Tour Confidential: Scottie Scheffler’s Masters win, Tiger Woods’ return and more
Check in each day of this week’s Masters for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topic in the tournament, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we break down Scottie Scheffler’s Masters victory, Tiger Woods’ return, Rory McIlroy’s surge and more.
1. Scottie Scheffler, at just age 25, won the Masters by three strokes to claim his fourth victory in his last six starts. How was Scheffler able to pick apart Augusta National, and what did you learn about him this week you didn’t already know?
Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): Honestly? Nothing. I’ve been the conductor of the Scottie Scheffler hype train since I covered him in college (and then on the Korn Ferry Tour), and this week was a continuation of what I’ve observed for a long time.
James Colgan, assistant editor (@jamescolgan26): I learned the last six weeks weren’t a hot streak. Of course, Scottie will have runs where he plays worse golf than he has over the last two months (in fact, the rest of his career will very likely be a run in which he plays worse golf than the last two months). But I waited all weekend for him to show even a single crack in the foundation, and the closest we ever got was on the 54th tee (and resulted in a miracle bogey). This dude led the Masters for three days and NEVER made a mistake.
Jessica Marksbury, multimedia editor (@Jess_Marksbury): I was super impressed by his composure, which I suppose was first apparent on a big stage at the Ryder Cup. But those opening holes today featured some loose shots — and Scheffler never wavered. With everything he had on the line, he could have easily crumbled, and the fact that he didn’t was awesome to watch.
Michael Bamberger, senior editor: He keeps it simple. How smart.
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): I learned he wasn’t as confident as he looked. He cried “like a baby” on Sunday morning, he said, feeling unprepared for the moment and all that would follow. He played like a prepared man.
Alan Bastable, executive editor (@alan_bastable): Big board game guy. And big “The Office” guy, too; he spent Saturday night watching Season 4 with his bride. What really jumped out at me, though, was something he said earlier in the week about how he focuses hard on staying in the present. Cliched, sure, but it seems to be one of Scheffler’s keys. He said he was playing this Masters, just as he does every tournament, “like it’s my last.” He added: “For me, it’s best to probably stay in the moment because I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to play golf out here.”
2. Scheffler entered the week as the newly minted World No. 1 and, as we already noted, has won four of his last six starts. They all came on different styles of golf courses and one was even a match-play event. What kind of staying power does Scheffler have atop the golf world?
Melton: It all depends on his putter. Scottie has always been an elite ball-striker, but the putter has been a bugaboo at certain points during his career. The biggest difference between this year and his first couple on Tour is his SG: Putting stats. In 2020, he ranked 117th, and 2021 he ranked 107th. This year? 15th. If he keeps putting well, he’ll be a contender for a longgggg time.
Colgan: Goodness, if he keeps putting like this, I find it hard to believe we’ll see anyone else in the top spot for a LONG while.
Marksbury: I agree with the sentiments above. Putting is huge, it can run hot and cold. But Scheffler didn’t play flawless golf this week. He made plenty of mistakes, and took them in stride. It’s that resiliency that I think makes him even more of an awe-inspiring No. 1.
Bamberger: Stealing from Jenkins here, who was speaking of Tiger: the only thing that’s going to slow him down is a bad back or a bad marriage. Both from our vantage point look dead solid perfect.
Dethier: I dunno, that swing doesn’t seem like it could actually hold up under pressure. I doubt he’ll win anything big. [Ducks] Just kidding, obviously. This isn’t the time to be a Scheffler doubter. Scheffler Szn will end at some point, but there’s no evidence it’ll be any time soon. He just put together an absolutely historic run of golf. Guys don’t win four times in six starts. It doesn’t happen. So let’s appreciate what he’s already done, knowing he’ll be in our golfing lives for some time to come.
Bastable: See my answer above. Who knows! Not us, and not Scottie. Rory McIlroy hasn’t won a major in eight years. Anyone see that drought coming? Scheffler’s work-life balance seems healthy, though. He has a good head on his shoulders, and now a green jacket on his back.
3. Tiger Woods made a miraculous return to competitive golf at the Masters, teeing it up just 14 months removed from a car accident that could have taken his life. In his first official event since the 2020 Masters, Woods stayed in contention with rounds of 71 and 74 on Thursday and Friday, but a pair of weekend 78s put him in 47th place. What’s your Tiger takeaway from the week? And where does this rank among some of Woods’ greatest achievements?
Melton: Tiger exceeded even my wildest expectations. The weekend was a struggle, sure, but he’s far from being in tournament shape, let alone major championship shape. And although he didn’t contend, I still view this as one of his greatest achievements. To come back and compete — and make the cut! — so soon after such a devastating accident is incredible.
Colgan: This might well have been Tiger’s most impressive Masters achievement, all things considered. I was struck by his tenacity this weekend. It seemed he survived the week on nothing other than willpower. I understand his on-course performance left a little to be desired, but considering the stakes here, I don’t think we’re giving Tiger enough credit.
Marksbury: It’s a testament to Tiger’s greatness that as soon as he commits to playing, we expect him to contend, without even an inkling of the current state of his game. What he has overcome is beyond words, and it felt really, really good to have him back. Bring on the Old Course!
Bamberger: It’s an achievement you cannot measure. He put himself on the side of that road on Feb. 23, 2021. He got himself to the 72nd hole of the 2022 Masters.
Dethier: I’ll leave it to Tiger: He said that, other than victories, he’d put this up against anything he’s accomplished in his career. Decent career, too! I wrote more about Woods’ week here but I’ll just add that I found his performance — and the months of rehab that led to it — incredibly inspiring.
Bastable: He won three times this week. Getting to the first tee on Thursday morning was the first W; making the cut was the second; signing scorecards for four rounds was the third. The numbers on those cards felt almost irrelevant. Can’t wait for the Old Course.
4. What’s up next for Woods? He’s not sure, either. He said he’ll try to play the PGA Championship in Tulsa, Okla., on May 19-22, but sounded more committed to the Open Championship at the Old Course, a venue where he’s won twice, on July 14-17. How much more golf do you think we’ll see from Woods this year, and what should we expect from him?
Melton: I’d expect to see him no more than three or four more times this year. I imagine he’ll try to tee it up in the remaining majors, and then maybe a tune-up start in there as well. We can pencil him in for the Father-Son as well.
Colgan: I think the odds of us seeing him before St. Andrews are very close to zero. His history at Southern Hills is tempting, but it’s too much pressure for too little payout, and the rough at The Country Club (the U.S. Open venue) could be enough for him to WD alone.
Marksbury: Agree, James. Even when healthy, Tiger played a relatively limited schedule. If we could squeeze a few major appearances out of Tiger each year, that would be enough to keep us in a frenzy of anticipation.
Bamberger: Open at St. Andrews if the weather forecast is not for four days of cold rain.
Dethier: Tulsa in May should be nice and warm. I think we’ll see Woods there, hopefully slightly better for having played this week and understanding what he has to work on to play 72 elite-level holes instead of 36ish.
Bastable: The pull of the majors is strong it is, for this aging Jedi. So much will obviously depend on how he recovers over the 2-3 weeks. Presumably this week posed some level of risk, but he gutted it out. If he feels 75 percent or better in the PGA run-up, we could certainly see him there.
5. The unexpected Masters runner-up was Rory McIlroy, who shot a bogey-free 64, the best round of the day by three shots and one that tied a final-round record and was one off tying the tournament record. Why aren’t we seeing this more from McIlroy at the Masters?
Melton: That’s the million-dollar question, and if anyone knows the answer, I’d love to hear it.
Colgan: I’m not sure I understand this question. We see this every single year from Rory at the Masters. The too-little-too-late Sunday charge is an unfortunate part of his brand. If it’s any consolation, he seemed in great spirits all week. Maybe that’s helping.
Marksbury: These Sunday performances give credence to the idea that McIlroy’s issues aren’t physical, they’re all in his head. I’m holding out hope that one of these Sunday charges will be enough to give him a back-door victory instead of just a top 10 at some point.
Bamberger: There is golf and there is tournament golf and they are not at all the same thing. He surely shoots mid-60s rounds at home on a regular basis. In a manner of speaking, this Sunday round was not tournament golf.
Dethier: I’d start by suggesting we appreciate that round for what it was, which is one of the most miraculous rounds of golf in recent memory. McIlroy began the day 10 shots off the lead and willed his way into contention. He birdied the first. He drove the green at No. 3. His second nine consisted of two chip-ins, an eagle and several big-time up-and-downs and finished with the most exhilarating bunker shot I’ve seen in person. It’s easy to be like, “Do that more!” but that combination of madness is tough to replicate. To answer the question, though: McIlroy plays his best golf in a very particular state of mind. He doesn’t know how to replicate that state. That’s his continual struggle.
Bastable: By his own admission, he’s intentionally playing conservatively pre-cut, with the aim of not blowing his chances before the weekend. But, yeah, can’t help but think maybe he could take just a few more chances on Thursday and Friday. The talent is so good on Tour that it’s easy to get left in the dust. But as Michael said, stepping on the gas when it really matters is not the same as doing so when you’re well out of pole position.
6. Augusta National lengthened the 11th and 15th holes prior to this year’s Masters, but the changes — coupled with colder conditions and wind direction — prevented many players from challenging the water in front of the green and attempting to reach the par-5 15th in two. In fact, this was just the second time in Masters history (the other being 1965) that no eagles were made on the hole. Did this tweak backfire on ANGC, or was this week an outlier with the colder temps and gusting wind?
Melton: I liked it. Par-5s shouldn’t be automatic birdies, and this change makes the hole much more demanding.
Colgan: Boo! Golf holes should be interesting first and a defense of par second. In my opinion, the changes took away most of the risk-reward intrigue. It’s nice to have a tee box back there when the wind is favorable and the conditions are soft, but to utilize it all week felt like an overcorrection.
Marksbury: Eagles and birdies are fun for the fans! We need more of them. You still have to hit a darn good shot to give yourself a chance at one, so it’s not like it’s a given. I miss the old 15.
Bamberger: With you, Jess — 15 didn’t need to be changed, or be more willing to use more tee positions depending on the weather. Eleven is better with the tree removal. But, at 520 from the marker, it’s too long for a par-4, even downhill. With that lake there? Too long.
Dethier: The tee shot at 11 was funky and is better now. More straightforward. I’m less sure about the mounding around the green, which feels extreme but didn’t play much of a factor this week. No. 15 felt too long for part of the week but only because it was wet, cold and into the wind. Scheffler hit 5-iron in this afternoon! I fully endorse that change.
Bastable: I was complaining all week about 15. In the last 10 years (before this Masters), only three editions of the tournament produced more than 10 eagles. Did they really need to lengthen it? The birdie total this week was also grim: just 74. For perspective, the guys made 144 in 2015. That hole’s greatness lies — or did lie — in its ability to turn the tournament on its head on Sunday afternoon. And now? Eh, not so much.
7. The Masters is the easiest cut to make among golf’s four majors, but some big-time names like Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele, among others, missed the weekend. Whose poor play at Augusta were you most surprised by?
Melton: My burnt-orange heart hurt for Jordan. Not only that he missed the cut, but how he missed the cut. That back-nine meltdown only adds to the scar tissue he’s built up on the inward half.
Colgan: Xander. He was a few feet from a playoff on No. 16 last year. Came in this year — with all the added perspective from his Olympic victory — and laid an egg. He’ll be 29 next year, but it doesn’t seem he’s much closer to breaking through.
Marksbury: BROOKS. Koepka has been Mr. Major Contender for the last several years. A missed cut is not on-brand at all.
Bamberger: All of them?
Dethier: All of them minus DeChambeau, who seems injured and out of sorts. The fact that Tiger Woods could beat all of the above by several shots over two days is a reminder that making golf predictions is a fickle business. A weekend at Augusta National without Jordan Spieth felt wrong, too.
Bastable: Yeah, Jordan in the hunt would have been another nice shot in the arm for this Masters. He’s in the Ernie, Vijay, Fred, Phil, Tiger, Retief, Langer mold, where the majesty and subtleties of Augusta just about always bring out the best in him, no matter his form. Alas, though, not this week. Props to Bryson for following Tiger on Sunday. Maybe he’ll draw some inspiration from that.