World No. 1 Scheffler playing Masters ‘like it’s my last’

Apr 5, 2022, 2:37 AM | Updated: 2:39 pm
Scottie Scheffler laughs while on the driving range during a practice round for the Masters golf to...

Scottie Scheffler laughs while on the driving range during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament on Monday, April 4, 2022, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

              Scottie Scheffler watches his putt on the driving range during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament on Monday, April 4, 2022, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
              Scottie Scheffler laughs while on the driving range during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament on Monday, April 4, 2022, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The world’s top-ranked golfer is uncomplicated. He likes board games. He likes to “hang out,” a phrase Scottie Scheffler uses repeatedly when asked what he does in his free time, even if he’s almost pathologically vague on what exactly hanging out entails.

“Trying to describe yourself is pretty difficult,” Scheffler said with an almost sheepish grin. “That’s probably the hardest thing I’ve gotten.”

If you’re looking for drama, look elsewhere. Scheffler doesn’t do drama. He doesn’t do much really. At least, not according to the 25-year-old who arrived at Augusta National for his third Masters as the hottest player on the planet.

Board games with his wife, Meredith Scudder. Maybe the occasional side hustle during practice rounds with good friend Sam Burns. Household chores — vaulting to No. 1 with a win at Match Play last month — Scheffler’s third title in his last five starts — didn’t afford him a pass on those.

“I like to be pretty private,” he said. “I like to be able to live a normal life, and so when I’m at home, my wife and I live a very normal life. We don’t do a whole lot of crazy stuff.”

So forgive Scheffler if he isn’t spamming you with glimpses of his everyday life. He’s posted just 25 times on Instagram since joining the platform in 2016, almost all of them with a golf club or a trophy in his hand. If you’re looking to be spammed with product placement or hype videos, look elsewhere.

“That kind of stuff, it just doesn’t come naturally,” Scheffler said. “I never really look at social media much. I don’t really do too much to grow my brand. I just love being out here and I love competing. So for me, that’s where I get the most joy is just coming out here and playing golf.”

Playing it better than anyone else at the moment — including the other 90 players in the field this week — certainly helps. Yet Scheffler’s hot streak isn’t so much the result of dazzling shot-making but relentless tenacity that belies his “aw shucks” demeanor.

His breakthrough moment came in Phoenix in February, when his 25-foot birdie putt on the third hole of sudden death lifted him past Patrick Cantlay for his first Tour victory. He survived U.S. Open-like conditions to claim the Arnold Palmer Invitational in early March then backed it up by grinding through Match Play, surviving a rally by Dustin Johnson in the semifinals before making relatively quick work of Kevin Kisner to slip past John Rahm to the top of the golf rankings.

The ranking is both a testament to Scheffler’s consistency even if, to be honest, it’s not something he ever aimed for. He doesn’t need a computer algorithm to tell him he arrived in Georgia with a straight number next to his name and zero major championships on his resume.

Don’t get him wrong, he’s not complaining. It’s just he never really paid attention to where he stood save for when he first flirted with cracking the top 50 — and the invite to most of the sport’s premier events that come along with it — in 2020.

“Looking at the rankings and focusing on that stuff doesn’t provide any benefit for me,” he said. “I look forward to preparing and playing good golf and executing shots and being in contention. That’s what’s fun.”

Scheffler is hoping to have a lot of it during his third trip to Augusta. He finished tied for 19th in 2020 and tied for 18th last year while absorbing what he could from players who have been where he’s hoping to go. He walked the final round with Tiger Woods two years ago and spent the first two rounds last April paired with Phil Mickelson.

For a student of the game, it was a masterclass in how to navigate a course that can take just as quickly as it can give.

While Scheffler feels like his game is “in a good spot,” the first couple of practice rounds haven’t been kind. He smiled while talking about Burns “whooping” him repeatedly, though he is quick to note he “destroyed” Burns at the board game “Sequence” on Monday night.

“I think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself because you’re going to have a lot of hard days out here on tour, and golf’s going to get really hard,” Scheffler said. “We lose a lot more than we win, so being able to not take yourself too seriously is pretty important because we experience failure on a weekly basis out here.”

It’s the definition of what constitutes “failure” when it comes to Scheffler that’s changing. He was relatively anonymous during his first two Masters. That won’t be the case this time. His profile, while still relatively modest, is on the rise. So are the expectations that come with the number currently affixed to his name.

That’s fine by Scheffler. As far as he’s come, he realizes how much further there is to go.

“I’m probably going to play a little harder than thinking, ‘It’s all right, hit a few bad shots here, I can get it next year,'” he said. “For me, it’s best to probably stay in the moment because I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to play golf out here.”


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