Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler teamed up in pickleball. It was fantastic
YouTube: Professional Pickleball Association
Pickleball is all the rage these days as Tom Brady and LeBron James buy up professional teams in a sport much of the country is still learning about. Stopping just short of those major investments, for now at least, PGA Tour players are getting involved, too.
Dallas sports legends Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler took their turn with the pickleball racquets Thursday night at a Celebrity Pro-Am in Frisco, Texas. As it turns out, unsurprisingly, they’re quite good and rather competitive.
The two Masters champions began their night as teammates, facing off against basketball legend Dirk Nowitzki and tennis star John Isner, both of whom stretch at least six feet, 10 inches tall. And in Nowitzki’s case, a full seven feet. They take up a lot of the court space just by standing there, let alone their reach.
Spieth struggled at the start, but really got the hang of things as the night wore on, focusing on straightforward returns and spinny drop shots. As crafty as he is as a golfer, he is just as crafty it seems on the pickleball court.
“I keep toeing it,” Scheffler said as Team PGA Tour got out to an early 7-2 deficit. That’s right, there are plenty of similarities between golf and pickleball. As for terminology, both sports have drives, lobs, slices, aces and a whole bunch of backspin. As the night wore on, you even saw Scheffler screaming at his ball to “sit!” and Spieth getting analytical with the wind. If that wasn’t enough crossover between sports, fellow Dallas sports hero Tony Romo jumped into the broadcast booth to weigh in on their skills:
“One thing I’ll tell you about Jordan and Scottie when you watch them. They’re very, like, instinctful [sic] athletic. They know how to hit a ball, in other words. In their sport, they have hand-eye coordination, right? And so you see that a little bit, giving Isner and Nowitzki a game here.”
“Scheffler has been playing for a few months and is already terrific,” broadcaster Dave Flemming replied. Scheffler’s wife Meredith has confirmed that the World No. 1 can obsess over new activities or games. Earlier this summer it was pool volleyball; right now it’s pickleball.
Watching the two compete, it would appear Scheffler might have the upper hand at the moment. Spieth and Scheffler rallied best they could but eventually lost to Team Tall Guys 11-6. But that wasn’t it for their night. They’d get a second chance later on.
The group of sports celebs intermixed teams throughout the night, eventually teaming up with some of the best pickleballers on the planet. That’s when the games got really good. If you thought two seven-foot wingspans covered space in the court, watching professional pickleballers is twice as impressive. Forward, backward, left and right. Drop shot here, drive shot there; the PGA Tour pros often shaded far to one side just to stay out of the way. During one long rally, Scheffler even sat down mid-point as his pro teammate did all the work to clinch the game, 11-6. Add that to Scheffler’s run of dominance in 2022. Through one night of celebrity pickleball, he’s 1 up on Spieth.
Let’s face it — the two pros were most comfortable as teammates, and the final match of the night pitted them back together facing off against Team Tall Guys. This time the golfers were dialed in. Spieth had figured out which side of the court he could attack best from, and the duo worked well around each other, often flipping from one side of the court to the other mid-point. It’s beautiful chaos when two competitive people get in sync and weave around each other, defending their side against smashes from their lengthy opponents. What started as a charitable, fun match turned into a downright battle with Scheffler diving all over the court.
Just when the golfers reached match point, up 10-6, Isner finally pulled out the trash talk. “Are you guys more nervous now, or putting to win a green jacket? What’s the answer?” Isner asked, pausing for the crowd. Those in attendance came together for a soft chuckle. That was just the start. “I took four [putts],” Scheffler shouted. “We both missed short ones,” Spieth said, much more reserved. “But we could. I took a couple.”
Then Isner dug deeper, as though he had a final bullet waiting in the chamber. “You hit about 18 balls on hole no. 12 that one year,” he said to Spieth, invoking the 2016 Masters that Jordan gave away in Rae’s Creek. “That’s true,” Spieth said. “That was a different year, though.”
Not much more Spieth could say about that one. It is what it is. All he could do is battle back on the pickleball court, and that’s exactly what the golfers did. Spieth and Scheffler kept their opponents off the board during each of their next two service tries and won the match on their own next serve, Spieth putting it away for good. Revenge on Team Tall Guys was had, at last. Back to the golf course for Spieth and Scheffler.