AUGUSTA — What to make of Scottie Scheffler, the guy who just performed a clinical dissection of the Masters?
Welcome to a photographer’s greatest challenge. For so much of Sunday, Scheffler gave a battalion of them so little. As a golfer, he is supreme. As a model, not so much, his game face borrowed from a Nike outlet store mannequin.
Even when Scheffler jarred the kind of great/lucky shot that eventually bends the Fates to a player’s will – a 29-yard bump and run that was moving like it was on the run from the cops before disappearing into the hole for birdie on No. 3 – he held tight rein on his emotions. A couple quick, low-key fist pumps before plucking his ball from the hole because, well, he had to.
Yet this was the same guy who later admitted he was a bit of mess on the morning before shooting a very composed 71 to win the Masters by three shots. Beneath the stone, there is pudding. In his champion’s press conference Sunday night, Scheffler let the world in on a telling and touching exchange with his wife Meredith before the final round.
No matter how much he had won this year and how quickly he had climbed to the world’s No. 1 ranking, Scheffler began wondering if it all wasn’t happening too quickly.
This is the very human side of one clinical victory:
“I cried like a baby this morning,” Scheffler said as the sun set on Sunday. “I was so stressed out. I didn’t know what to do. I was sitting there telling Meredith, I don’t think I’m ready for this. I’m not ready, I don’t feel like I’m ready for this kind of stuff, and I just felt overwhelmed.”
As any wife would, Meredith gave him just the boot in the butt that he needed.
“She told me, ‘Who are you to say that you are not ready?’” Scheffler recalled. “Who am I to say that I know what’s best for my life? And so, what we talked about is that God is in control and that the Lord is leading me; and if today is my time, it’s my time. And if I shot 82 today, you know, somehow, I was going to use it for His glory. Gosh, it was a long morning. It was long.”
It was impossible from the outside to look at this picture of Texan stoicism, an alum of the same Dallas high school that produced this year’s Super Bowl champion quarterback Matt Stafford, and know that his guts had been roiling for the last two days.
Maybe those unseen nerves explain Scheffler batting the ball around on the 18th green like a tabby would a rubber mouse. But put aside the 4-putt on the 18th green on Masters Sunday, it was nothing but a bit of kale stuck between a supermodel’s teeth. Such was Scheffler’s cushion that he still won easily, finishing at 10 under for the week. And come gaze upon a golfer who for one season has almost forgotten how to lose.
Tiger Woods spoke earlier in the week about the magical, all but unexplainable period in some players’ lives when an untamed game becomes theirs to own.
“We all wish we had that two-, three-month window when we get hot, and hopefully majors fall somewhere along in that window,” Woods said. “We take care of it in those windows.”
Scheffler’s window has gone up so quickly, like it was part of an Amish barn-raising. He had every right to be dizzy Sunday, to wonder if he was truly worthy and ready. Just a couple months ago he was seeking his first professional victory. He’s now won four times, his den overflowing with oversized trophies and soon a green jacket that is the height of fashion if only in the confines of a country club. That’s two in a row now for him, but he’s still just a bit shy of Byron Nelson’s record of 11 straight and 18 in a season in 1945.
As for the tournament at hand, remember the good ol’ exciting times here? I think it was around 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon. Back when Cam Smith opened with back-to-back birdies to momentarily whittle Scheffler’s three-stroke 54-hole lead to one?
The promise of a compelling shootout between two rising stars, however, vanished like soap bubbles in the breeze on that third hole when Scheffler got his Hail Mary birdie and Smith scuffed it around for bogey. Scheffler’s lead would never be fewer than three strokes again.
Smith would have to be content with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Augusta National, like the kind they give at Disney World. He’d visit the base of the big scoreboard on No. 3 with a wild left tee shot. He’d bomb a 380-yard drive that followed the path of a crosswalk and into the fans at No. 9. He’d hit off a carpet of fallen Camellia blossoms back in the woods off the 10th fairway. And visited the unhealing waters of Rae’s Creek at No. 12. And as Smith struggled, coming home with a 73, Rory McIlroy was coming through the back door with a 64 to finish second.
All the while Scheffler was fooling the field and the rest of the world by making this golf thing look easy. “Maybe I should play more poker or something,” he said of the deceiving face he turned to the world. “Truly I felt peace when I’m on the golf course. I think the hardest stuff is off the golf course. When I’m out there and once we get into the round, pretty much after parring the first hole, I was settled in. I felt good.”
What do we make of Scottie Scheffler now?
We know that his still waters run deep. He let us in on the secret of just how much this Sunday meant to him, and he didn’t need to do jumping jacks on No. 18 to prove it.
“I dreamed of having a chance to play in this golf tournament,” he said. “I teared up the first time I got my invitation in the mail (back in 2020). I love this place. I love this golf course.
‘”If you’re going to choose a golf tournament to win, this would be the tournament I would want to win. You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get. I had a five-shot lead on Friday and then a three-shot lead going into today. I don’t know if you get better opportunities than that. You don’t want to waste them.”
Through the window comes the most solid, steady kind of champion.