Scheffler a Masters champion and never saw it coming

Apr 10, 2022, 7:30 PM | Updated: Apr 11, 2022, 7:33 am
Scottie Scheffler sostiene el trofeo tras ganar el Masters en Augusta National el domingo 10 de abr...

Scottie Scheffler sostiene el trofeo tras ganar el Masters en Augusta National el domingo 10 de abril del 2022. (AP Foto/David J. Phillip)

(AP Foto/David J. Phillip)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler wanted to be a professional golfer for so long he wore trousers to lessons at Royal Oaks in Dallas and even at junior tournaments, no matter how stifling the Texas heat.

He just never imagined how he would look in a green jacket.

Winning the Masters is the dream of any junior golfer, particularly in Texas with its heritage of champions from Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan to Ben Crenshaw and Charles Coody to most recently Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

Scheffler was no ordinary kid, and that much hasn’t changed.

“I’ve never been a guy that likes to look too far into the future,” Scheffler said Sunday evening, still trying to grasp the magnitude of his three-shot victory at Augusta National.

Tiger Woods spoke over the weekend of that window of time when a player gets hot, whether it was Fred Couples in 1992 or Woods on more occasions than he can remember. The hope is that window includes a major on the calendar, and Scheffler’s run came at an ideal time.

He won the Phoenix Open, at Bay Hill and at the Match Play in a span of seven weeks. The last one sent him to No. 1 in the world, and the next stop was Augusta.

But as he sat in Butler Cabin, waiting to slip into the green jacket for the first time, he was asked when he first dreamed about such as occasion.

“Probably the first time it popped into my mind was Friday in the afternoon, after we got done,” Scheffler replied.

“Really?” came the response.

Yes, really. Scheffler has talked for the past two months about only wanting a chance to compete. That was the dream. What brought him to tears was getting his first invitation in the mail when he qualified for his first Masters that was moved to November in 2020.

Winning the Masters? Only after he built a five-shot lead after the second round, and held on for a three-shot lead going into the final day.

Scheffler is all about competing. That hasn’t changed.

Randy Smith can spin yarns about seeing Scheffler at age 10 sitting on the range at Royal Oaks as he watched and listened to tour pros shape shots and talk. And then he would challenge them to short-game contests or on the putting greens, and if he wasn’t taking money off them, he was putting a dent in their egos.

“He was a gamer,” said Will Zalatoris, who grew up in the Dallas area with Scheffler. “He wore pants to every tournament even if it was 110 degrees. He tried to be a professional at a young age, and obviously seeing what he is doing now, it’s pretty cool on my part to see it.”

That short game was a big part of his Masters victory. The final margin was closer than it really was. Scheffler had a five-shot lead and finally took off his blinders to soak up the atmosphere, and then absent-mindedly four-putted for a double bogey. He shot 71 instead of 69. He won by three instead of five. Those are just numbers in a record book.

Cameron Smith made a quick run with birdies on the opening two holes that cut the lead to one shot, and Scheffler responded with perhaps the most significant shot of the final round. His chip up the steep slope on No. 3 rattled against the pin and dropped for birdie, and Smith’s bogey made it a two-shot swing.

Overlooked was the up-and-down from behind the first green — one of the worst spots to be at Augusta, especially for someone trying to win their first major — and the pitch from long and left at the par-3 fourth.

“If I was to pick one part of my game that excelled the most, I would say it was probably my lob wedge,” Scheffler said. “Even today, I had some really good up-and-downs in the beginning of the round and then just kept myself in position.”

He didn’t get quarters for some of his big putts, only pars, and those were worth plenty.

After starting the back nine with a careless bogey from the fairway, Scheffler missed the 11th green to the right and pitched to 7 feet. Smith made birdie, and Scheffler rolled in his par putt to keep the lead at three shots.

It was like that all day — all week, really.

Before long, all that was left was a walk up the 18th fairway, a trip to Butler Cabin, the green jacket. It’s the stuff of dreams, even if they were never his.

Scheffler is No. 1 by some margin, and no one can doubt he earned the ranking with the quality of his wins — a World Golf Championship, a major, a variety of courses and tests.

“You get on those hot streaks, and you just got to ride them out because they, unfortunately, don’t last forever,” Justin Thomas said. “But he is doing it in the biggest tournaments. It’s not like he is going and winning small events or Bahamas where it’s 20 people. He is winning WGCs. He is winning a major now.

“It’s really, really impressive to see someone that young handle a moment this big so easily.”

What next?

“I want to go home,” Scheffler said with his distinctive laugh. “I’m pretty tired right now.”

___

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