Scottie Scheffler is way better than we thought | Stories of the Year
Remember when we thought a pandemic season two years ago was crazy? Man, 2022 had it all. The return of Tiger Woods, the formation of a controversial golf league, the disappearance (and reappearance) of one of golf’s most beloved figures and so, so much more. But now let’s take a breath. Here, we’ll look back (and look ahead) at the 10 most memorable moments of 2022.
No. 10: Nelly Korda’s rollercoaster year ended with promise for 2023
No. 9: How Tom Kim stole the show at the Presidents Cup
No. 8: How Lydia Ko rediscovered her game in 2022
No. 7: Rory McIlroy was an absolute force in 2022, and not just on the course
As for the shot of the year in 2022, most people on hand weren’t even tall enough to see it. Off to the left side of the extremely elevated 3rd green at Augusta National, not even Shaq can get his eyes on the hole, let alone Scottie Scheffler.
On the opposite side of the green, something similar. Thousands of patrons had gathered and, well, you know how it goes when thousands of patrons gather. The ones in the front row have a great view. They worked for it. For those in the second row, it’s a bit worse. And then those in the back row — like Scheffler’s coach and agent — have basically no view at all. Spectators stood up on their tippy-toes, and when that wasn’t enough, they stood those tippy-toes up on the roots of nearby pine trees.
But like all iconic shots in Masters history, ye’ need no more than ye’ ears. A few seconds after Scheffler clipped his wedge, the crowd went berserk and his agent, Blake Smith, whipped around in a frenzy, trying to confirm what he was obstructed from seeing: His man had calmly grabbed the Masters by its throat.
It was a shot that amateurs either blade through the green or chunk short, leaving the ball to roll back to their feet. Scheffler may have thinned it just a touch, killing the backspin by pitching it into the slope, but the ball was running past the hole, no doubt. From there, he’d be happy with a two-putt bogey. When I asked him about the moment two weeks later, his green jacket suspended on a hanger nearby, Scheffler admitted he was a bit lucky, but channeled a fellow Dallas resident and Masters champion in the name of making your own luck.
“You see you see guys like Jordan [Spieth] holing out all the time,” Scheffler said. “That’s not because he’s only thinking about making the chip. He just happens to always be going around the hole. It’s not just blind luck that he chips in all the time. When the ball is always approaching the hole at the right speed, it’s going to go in more often. And so all I’m trying to do is just kind of feed the ball towards the hole and then, you know, just fortunate to see it go in.”
He makes chipping in to take a three-shot lead sound so easy. And yet, it probably felt that way. The biggest struggle for Scheffler that week was yanking his jacket on and off between shots. The biggest struggle for him that time of year was handling his emotions whenever he won. If you can think your way back eight months or so, when life was simple on the PGA Tour, that’s how it was going. Everything went in. He won a playoff in Phoenix by making a 25-footer to beat Patrick Cantlay. He made every nervy par putt on the back nine to chase down Viktor Hovland at Bay Hill. When it felt like Kevin Kisner had momentum on the back nine of their championship match in Austin, Scheffler holed out from the greenside bunker.
And then at the Masters, ironically, everything went in except for on the 72nd hole, where he infamously four-putted for a three-shot win. The tournament was so comfortably complete that runner-up Rory McIlroy was not on the range practicing in case of a playoff. He was in the press room, discussing how happy he was to finish second and how impressive Scheffler’s play was all week. Scheffler was an unstoppable force and McIlroy was just happy to finish in close proximity.
Scheffler’s run begs a fun hypothetical question: How many golfers on the planet are capable of doing what he did? Not just in fantasy land where anything is possible. Here, on Planet PGA Tour, how many players can actually do it?
Is Viktor Hovland capable of winning four events in six tries?
Is Jordan Spieth capable, or is it just the 2015, scarless version of Spieth who would pull that off?
McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm — we could certainly see it. Maybe even Tony Finau during a specific time of the year. It’s a short list, whoever is on it.
Tiger Woods made a habit of these runs during the peak of his career. But they were always followed by robotic press conferences and ruthless grind sessions. We rarely saw him overcome with emotion. Woods kept himself secluded from the public whenever possible, and understandably so. He was the most famous athlete on the planet. The hoopla become too much.
Scott Scheffler, by comparison — he signs his signature without the ‘ie’ at the end of this name — continued on by visiting his favorite cafe in Dallas the day after the Masters. And then the day after that, too. He followed his wicked run of victories by contending in multiple majors, stressing over fallen leaves in his backyard, making a brief but competitive commitment to pool volleyball, scuba diving with Sam Burns and eventually became obsessed with Pickleball. Maybe too obsessed. He was Tiger-esque on the golf course and definitively Scottie Scheffler off of it. It was a delight to watch.