How Scottie Scheffler can make history at the WGC-Dell Match Play
No one in the world is playing golf right now as well as Scottie Scheffler.
Over the past two months the 25-year-old has gone from the cusp of stardom to the dude on the PGA Tour. He nabbed his first win with a gutsy playoff victory over Patrick Cantlay at the Phoenix Open, finished T7 the next week at the Genesis Invitational, took a week of rest, and then flew to Bay Hill and notched another victory. Four weeks, three top 10s, and two wins.
All of the sudden, Scheffler has elevated himself into the top 5 of the World Golf Ranking. To say his rise has been meteoric would ignore the promise and potential he’s displayed since his days as a junior golfer, but his latest leap has happened at a rapid pace.
While Scheffler’s stock has been high since the day he walked on Tour — he boasts a record round of 59 and shellacking of World No. 1 in the Ryder Cup singles on his CV — these two months have launched him into another class.
Morikawa, Hovland and Wolff have been the hottest young names in the sport over the past several years, but Scheffler has quickly made that trio a quartet. He’s already surpassed Wolff’s win Tour win total, and he has Morikawa and Hovland in his sights as well.
No, Scheffler will not catch Morikawa in the major count (2) this weekend, nor will he match Hovland’s worldwide win total (6). However, there is a career milestone within his reach that none of the original Big 3 have yet achieved — world No. 1.
If Scheffler, who advanced to the semifinal of the WGC-Dell Match Play with two wins on Saturday, goes on to win the trophy at Austin Country Club, he will become the top-ranked golfer in the world. But you wouldn’t know it based on his post-round presser.
Sticking to the low-key demeanor that’s been his calling card since his junior days, Scheffler didn’t bite when asked about the possibility of becoming No. 1.
“I’m pretty blessed to be playing out here on the PGA Tour,” he said. “I’m just enjoying myself out here and trying to do the best I can and to compete.”
If he were to supplant Jon Rahm atop the rankings though, he’d make a little history himself.
Per stats guru Justin Ray, Scheffler winning and becoming world No. 1 would make him the first golfer in history to notch his first major tour victory and reach the top spot in the world ranking in the same year.
In his way? Former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. The Ryder Cup teammates will play in one of two semifinal matches on Sunday with a spot to the final on the line.
Johnson has a strong history at ACC with a win in the 2017 Dell Match Play to his credit. But Scheffler has some high-level experience on the Pete Dye design, too. As a collegiate standout at the nearby University of Texas, he and his teammates played regular matches at the club.
“I think it’s fun,” Scheffler said of the course. “You can play some aggressive golf, you can play conservative. There’s a few different ways you can kind of plot your way around here. It gets challenging when it’s this firm and you’ve got the wind blowing. There’s some challenging holes, and you’ve got to stay pretty patient out there. It’s a fun test.”
That nuanced understanding paid dividends last season during Scheffler’s first appearance in the event. As the then-32nd-ranked player in the world, he made a run to the final day before falling to Billy Horschel 2&1 in the championship match. Scheffler finished the week with a 4-1-2 record and jumped 10 spots up in the OWGR.
This week has been much the same. Scheffler went 2-1-0 in group stage and advanced over Matthew Fitzpatrick in an epic six-hole playoff to reach the knockout round. Once he secured his spot in the bracket, he’s kept the momentum rolling.
Scheffler won both his matches on Saturday, first by avenging his 2021 loss to Horschel, prevailing 1 up, and then by dispatching Seamus Power 3&2. With that, the hot streak continues for the young Texan.
If he can continue it for one more day, he’ll become the top-ranked player in the world — and a historic one to boot.