Scottie Scheffler hit an ugly shank. But the real surprise came later

Scottie Scheffler reacts after making a double bogey on the third hole during the first round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf

Scottie Scheffler after making a double-bogey 6 on the 3rd hole at the RBC Heritage on Thursday.

getty images

If you watched Scottie Scheffler at the Masters last week — or on the PGA Tour for the better part of the last two years, for that matter — you’d be forgiven for thinking that his iron game is infallible. In 2023, he led the Tour in SG: Approach the Green, picking up, on average, 1.194 strokes on the field. This year, he is leading that category again and by an even more dominant margin, gaining 1.347 strokes on his opponents. He has hit 75% of his greens in regulation in 2024 (also tops on Tour), which is nearly 10 percentage points better than the Tour average. “He just seems like he’s playing on the driving range every day,” Max Homa said earlier this week of how easy Scheffler is making the game look.

Truth is, of course, Scheffler is not perfect. He showed that on Thursday.

Scheffler is back at it this week, as are most of the Tour’s stars, at the RBC Heritage, the fifth of eight limited-field Signature Events on the calendar. After the excitement of winning his second green jacket on Sunday, Scheffler said he came into Harbour Town feeling both mentally and emotionally fatigued. He also said he was unable to carve out enough prep time, especially on the greens, and thus didn’t feel as dialed as he typically would be in the lead-up to an event.

Scheffler opened par-birdie then arrived on the 465-yard par-4 3rd, where he dumped his approach into a bunker right of the green. What came next from the world’s undisputed best male golfer was jarring: a cold shank. Scheffler’s ball shot off the hosel of his wedge at a 45-degree angle and nearly flew the green entirely before rolling off the back.

“Did that go in the other bunker?” he asked his caddie, Ted Scott.

It had not. But it will go down as one of the more improbable shots you’ll see in 2024 from the Tour’s most unflappable player. The misplay led to a double-bogey 6 for Scheffler, but as Scheffler does so well, he didn’t let the gaffe unravel him, playing the next 15 holes in three under to sign for a two-under 69 and extend his consecutive rounds of par or better streak to 37.

After his round, Scheffler wasn’t asked directly about the messiness at the 3rd, but he elected to address it head-on, anyway. When asked an innocuous question about how it felt to be playing again in the wake of his Masters win, Scheffler admitted to feeling frustrated that he wasn’t his usual sharp self and to struggling to adjust to Harbour Town’s greens. He also said, “I shanked the bunker shot on 3. I shank it a decent amount, but never in competition.”

Scheffler didn’t expound, but the little that he did say on the topic still was a surprising admission, because it’s not often you hear Tour pros, unsolicited, rehash train-wreck swings or use the s-word to describe them. Then again, Scheffler isn’t most pros. Beyond his otherworldly ball-striking talent, he has learned to play the game with an equanimity that many of his opponents lack. That wasn’t always the case — Scheffler ran hot as a junior and early in his professional career — but, as Homa says today of Scheffler’s mental fortitude, “He is pretty amazing at letting things roll off his back.” 

Take the third round of the Masters, when Scheffler played 10 and 11 in three over. How did he respond? With an eagle on 13 and birdie on 15. Boom, mistakes erased.

Scheffler’s honesty about his propensity for shanking wasn’t just surprising, though, it also was refreshing. The notion that Scheffler hits a “decent amount” of shanks in practice is surely of some solace to weekend hackers who themselves are susceptible to soul-crushing, confidence-shattering hosel rockets. (Scheffler is one of us!) More emboldening still: Despite Scheffler’s assertion that he “never” hits shanks in competition, the incident Thursday, in fact, wasn’t a one-off.

steven fisk golf grip
This pro’s bizarre grip could be coming to the PGA Tour soon
By: Sean Zak

At the JP McManus Pro-Am, in Ireland, two years ago, Scheffler nearly decapitated a camera operator when he shanked a greenside lob shot. The following year, in the second round of the 2023 Open Championship, Scheffler shanked his approach into the par-4 12th. “How does this keep happening?” he barked. And who can forget Scheffler’s foursomes match with partner Sam Burns at the 2022 Presidents Cup, where Scheffler unleashed a tee shot at the par-10th at Quail Hollow that squirted so far off target that his ball nearly disappeared into trees 50 yards right of the green. “That is hosel rocket right there,” a commentator said on the broadcast. “You can hear the crowd reacting because you don’t hear that hardly ever out here on Tour.”

Burns later said of the shot, “It was, like, a really, really good shank.”

Degrees of shanks? Is there such a thing? Most assuredly! Ask Scheffler, who at a Tour event at the Greenbrier in 2019 was visibly disgusted by his tee shot on a par-3.

“Oh gosh, I shanked it,” Scheffler cried after impact, only to watch his ball land just short of the green and take a fortuitous bounce that left him roughly 40 feet for birdie. (Scheffler holed the putt.)

Point is, no, Scheffler isn’t perfect, but he has become seemingly all but perfect at shaking off poor swings, poor holes and even poor rounds. And when you can do that, you avoid poor tournaments and maybe one day become an all-time great. As Scheffler said Sunday evening at Augusta National, his second green jacket on his back: “I feel like I’m in control of my emotions as I’ve ever been, which is a good place to be. I feel like I’m maturing as a person on the golf course, which is a good place to be.”

Good for Scheffler, sure, but bad for his competition.

Alan Bastable Editor

As’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.