Scheffler still sizzling, PGA Championship looming

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After winning the RBC following a second Masters triumph, M. James Ward outlines the monster year now in motion for the firmly entrenched number one golfer on the planet.
Posted on
April 24, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

It's been said by a number of people that at the elite level of professional golf, the sheer depth of the current talent makes it impossible for one golfer to clearly separate himself from all the others.

Someone must have forgotten to tell that to Scottie Scheffler.

As remarkable as his second Masters win was, the wherewithal to return to Dallas immediately afterwards to check on his pregnant wife and then head to South Carolina by Tuesday of last week and only get in nine holes of practice play before playing in the pro-am prior to the start of the event was amazing, especially given the whirlwind of activity surrounding Scheffler.

The first round featured a very slow beginning with a double-bogey at the par-4 3rd. From that point until his 72nd hole which concluded play this past Monday, Scheffler had no other blemishes on his scorecard and was an amazing 21-under-par.

Scheffler stated emphatically that his desire to play in the RBC was never going to be simply for a ceremonial walk around the grounds, but an intense desire to continue to press onward with his superior play in now winning four of his last five starts.

Scottie Scheffler holds the trophy after winning the RBC Heritage for his fourth win in five starts
Scottie Scheffler holds the trophy after winning the RBC Heritage for his fourth win in five starts (Chris Carlson/AP)

In capturing the RBC title, Scheffler matched what Bernhard Langer did in 1985 in winning the week immediately following a Masters victory.

Consider the following tell-tale statistics.

Scheffler leads in scoring average with 68.74 total. His birdie average per round is also top of the charts with a mark of 5.38 per round. In the area of strokes gained Scheffler leads second place Wyndham Clark by a 2.85 to 1.78 margin.

Remarkably, Scheffler leads the tour in reaching nearly 75% of greens in the regulation stroke.

To better understand, that number it means in a 72-hole tournament Scheffler will hit 56 greens. Even if he fails to convert birdies on half of those holes it still leaves him with 28 other opportunities. Even if he converts only half of those it means he then has 14 birdies on the scorecard.

What's even more telling given the emphasis on driving distance — Scheffler is 80th among his peers in that category. Scheffler is long enough to be competitive and then the rest of his game simply accelerates to a far higher level than any of his peers.

The issue now becomes whether Scheffler can continue the total domination he has displayed since mid-March?

Scottie Scheffler holds the trophy after winning the Masters golf tournament
Scottie Scheffler holds the trophy after winning the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club (Matt Slocum/AP)

By the time the PGA Championship takes place in mid-May, the pregnancy of his wife Meredith will have concluded and the birth of their first child will have occurred. Adding children into the mixture is always a delicate balancing act for any couple.

Scheffler is fortunate to have a solid team around him. His preparation and zest to be competitive is top tier. The concern about his putting, a valid matter given past hiccups, now seems to be a thing of the past.

The interesting aspect to watch is whether can Scheffler extend his stellar play beyond April. In past years he has started well and then his play has levelled off. Before winning the 2024 Bay Hill Invitational, it was nearly a year since his previous win at the 2023 Players Championship.

What seems different in 2024 is Scheffler's relentless desire to always keep his pedal down to the metal.

In comparable ways to the time when Tiger Woods dominated professional golf, Scheffler does not seem satisfied but is now looking to have the kind of monster year that Woods routinely had during his peak years.

To put his supremacy into context, the world ranking points gap between Scheffler (629.6) and his closest chaser Rory McIlroy (344.4) is wider than that of the Northern Irishman to world No.784 Woods (4.64), who has made just five competitive appearances since the start of 2023.

Only two players had ever previously won or finished runner-up in five consecutive PGA Tour starts; Vijay Singh in 2004, and Woods on three separate occasions between 1999 and 2008.

The PGA Championship at Valhalla in Louisville will be the next intersection where PGA Tour players will meet up with those who defected to LIV.

Winning a second major in a year is an incredible accomplishment. The last golfer to do that was Brooks Koepka in 2018.

Scheffler has been a dominant presence at each level he has played. The momentum he has already generated is showing to all of his rivals that in order to beat him you cannot falter or leave any situation not carefully handled.

The scoring prowess demonstrated by Scheffler has been nothing less than totally thorough. Mistakes are few and far between.

When Woods played at his highest level, the competition became demoralised because they knew Tiger would make the fewest of errors and they would need to play a nearly perfect game to overcome his talents. Scheffler's year is moving in that direction.

Competitors do not readily admit how much better another player has become, but the constancy and consistency Scheffler is showing now is becoming a clear mental and physical barrier for others to overcome.

It seems Scheffler will play at least once before the PGA Championship – likely at the Byron Nelson event in his own backyard in the Dallas area.

Scheffler's presence reminds me of the famous line uttered by Roy Schneider in Jaws when his character Brody saw the shark for the first time and said, "you're going need a bigger boat."

To hook Scheffler, his competition had best realise they will need the biggest of boats to snare this stellar player.

Notice to all – Scottie's just warming up with more to come.

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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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