Scottie Scheffler played hurt. He still has everyone jealous

Scottie Scheffler

Scottie Scheffler walks behind Rickie Fowler during the second round of the Players Championship.

Getty Images

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — You could point in a bunch of directions to show the differences between Scottie Scheffler and the rest of the golfing world right now, but the most obvious sign seemed to come on Thursday night at the TPC Sawgrass driving range.

At 7 p.m. Justin Thomas, one of Scheffler’s playing partners, ripped 3-wood after 3-wood on in the fading light. 

Soon Collin Morikawa arrived; he too banged balls until darkness. Brian Harman came soon after that. Major champions the whole lot of ’em, keenly aware that rounds in the 70s just don’t cut it. Call it the Scheffler Effect.

Scheffler, meanwhile, wound his way through a slew of interviews, the consequence of shooting 67 (again). First, Sky Sports. Next, PGA Tour Radio. Third, he took questions from the assembled media and finally he did a stand-up hit with Golf Channel. Scheffler did not finish his night on the range. He headed home to eat cheeseburgers for dinner.

In fairness, Thomas tends to practice a bit following most rounds, so it’s not like his session was purely Scottie-inspired. But Thursday probably played out differently in his head than he imagined it earlier this week. During a pre-tournament press conference, Thomas expressed his excitement to finally be grouped with Scheffler again. It’s been nine months since that last happened, at the Travelers Championship last June. (They were set to enjoy the final round together at Pebble Beach in February, but Mother Nature stepped in and canceled it.) In the time since they last competed alongside each other, Scheffler has been the best golfer in the world, and whoever’s second really hasn’t been close. This week that’s been reiterated again at the Players Championship.

“It hasn’t changed much,” Thomas offered Friday afternoon. His tournament was over after missing the 36-hole cut. “And this is no insult or disrespect in any way — it’s boring golf. He hits the fairways, he hits the greens. He never puts himself in position to make very many bogeys. He takes advantage of the par-5s. He does all the things that you should do. All the things that great players do when they’re playing well. He’s just one of those guys, you know, where it seems he can’t shoot worse than three or four or five under every time he plays.”

He even does it with a crick in his neck. If Scheffler’s 67 Thursday wasn’t enough, he followed it with a 69 Friday during which he received treatment from a physio multiple times. He routinely stepped out of his swing, grabbed at his neck throughout, battled the occasional left miss, made five birdies and, yes, even gave two strokes away. But he’s got 36 holes left in this tournament. His last over-par round was more than six months ago. He’ll be there at the end. 

scottie scheffler
Scottie Scheffler battled neck issues during the second round of the Players Championship. Getty Images

Thomas got an up-close view of it all, which made him the perfect source for Scheffler intel. He likened it to whatever Brooks Koepka looks like during major championships: “You get done and it just doesn’t look that unbelievable but it’s just that good.”

It might not sound like much but this is a growing trend these days — other elite players having to answer questions about the certified best player on the planet. Scheffler himself doesn’t love press conferences, but Control+F for “Scottie” on the transcripts of other players and his name tends to be in there somewhere. 

Max Homa says he would “gawk” at Scheffler’s golf if he were a fan. (Homa is a fan, which means he must be gawking.) A month ago, Rory McIlroy suggested on the CBS broadcast that Scheffler try a mallet putter to ail his floundering stroke — though he added that he was scared what would happen if it worked. Scottie listened. Then he won by five a week ago.

Xander Schauffele was asked this question Tuesday: Is Scottie the player everyone is chasing?

“Yes.”

Is it an uphill battle if he putts like he did in Orlando? 

“Yes.”

Both answers were delivered with a grin and acceptance. There’s no argument to be made. Not even from the tournament leader. 

If anyone has a right to argue with all of this it’s Wyndham Clark, the guy who finished second to Scheffler last week. Not only is he the reigning U.S. Open champion (Scheffler finished third that week) and a guy who can go low (he won this year’s rain-shortened AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with a course-record 12-under-par 60) and a guy who knows what it’s like to win a big event by a lot (he beat the field by four last May at the Wells Fargo) and one of just two players to actually win more times than Scheffler in the last 12 months (Viktor Hovland is the other) — he’s also four shots clear of the Players field at the 36-hole mark after a sparkling 65-65 start. And even he knows the conversation about the top of the golfing universe begins with Scheffler.

“He really is kind of the meter right now of where you want to try to be,” Clark said. He just set the 36-hole Players Championship scoring record and admitted his own recent run of form has been inspired by Scheffler.

As Clark said it, that inspiration was off receiving treatment for a sore neck. He’ll be back tomorrow. His competition knows it. 

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

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

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