‘We’re working on nothing’: Scottie Scheffler’s coach in hands-off mode

Scottie Scheffler of the United States plays a shot watched by his coach Randy Smith on the 15th hole prior to THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass

Scottie Scheffler and coach Randy Smith at the Players Championship earlier this month.

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HOUSTON — Longtime Texas golf instructor Randy Smith has spent nearly 30 years working with PGA Tour players, but as he watched Scottie Scheffler hit range balls at the Texas Children’s Houston Open Wednesday, Smith acknowledged he faced a unique challenge with his star pupil this week.

“We’re working on nothing. Absolutely nothing,” Smith said. “Just go play golf.”

Too simplistic a strategy for a Tour-level coach? Not when your charge has won back-to-back PGA Tour starts, is lapping his opponents in SG: Tee-to-Green and has a stranglehold on the top spot in the World Ranking. As Smith sees it, why mess with a good thing? Or in Scheffler’s case, a great thing?   

Smith, who teaches out of Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, has worked with Scheffler since he was about 8 years old, but also has counseled the likes of Justin Leonard, Ryan Palmer and D.A. Weibring. In his three decades of teaching, Smith said he’s seen only one other player as locked in as Scheffler is now — though the coach declined to say who.

“I’m not going to let out all my trade secrets,” he said with a smile.

Tiger Woods is the first name that comes to mind, and while it’s premature to draw Scheffler-Woods comparisons, Scheffler’s run has been stunningly good. Last season, he won “only” twice but finished outside of the top 10 just six times in 23 starts; this season, he already has two wins in seven starts and has finished outside the top 10 just once.

“I just want to have a good attitude and see some good shots,” Scheffler said Wednesday from the Houston Open where he’s seeking a positive pre-Masters sendoff. “I took off last week after two wins and didn’t practice as much as I usually do so I’m coming in to shake off some rust.”

Among Scheffler’s many admirers is two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, who said Scheffler’s tinker-free approach to practice is wise. Crenshaw also said that Scheffler’s demeanor is perfectly suited for bagging majors.    

“He’s good at tuning out the noise on what most people are saying about him and the Masters,” Crenshaw said. “He’s got the perfect template for golf. Just even kneel, not too up or down.”

Scheffler added Wednesday of his low-key persona, “I try to not get too high or low out here. I still have the same circle and same friends which serves me well.”

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The last player to win three straight PGA Tour titles was Dustin Johnson in 2017, and while Scheffler would like to become the next player to do it, a more pressing goal is two weeks away at Augusta National where Scheffler will vie for his second green jacket in three years.

Crenshaw said after his first Masters win in 1984, he always came back to Augusta with a renewed sense of confidence and with good vibes about the course, and Crenshaw believes Scheffler will enjoy that same mojo. “I could rely on those memories after ’84 and then I had a few close calls after that, but it all came together again in 1995,” Crenshaw said. “I think he [Scheffler] feels that.”

While Rory McIlroy and former Masters champion Jordan Spieth are among the big-name players skipping this week and instead playing next week at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Scheffler said playing in Houston and then taking off a week before Augusta National is intentional.

“I didn’t play the week before I won the Masters the last time, so maybe that’s the secret sauce for me,” he said. “I just remember a couple of years ago I played in the Match Play in Austin and then played in San Antonio and I was completed whipped by the time I got to Augusta. So I’m doing this.”

Not needing much range time should also help.  

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Art Stricklin