1 thing Rory McIlroy admires most about Scottie Scheffler

Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy are in the same group at the Masters.

Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy are in the same group at the Masters.

Getty Images

AUGUSTA, Ga. — What’s your favorite part of Scottie Scheffler’s game?

Is it the way he drives it? (Long, and very straight.) Is it the way he hits his irons? (Also very straight — and statistically No. 1 on Tour.) Is it the way he scrambles? (When he does occasionally miss a green it’s no problem; he’s top-five in strokes gained around the green, too.) Or is it the way he does it all without falling down? (His footwork is a key piece of his success but it’s remarkable to watch, too.)

Better yet — what’s Rory McIlroy’s favorite part?

It’s somewhat that McIlroy is asked about someone else’s game; he’s the World No. 2 and among the winningest major champs of this generation. But Scheffler has opened up a gigantic gap between himself and the rest of the world — the chasm between Scheffler at World No. 1 and McIlroy at World No. 2 is larger than the gap between McIlroy and World No. 13 Tommy Fleetwood — which means it’s fair game.

It was especially fair game after Thursday’s opening round at the Masters, when McIlroy shot a respectable one-under 71 but Scheffler opened with a sparkling six-under 66.

After his round McIlroy was asked whether the high-powered grouping he’d been a part of — Scheffler plus World No. 5 Xander Schauffele — adds pressure to his performance. He said it doesn’t but went out of his way to pay his respect to the top dog nonetheless.

“You just focus on your own game,” he said. “It’s great to play alongside Scottie, who is the best player in the world right now, and to see how he is getting himself around the golf course.

“In that way, it’s a good thing. When I saw the draw, playing with Xander and Scottie, two of the best players in the world, it was a nice draw, and looking forward to being out there with them again tomorrow.”

Still, McIlroy admitted that there’s no ignoring it when someone’s going low — especially when it’s Scheffler.

“I think when they’re playing with you it’s hard not to notice,” he said. “Scottie does such a good job of — it doesn’t look like it’s six under par, and then at the end of the day it’s six under par. He’s just so efficient with everything.”

As for that favorite part? The aspect McIlroy admires the most? It’s not the highlights as much as it is the consistency.

3 revealing scenes tell Masters story for Rory, Scottie, Xander
By: Dylan Dethier

“If you look at Scottie compared to the rest of the field, the amount of bogey-free rounds he plays and he shoots is phenomenal,” McIlroy said. “And that’s the secret to winning major championships and winning big-time golf tournaments — it’s more limiting the mistakes rather than making a ton of birdies.”

Thursday’s round illustrated McIlroy’s point. Scheffler had just finished off the only bogey-free round of the day while McIlroy had made three, including a particularly disappointing 6 at the scoreable par-5 2nd.

“Just need to tidy it up a little bit to try to keep up with him,” McIlroy said.

I was curious to see whether the stats backed up McIlroy’s perception. Is it his bogey-avoiding rather than his birdie-making that has helped him to big-time recent wins? But with Scheffler it’s tough to parse because all the numbers are so good.

On the PGA Tour in 2024 Scheffler is first in bogey avoidance, making bogey or worse on just 8.24% of his holes. So McIlroy’s right; he’s excellent at staying out of trouble.

But Scheffler is also by far the Tour’s leader in birdies per round; he’s made 5.48 per round this year while nobody else averages more than 5. He’s the best at the good stuff and the best at avoiding the bad stuff, too. That’s a powerful combination.

If McIlroy seems more enamored with the latter, that makes sense. While he’s No. 12 on Tour in birdie average, he’s just 69th in bogey avoidance. He makes bogey or worse on 14.25% of his holes. Compared with Scheffler, that’s 13 more bogeys in 144 fewer holes.

So what did Scheffler think of McIlroy’s remarks?

“I mean, I think in terms of these tournaments, yeah, I think limiting your mistakes, obviously a lot easier said than done,” Scheffler said. By “these tournaments” he meant the majors, which are played on tougher golf courses in tougher conditions under greater pressure. He’s done well in these; he has a win plus three additional top-threes in his eight most recent major starts.

“But yeah, limiting your mistakes is important,” he continued. “It’s important to kind of keep that momentum of the round going.”

As Scheffler finished his press conference, McIlroy was at the range. Keeping up with the World No. 1 will take some work.

Exit mobile version