No, Scottie Scheffler’s putting woes are not just a media narrative
Scottie Scheffler has hit the ball better than anyone on the planet this season. He leads the PGA Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green, and is sixth in SG: Around-the-Green. Simply put, he’s piecing together one of the most dominant ball-striking seasons ever.
Those numbers would also suggest that he’s having an historic season when it comes to wins — but that has not been the case.
Scheffler’s 2022-23 has been staggering for his consistency — he has recorded 19 top-25s in 20 starts, top-10s in three of the four majors and two victories, including a triumph at the Players Championship — but it’s impossible not to think about what could’ve been if not for one thing:
While Scheffler ranks inside the top 10 in five of the six strokes-gained categories, he’s a lowly 138th in SG: Putting. He might be the best player in the world with irons and woods in his hands, but with the flatstick, he’s not even close to Tour average.
Scheffler has hit a Tour-best 74.05% of his greens in regulation this season. He’s also knocking his approaches close: at 36’2”, his average proximity to the hole is 9th best on Tour. That would suggest he probably doesn’t three-putt much — and he doesn’t. His three-putt avoidance, at 1.68%, also ranks among the top 10 on Tour.
But relative to Tour averages, Scheffler should be holing more putts than he does. Take 10-footers — and we realize this is a very specific sample set — where he has made just 8 of 33 attempts this season. That’s a 24.24% make-rate, or more than 16% behind the Tour average (Tour leader Zach Johnson has made more than 68% of his 10-footers).
Here’s where Scheffler ranks from other ranges:
20-25 feet: 161st (9.52%)
15-20 feet: T105th (18.26%)
10-15 feet: 165th (27.01%)
Inside 10 feet: T127th (87.46%)
Close putts have also been problematic. He’s 48 for 63 (76.19%) from 5 feet, and 115 for 127 (90.55%) from 4 feet, percentages that rank T174th and T146th, respectively, on Tour. (For perspective, Tour leader Keegan Bradley has missed just 1.15% of his 4-footers.)
Scheffler’s putting struggles haven’t seemed to weigh on the world No. 1 too much — or, if they have, he hasn’t said as much. True to form, he’s kept a positive outlook through it all. That’s not to say he hasn’t heard the murmurs. Each week on the telecast, his putting woes are highlighted, and he’s asked about them in press conferences with increasing frequency.
“I think that most of what has to happen is something has to be created into a story, and for a while it didn’t really seem like there was much of a story behind the way I play golf,” Scheffler said at the Open. “But I think I had back-to-back tournaments that I could have won where I putted poorly, and all of a sudden it became this thing where, like, I’ll watch highlights of my round, and even the announcers, any time you step over the putt it’s like, well, this is the part of the game he struggles with … It’s one of those deals where I don’t pay attention to it.”
But perhaps he should. The numbers from this season are concerning, and they’ve cost him a chance at what could’ve been a historic season.
If you look at Scheffler’s career stats, his putting this season is actually somewhat in line with his career averages. In his rookie season on Tour (2019-20), he ranked 117th in SG: Putting, and a year later was 107th. The following year, when he won the Masters and Player of the Year honors, he jumped to 58th, leading many to believe he’d finally solved the puzzle with the putter. But this year, he’s dropped all the way back down to 138th.
Scheffler might feel like his putting is passable, and it’s only a matter of time before balls start dropping, but the stats paint a different picture. He’s a below-average putter for his career, save for one outlier season in which he jumped into the top 60. It’s no coincidence that the season his flatstick heated up he had the best run of his career.
So, no, Scheffler’s putting struggles are not just a fictitious narrative that help the media tell a story. The stats don’t lie: They tell us he’s a top-10 machine when his putter is off, and an unstoppable force when his putting matches Tour averages.
That’s not to say Scheffler won’t find a fix. He’s found success at every stage of his career, and he didn’t become the best player in the world by accident. As evidenced by 2022, when he makes his share of putts, he can rack up wins at a prodigious pace. But when the putter is cold, the wins don’t come nearly as often as it feels like they should.