bogied the 11th during Saturday's third round. Those two miscues took him out of the lead and trailing by two shots. Scheffler's approach to the devilish par-3 12th went long and even after his second shot he was still left with a daunting eight-foot putt for par. A miss at that point would have been another bogey and a continuation of a downward spiral.

Scheffler did what past champions such as Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have done – he stopped the scorecard bleeding and holed the putt.

On the par-5 13th he righted the situation even more with an impressive 35-foot putt for eagle and rejoined the top of the leaderboard.

At the start of Sunday's final round Scheffler's play was uneven. A flubbed approach to the 1st had him fighting hard to escape with a par-4. At the par-5 2nd his tee shot found the right fairway bunker and he was forced to scramble in order to escape with a par there.

Scottie Scheffler celebrates his win at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club
Scottie Scheffler celebrates his win at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club (Ashley Landis/AP)

A birdie at the 3rd was negated with two bogeys at the 4th and 7th holes. Just when you might have had doubt Scheffler could right his ship he finished off the outward half with two birdies at the 8th and 9th holes.

Then to send an even more powerful message he birdied the 10th after an excellent approach to ten feet and then sinking the putt for his third consecutive birdie.

At no time during Sunday's final round did Scheffler change his facial expression or show the slightest case of apprehension. He and his caddie Ted Scott just soldiered onward with a resolute belief in seeing matters through.

The biggest question that remains unanswered is who among the key challengers is prepared to take on Scheffler. Rory McIlroy has been seen as a leading player but this year he has only been able to secure one top-ten finish in eight starts. His performance at Augusta was a clear failure with a four-round total of 292. Rory was hoping he could secure a green jacket and membership in the elite career Grand Slam club.

Jon Rahm, the defending champion, put forward more verbal noise than letting his clubs do the talking. Rahm was peeved Masters rules officials did not suspend play during Friday's windy conditions. Rahm's protests went nowhere like his golf game finishing with hugely disappointing 297 total and finished dead last in overall putting with a total of 130 strokes played.

Then there's the puzzle of Viktor Hovland whose golf game has disappeared faster than snow melting in the desert. Xander Schauffele was near the top of the leaderboard but as he has done countless times before Xander was not making any serious moves up the leaderboard.

Scottie Scheffler wins second Masters title
Jon Rahm (left) puts the green jacket on winner Scottie Scheffler after the 88th Masters (Ashley Landis/AP)

Wyndham Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion played in his first Masters and his unfamiliarity with Augusta National was apparent as he missed the cut by three shots.

Max Homa played steady golf but went 33 holes without a birdie between the 3rd and 4th rounds. He ultimately finished in a tie for 3rd -- his best finish ever in a major event.

Collin Morikawa looked steady in the final round until coming undone with a poorly played 9th resulting in double-bogey and then an even worse play when he pulled his approach into the adjoining pond at the 11th and another double-bogey.

If anything was learned from the 88th Masters it is the new generation of players is becoming more and more prevalent. Ludvig Åberg showed plenty of fight as he played in his first major and Masters. The 24-year-old Swede was an amateur less than a year ago and his game shows plenty of firepower and finesse.

The tactical mistake he made at the 11th during Sunday's final round when his approach found the water is a lesson he will remember when the next crucial moment arises.

Scheffler's play in recent weeks has sent seismic shock waves through the golf world. The competition is fully aware the only way one can beat him is to put flawless rounds together. Scheffler's game is becoming ever sharper and even when mistakes are made his bounce back capacity is remarkable and a clear sign of inner tenacity.

Much has been said about how the depth of pro golf prevents one player from standing apart. Those who believe that they must have had their eyes shut over the last several weeks. There is an alpha dog at the top of the pyramid.

Scottie Scheffler's ascension has no apparent ceiling. A significant year is well underway and the PGA Championship will be the next major in approximately a month's time. Winning multiple majors in a single season is hardly far-fetched.

The only thing that Scheffler said would stop his play is being with his wife when his first child is born. That development is expected to happen shortly.

If I were the competition, I would hope his wife Meredith is pregnant with several more children because that seems to be the only way to keep Scottie Scheffler off the course and taking home more titles.

In short – this is one tough hombre.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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