Superman Scheffler soaring

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The world-ranked-number-one is climbing higher after defending his Players title. M. James Ward examines the monster year already in motion.
Posted on
March 18, 2024
by
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Ponte Vedra, FL. After winning for the first time in eleven months when claiming last week's Bay Hill Invitational, it would have been easy for Scottie Scheffler to have viewed his seven-shot deficit over 36 holes to leader Wyndham Clark as a hill too high to climb.

Guess again.

Over the course of the final two rounds Scheffler added another exclamation point to a career that is now rapidly accelerating.

Scoring 132 for the final two rounds - it was a vintage display by the 27-year-old. The move back into contention was jumpstarted with three consecutive birdies on the final trio of holes during Saturday's third round. And then after holing out at the par-4 4th for eagle during Sunday's final round – he went onward to record six birdies with no blemishes on his card for a one-stroke win over Xander Schauffele, Brian Harman and the aforementioned Clark. All three golfers had a chance to tie at the final hole but all missed – the most gut wrenching happening to Clark who saw his 17-foot birdie putt to tie spin out of the cup.

Scheffler became only the third man to reach -20 for a 72-hole event at TPC Sawgrass with the other two being 1994 winner Greg Norman and runner-up that year Fuzzy Zoeller.

In the history of The Players Championship going back to 1974, no player has successfully defended the title. Until Scheffler did so this year. Not Jack Nicklaus who won the event three times. Not Tiger Woods who won the event twice. Scottie Scheffler accomplished something of true consequence. When your name accomplishes what neither Nicklaus nor Woods did you are in rarified air.

In fact, over the history of the event the average finish of those defending has been 28th. Only three times has the defending champion even made the top five the following year.

After Scheffler bogied the par-4 5th during Saturday's third round - there would be no more backward moves down the leaderboard. Still entering the final round Scottie trailed by five shots. His 64 matched what other winners (Nicklaus, Davis Love III and Fred Couples) have scored in final round successes in claiming the prestigious title. Putting matters in perspective - over the final 21 holes Scheffler played that stretch in eleven-under-par. Beyond remarkable – it was a torrid display of a man intent on never going less than full throttle.

Superman Scheffler Soaring
Wyndham Clark reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a play-off in The Players Championship (Marta Lavandier/AP)

Scheffler has teed it up seven times in 2024. His worst finish was a T-17 and he has been in the top ten six times. Want even more consistency? Over the last fifteen months – Scheffler has finished in the top ten an amazing 23 out of 30 times. There are basketball players who can't beat that consistency simply from shooting free throws.

In winning The Players Scheffler was able to win in consecutive weeks on the PGA TOUR – the last time that happened was when Viktor Hovland claimed the BMW Championship and the season ending Tour Championship last year.

With the Masters coming up in a few weeks – there's little doubt that Scheffler has a large "S" on his chest reminiscent of Superman. Showcasing a superlative bullet-proof tee-to-green game that has no peer in professional golf, the main Kryptonite for him has been an inconsistent putter that has shown itself to be balky at times.

Case in point – when Scheffler donned his first green jacket in winning the 2022 Masters – he did something no past Masters champion had ever done – four-putting the final hole. Nonetheless, Scheffler had built up a five-shot lead going into the hole and still won by three.

The seriousness in dealing with his putting was not lost on Scheffler or his support team.

 

The results were clearly on display at Bay Hill -- where he did not miss a putt within 15-feet over the weekend rounds and like The Players – he was bogey free at the Orlando event and posting an air-tight final round of 66.

Scheffler's golf skills are assisted by caddie Ted Scott on the bag and the duo have negotiated plenty of high stakes pressure situation in a flawless manner.

The only real concern for Scheffler was a neck injury that he battled for much of the week.

"I said before when you get an acute injury like that, if you can wake up the next day feeling a little bit better or the exact same, it's a win. Usually, the morning after is worse the following day," said Scheffler. "So, woke up Saturday feeling a little bit better. Was able to hit some shots yesterday, but not many. Then today, I woke up feeling fairly close to normal. I went out there and had a good round of golf."

The modesty of Scheffler's own assessment of his play boggles the mind.

The man tied the low score of the week with his final round 64 and to define that result as simply a "good round of golf" makes one wonder what he believes would be a great round?

Amazingly, Scheffler has already earned $11 million this year and after setting single season records for most cash earned in 2022 and 2023 – there are six months left for him to set an even more remarkable dollar amount for this season.

Scottie Scheffler has some on-course treatment on a neck injury
Scottie Scheffler needed on-course treatment on a neck injury during the second round of the Players Championship (Doug Ferguson/AP)

The Players victory earned Scottie a hefty $4.5 million - the biggest on Tour. Yes, money matters – but wins are clear statements that are forever lasting.

For a total of 78 weeks Scheffler has held the number one position in the sport. For over 50 consecutive weeks now he has commanded the top of the golf hierarchy.

The Players victory marked his 8th PGA TOUR title. Prior to his win at Bay Hill this year there were some wondering when Scheffler would return to the winner's circle?

No one is foolishly saying that any longer.

The juggernaut is now accelerating with a visit to Augusta pending. A very possible second green jacket looming.

Scheffler is golf's maestro and if his putting maintains the edge he demonstrated in Orlando and in Ponte Vedra respectively then all of his peers had best realize that like in the days when Tiger Woods ruled golf this Superman is just getting started.

Like the opening from the famed television show --

"Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."

No doubt about it – Superman Scheffler is soaring!

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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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