Scottie Scheffler

Scottie too Hottie: Inside Scottie Scheffler’s rapid rise to golf stardom

Scottie Scheffler has put together a season that would make anyone jealous.

Stephen Denton

This article originally appeared in the July 2022 issue of GOLF Magazine.

It’s a bit fitting that Scottie Scheffler doesn’t know where his green jacket is at the moment. He’s riding shotgun in a golf cart on a sunny April afternoon, headed out to the 2nd hole at Royal Oaks Country Club, his home away from home on the north side of Dallas. 

Scheffler isn’t the forgetful type by any means. It’s just that this green jacket, his prize for winning the Masters a few weeks earlier, is his only jacket. In the moments before he tried it on for the first time at Augusta National, Scheffler was asked for his size, and he didn’t know. “Fit me for one,” he said. He’s since learned he’s a 44 regular — he thinks. 

When the jacket finally arrives at hole No. 2 for a photo shoot, there’s a small stain near its right pocket. We don’t know for sure who sullied the game’s most immaculately tailored trophy, but Scheffler has his suspicions. 

Scottie Scheffler
ROCC-ee the Dog bounded onto our cover shoot set, anxious to see the Masters champ. Stephen Denton

He also doesn’t really care, laughing it off with ROCC superintendent KD Davis, whose two-year-old Sheepadoodle has crashed the set. “Thanks for the rental,” Scheffler jokes as he and Rocc-ee the Dog pose for pics. For most of the day, we’re treated to that aw, shucks Scheffler chuckle, the same one that has livened up four victorious press conferences this season. The chuckle seems to punctuate Scheffler’s every thought and sentence, and why shouldn’t it? Life is good for this moment’s Best Golfer on the Planet. His priorities, after winning at a pace no one could possibly have anticipated — four victories in eight weeks, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the WGC-Dell Match Play and the Masters — are to ride this heater as long as he can and do his best not to let it change him. 

As the 26-year-old has already learned: The more you win, the more complicated it gets.

“That’s a good question,” Scheffler says when asked to explain his wildly successful season. “I don’t really know how to explain it. I’ve just been playing good and have been fortunate to win a few times. People always say that once you win, the floodgates are kind of open. And I guess, for me, that was actually true.” 

There’s nothing puzzling about the numbers: Arnold Palmer is the only other player in golf history to have won four times in one season by the end of the Masters. But The King almost certainly didn’t drive an aging GMC Yukon with 180,000 miles on it. “I’m like, ‘Dude, are you going to get a new car?'” says his trainer Troy Van Biezen. “He’s like, ‘Why? This thing runs.'” That and a few other things hint at how down-to-earth Scheffler is. Beneath his Nike pants, he wears Jordan brand ankle socks — not because he’s sponsored by Jordan, but because “they’re just really nice socks.” More often than not his lid tilts ever-so-slightly to the side because “putting a hat on straight is a skill,” he says, and he hasn’t quite mastered it.

When Scheffler wins, he celebrates at Burger House, a fast-food chain in Dallas. When he misses the cut, he gets Burger House, too, as a pick-me-up. During Scheffler’s time at the University of Texas, the golf team frequented a brewhouse called BJ’s while on the road. Scheffler’s meals weren’t complete until he’d polished off a Chocolate Chunk Pizookie: a tower of ice cream scoops rising high above a sizzling, skillet-baked cookie. “He’d mow that thing down like there was no tomorrow,” remembers Gavin Hall, one of Scheffler’s UT teammates and roommates. In their college apartment, Scheffler concocted his own Pizookies. His wife and high school sweetheart, Meredith, confirms that his taste in desserts has not changed, meaning we can just about guarantee Pizookies will be served at the Champions Dinner next April.

Scheffler’s relatability reached an all-time high this April, where, despite holding a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the Masters, he wept in Meredith’s arms that Sunday morning, convinced the moment was too big for him. What he didn’t know was that Meredith had gone through those same emotions the night before, on her own, while picking up Chipotle as her husband grinded on the practice range. She was ready to guide him through it. 

“If he’s having a hard time or struggling, he’s going to tell you,” Meredith says. “He’s not going to try to act like he has it all together when he doesn’t. So, that morning, I was really grateful that he let me in and shared the feeling of being overwhelmed.”

Scottie Meredith SCheffler
Two Texas kids pinching themselves along the way.  Getty Images

Her message was simple and rooted in faith: If today is your time, it’s your time. If it’s not, it’s not. You’re not in control. God is. About 10 hours later, Scheffler four-putted the 72nd hole to win. “Gosh, that was a long morning,” he told the press corps immediately afterward. He and Meredith have talked about that moment a handful of times since. Two Texas kids pinching themselves along the way. 

“We still nerd out every time we see the green jacket,” she says. “Kinda can’t believe it’s in our house, and that he wears it. It still doesn’t quite feel real.”

The realness comes in fits and starts for the Schefflers. The day after the win at Augusta, they biked to their favorite smoothie joint in Big D and were shocked to be bombarded with requests for pictures. That Masters Tournament? It’s on TV! Another sign of change is planted at the entrance to Royal Oaks for passersby to see. It reads: “SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER, #1 RANKED PLAYER IN THE WORLD.”

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but when that kid wins the most coveted prize in golf, the entire village wins too. Which means that Scheffler’s barber, Ivan Havins, boasts to local news teams about the trim he gave his guy a week before Augusta. It means senior ladies at Royal Oaks feel more empowered to approach their Masters champ. 

“I am the worst player in the entire women’s PGA section,” says one hopeful member, “but maybe he’ll give me lessons.” 

Everyone wants a tiny piece of Scheffler right now, which is good and fine, he says, but, at times, can be irksome. He’s getting used to it. Of course, there are perks that come with all this change too. Days after win No. 2, at Bay Hill, Scheffler was announced as the newest TaylorMade staffer, with a multiyear deal. Five weeks later, after win No. 4, a video message rolled in from Scheffler’s idol, 14-time NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki: Congratulations! Come hang out with the Mavericks in the playoffs. A month after that, Scheffler appeared in an ad with an even higher-flying Maverick — Tom Cruise — promoting the blockbuster sequel to Top Gun. 

At Royal Oaks, with his star pupil just out of earshot, Scheffler’s longtime coach, Randy Smith, tries to make sense of his player’s suddenly lofty status: “Okay, we’ve got a GOLF magazine shoot. Why are they here? Why am I having to do this? Well, I brought every damn bit of it on myself, and I want to continue to bring this on myself, so I better get used to it.

“If he’s not thinking that,” Smith says, “he’s gonna damn sure be reminded of it.” 

Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler’s swing in all its glory. Stephen Denton

Smith, along with Ted Scott, Scheffler’s caddie, are the professionals on Scheffler’s short list of people who keep him grounded. There’s Meredith, of course, and Scheffler’s mom, Diane, who attends nearly every event and, as the COO of a Dallas law firm, has been the family breadwinner since their move to Texas from New Jersey when Scottie was six. There are his three loving sisters — Callie, Sara and Molly — and his father, Scott, who catered to Scottie’s game from a young age, sneaking his young son onto Jersey courses when the age minimum was 12. But like any 26-year-old, Scheffler is kept most honest by his high school buddies. Given the option of wearing white, blue or black on the cover of GOLF, Scheffler grabs blue, then pauses. 

“Last time I wore blue,” he says, “I got made fun of.” White it is.

“My friends do a good job of not treating me any differently just because I’ve had some success,” Scheffler says. “If one of them has a ton of success at his work, it’s not going to change how I think of him. So why is my life going to change, just because someone saw me do something on TV? That’s what’s great about that four-putt — nobody’s ever gonna let me forget it.”

The four-putt isn’t lost on anyone at Royal Oaks, particularly Smith, who was stuck among the masses at Augusta National as Scheffler ping-ponged his way around the finishing hole. When player and coach finally embraced a few nervy strokes later, a gallery of 100-plus in the Royal Oaks grillroom erupted. “It still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” says Davis, the superintendent.

Scheffler and Smith have been a pair for nearly 20 years, ever since the Top 100 Teacher and Tour coach hesitantly agreed to watch a seven-year-old Scottie hit balls. “I was going to be my nice self and give him 15 minutes and tell them how wonderful he is,” Smith recalls in his soft, southern accent. “I got over there and watched him and thought, Whoa, this is weird.”

Smith saw a budding golf genius hitting fades and draws, every shot aimed not just at a green but at a flag. With Smith looking on, Scheffler, like a practicing Tour pro, launched a handful of shots with one iron, then quickly moved on to assess his next club. Scheffler didn’t just watch his shots land, he studied how they kicked and rolled out on the ground. “Long story short,” he says, “two hours and some odd minutes later, I finally walked away.” That 15-minute thing? They’ve been together nearly two decades.

From that moment forward, Scheffler had a front-row seat as one of the best coaches in the world taught, at the time, some of the best players in the world: Justin Leonard, Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, Colt Knost. Old snapshots show Smith mid-lesson, with Scheffler photo-bombing in the background, his bright red hat — of course — askew.

“Scottie is a sponge,” Knost said recently, remembering one particular Royal Oaks practice session. “He was seven or eight, and I was in a greenside bunker on the chipping green. I probably hit 30 or 40 balls, then I’m out there picking them up with a shag bag. All of a sudden, he gets down in the bunker, and I see this ball come out, land, check and spin on the green. I said, ‘Was that you?!’ He comes popping up out of the bunker. I’m like, ‘How did you do that?’ He’s like, ‘I was just watching.’”

Scottie was a young master of mirroring, dominating junior events wearing long pants, not because he had to but because that’s what the pros wore at Royal Oaks. At 11, he used one of Anthony Kim’s hand-me-down putters, even though it was too big for him. He then used a 13-inch growth spurt in his teens to become a 6-foot-3, swash buckling, Strokes Gained Everything machine. He turned pro in 2018 but really splashed as the ’21 Ryder Cup rookie who throttled Jon Rahm at Whistling Straits, the first attention-grabbing stride in his world domination tour. 

“He can be stepping on your throat, but he’s smiling at you,” says Van Biezen. “You just don’t know that he’s kicking your butt.”

To understand why that last part matters, you have to know the off-course Scottie who can’t help but compete at everything. At one point in his life, it was basketball, which landed him with a sprained ankle one week before the Texas high school golf state championship. (He opened his stance, limped around the property and won the individual title by three strokes. Highland Park also won the team title, by 15.) Scottie and Meredith recently moved into a new house, and she was quick to point out that the first “furniture” that Scottie acquired was not an L couch for hosting friends or a La-Z Boy recliner. It was a new basketball net for the hoop outside. “I love pickup hoops. I was telling Teddy last week, if I didn’t play professional golf, I’d probably be playing five times a week.”

Scheffler’s motto these last few months — where he followed up his Masters win with a 2nd place finish at the Colonial and another 2nd place finish at the U.S. Open — has been about keeping things simple. Maintain the status quo. Don’t talk too much about the heater you’ve been on. Find other things to distract you … like lawn work. Scheffler has grown obsessed, his wife says, with keeping an orderly backyard, using a leaf vacuum to clean the yard and pool every day during off weeks.

During major weeks, the simple life means switching to a new phone, the number of which only he, his team and his family know, helping limit the noise. He’s the first World No. 1 this side of Tom Lehman without a Twitter account. Instead, he completes the daily Wordle, moves on to a Sudoku app, and when he gets home from the course, it’s board games. “Board games are some of my favorite things to do,” Scheffler said during Masters week, when he shared a house with Sam Burns and his wife, playing Sequence every night. “Like Rummikub,” he told me a couple weeks later. “I could sit there forever, look at that board and try to figure out what to do.” Rummikub, for the uninitiated, is a game in which players borrow, replace and add tiles to break up, extrapolate or create sequences of numbered and colored tiles. At any moment, a flurry of moves — the perfect sequence — can produce a victory, even for the player in last place. You are never out of it in Rummikub. You just need to have an eye for the right path.

“At the end, it takes a lot of thinking,” Meredith says. “It’ll be my turn and he’ll be like, ‘Can I figure it out for you? Because he wants to spend 15 minutes just to figure it out. We could play games for hours because he just loves problem-solving, and winning. He loves winning.”

There are some frontal-lobe parallels to be drawn between Scheffler’s board game proficiency and that all-world bogey he made on the 18th hole Saturday at the Masters. He had pull-hooked his tee shot, clanking it among the pines. When he reached the ball, he found a spotter panicking at the unplayable lie among the bushes. Double bogey was staring him in the face, but Mr. Rummikub moved some things around. He cleared stray pine needles for his drop — a move even Masters vets forget is legal — and launched his driving iron some 240 yards uphill, over the green. His up-and-down from there may have happened on the 54th hole of an event, but it showed some of the most brilliant deduction we’ve seen in recent memory and kept him three strokes up on a surging Cam Smith.

After smiling for 60 minutes worth of photos, Scheffler finally gets serious about solving the green jacket problem, ushering it away to be dry-cleaned. He had a big week of appearances ahead of him — dropping the puck for the Dallas Stars and throwing out the first pitch for the Texas Rangers — things Texas boys dream of when they’re not dreaming of winning the Masters. As his emerald club coat was whisked away, he remembered something important. 

“Just make sure you take the note out of the pocket,” he said. A locker-room attendant at Augusta, watching another of his favorites leave the lower depths for the Champions Locker Room a floor above, slipped a piece of paper into the jacket’s liner pocket. It was the perfect reminder for Scheffler’s life post-Augusta.

“What did it say?” Scheffler chuckles. “Something like, now that you’re big time, don’t forget to come back and visit us.”

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.