Scottie Scheffler: Golf’s Next Great

Patrons on Sunday witnessed a triumph that has become all too familiar: Scottie Scheffler winning on Sunday. Scheffler ran away from the field, as he did in 2022 to win his first green jacket, with an -11 score and four shots ahead of second place. But despite being two years removed from his first Masters win, the celebrations around Scottie were relatively muted; fans cheered and celebrated, of course, but the amplitude of yells and hollering was much lower than past years. The reason, one would think, would be the golf world is numb to Scheffler’s success, and how lucky we are to witness that.

This win at Augusta National marks Scottie’s third win in four starts, third win in just over a month timeframe, 100% top-20 rate in 2024 and his second Major. Additionally, one of his three wins so far this year was the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a Signature Event on the PGA Tour and one of the toughest events on the calendar. Another win was The Players Tournament, the PGA Tour’s most prestigious event, where Scottie became the first player to ever win back to back years. All to say, Scottie Scheffler has separated himself from the rest of the golfers on Earth and it is not even close. We are witnessing a Tiger-like era of golf, but the question looms large over Scottie’s head: is this sustainable?

Scottie’s ball striking (his ability to reach the green) has been the best in the world by a significant amount for the past three years, but his chink in the armor has come from getting the ball into the cup. No one is better at getting from the tee box to the green than Scottie, but in 2023, Scottie was one of the worst on Tour at putting. In one of the more frustrating years for Scottie – he has admitted so and the fanbase agrees – his ball striking should have yielded him at least five wins that year and perhaps one or two Majors, but instead he closed out the year with 3 wins and no Majors. It is important to note that this would be a career defining year for most players, but with Scottie, 2023 was seen as a missed opportunity.

So how did Scottie go from a let down to winning nearly every tournament he entered? He addressed the very stat that was costing him so much: putting. A familiar face in the game of golf, Rory McIlroy, is in similar air as Scottie: a generational talent whose results do not match their ability levels. In the last ten years, Rory has fallen short of his goals, largely due to putting, but has turned it around in the last 18 months with the small adjustment to equipment: a mallet putter vs. a blade putter. Without going into too much detail, a mallet putter is bigger and offers the ability to move weight back and to the edges of the putter, which allows for a more forgiving stroke. On a Sunday news cast earlier this spring, Rory commented on TV that Scottie’s putting woes could be solved by switching to the mallet putter, which Rory had done. We still don’t know if Rory influenced Scottie’s change, but the next week on Tour Scottie arrived with a mallet putter, and the rest is history (currently being written!)

The change in putters and the ensuing successes and placed Scottie in the midst of a Tiger-like era: a severe dominance of the game of golf where any player in the tournament has chance to win if Scottie doesn’t show up or if he has his C-game (his B-game still wins, according to stats). And this is what the golf world needs. Tiger resurrected a dying sport and put golf in the spotlight globally. Does Scottie have the same charisma and unavoidable gravity as Tiger? Absolutely not. But even without the tabloid dramas that blanketed Tiger Wood’s, golf still benefits from a consistent, dominant figure. People love to root for a single great in sport because we are obsessed with breaking records and witnessing if a single person has what it takes to be the greatest of all time (and this transcends all sports). And even if Scottie has a long, long way to go before he is in the same rarefied air as Tiger (and I mean a long, long way to go), he is as least the closest thing we’ve seen to Tiger’s level of talent, and how exciting this will be to watch.

-August Wherry

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