Scottie Scheffler is ready to win another Masters. But this one will be different

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — There’s no way he can’t hear them. Three rows down the driving range at Augusta National are the Scheffler clan, holding court about 20 yards from the world’s No. 1 player. Here they are: father, Scott; mother, Diane; sisters Molly and Sara; everyone leaned back in their seats, legs outstretched, getting up without any worry. They talk about his photos and the girls pressure Scott to bring them cookies before their brother’s tour. There’s no way Scottie Scheffler wouldn’t hear them, 20 minutes before teeing off as co-leader of the Masters. But all he does is throw golf balls into the Georgia sky, unaffected, and joke around with his caddy, Ted Scott, and his coach, Randy Smith.

All this is just the norm for Scheffler. Playing weekend rounds in final groups on the biggest stages with family nearby became a weekly event. And on Sunday, he’ll play for his second green jacket, starting with a one-shot lead over Collin Morikawa.

But this week, he doesn’t have Meredith.

His high school sweetheart and wife is eight months pregnant. She is a tournament mainstay, the bubbly, joyful presence who sprints across the greens after her nine victories in 26 months. She’s due to give birth in a few weeks (Scheffler has vowed to leave and return home if she goes into labor during the tournament), so for the first time in years, Meredith isn’t home with Scheffler, a disconcerting feeling and foreign for the 27th. -year-old phenomenon. He had to make his own breakfast on Friday – eggs and toast – which he said was an adjustment. “Luckily Nike is kind of taking care of my clothes this week, so I don’t have to pick out my own outfits,” he said.

Then his roommate and best friend, Sam Burns, missed the Masters Cut on Friday, meaning Scheffler had the house to himself for the weekend. This didn’t feel right to him, so he invited some of his good friends to stay with him. They made breakfast Saturday morning and spent time together before it was time to go to class.

Scottie and Meredith Scheffler after winning the 2022 Masters. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

But Scheffler’s story at the Masters can’t be told without Meredith and their emotional morning two years ago. Their lives changed forever that day, just as they are about to change this month when they have their first child.

Two years ago, Scheffler led the Masters by three strokes. He was 25 and entered that year winless on the PGA Tour. Suddenly, he was poised to become the biggest force in golf. That morning he cried. “I don’t think I’m ready for that,” he said. “I’m not ready.”

“She said to me, ‘Who are you to say you’re not ready? Who am I to say I know what’s best for my life?’ “, remembers Scheffler. “And so what we talked about is God is in control and the Lord is leading me.”

Scheffler won the Masters by three strokes, launching his life into a new orbit. He is world number 1. He became the best ball striker we’ve seen in three years since Tiger Woods. He racked up nine wins, finished in the top 10 in five of the next eight majors and became the kind of star who gets scrutinized when he doesn’t win. And the morning before all those big Sunday rounds, Scheffler had Meredith.

It cannot be overstated how often Scheffler occupies this position. Since the start of 2022, he has been in the bottom two groups entering Saturday 17 times. No one else in golf has been in the bottom two groups entering Saturday more than 11 times. He led or co-led 10 times through 54 holes during that span. The next best is five. Scheffler can be criticized, if he wishes, for not winning more, but no one can deny his astonishing consistency. He has finished in the top five in 31 of his last 59 events. He hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since August. It has not done worse than the 31st since October 2022.

This consistency comes at a price. Yes, you’d rather play well than not, but most great players have good weeks with a few hiccups in between. This is how professional golf works. But Scheffler has to pump up the adrenaline and stress on Sunday every weekend. Yes, that’s success, but it also means pain. Nine wins is awesome. But that doesn’t make it any easier to finish so close 26 times without a win.

“I think mentally it can be very taxing,” Scheffler said after winning the Players Championship last month. “Physically it’s quite taxing too, but mentally it’s a lot of fun being in the final groups, but it also takes its toll on your body and mind.”

This also means that he prepared for this.

So Scheffler walked to the first tee Saturday, tied for the 36-hole Masters lead, and waited facing a 23-year-old Dane named Nicolai Højgaard who was competing in his first Masters. Højgaard is sharp. It is composed. He’s really good and will win a lot of tournaments in his prime. But being ready for the penultimate group of the Masters is a whole different experience.

On the first green, which Scheffler left clear of, Højgaard watched from a better position as Scheffler hit a dirty, spin-filled, bouncing chip that rolled straight into the hole for birdie. The crowd went wild; grown men stood up from their seats, raised their fists and shouted, “Yeah, Scottie!” (If that sounds dramatic, it really was the scene). And poor Højgaard had to experience it and follow. He left his chip very short and made a bogey in the hole.

Or there were times when Scheffler seemed to be falling apart. He had the solo lead at the turn before doubling 10 and 11 bogeying to go from first to sixth in the standings. Old Scheffler would have fumed, but he’s so used to that now. He just kept his head down, looked at his shoes and took a short walk to the 12th tee. He aced that hole, but on the 13th he hit a 217-yard iron shot safely onto the green. When he made the 31-foot eagle putt to regain the lead, he choked his fists and screamed at the crowd. He knew there was a chance to win the tournament, and he knew he had just taken it back.

Meanwhile, Højgaard went from 7 under through 10 holes and led with a bogey over the next five holes to fall to sixth.

“I think it’s just part of maturing as a person,” Scheffler said two days earlier of his tunnel vision. “So maybe you’re born with some of that, but I think you also have to train yourself to do it over time.”

Scheffler was made for this moment. Højgaard was still learning to be one.

Scheffler birdied 18 to finish with a solo lead at 7 under. He is the favorite to win his second green jacket and potentially solidify himself as the most dominant player of his era.

But the strangest thing for Scheffler was going home Saturday night without Meredith. He hit balls for about 10 to 20 minutes on the range after his round. The plan was to go back home and see his friends. They were ordering food. They would hang around. Maybe play cards.

He would also call Meredith. They would talk about how she is and how he feels. (He said the plan is in place for one member of his team to have a phone ready if she gives birth, Augusta National rules be damned, and he will have a plane ready to take him back to Texas immediately.)

Then he would go to bed and wake up ready to play Sunday at the Masters with a lead. Two years ago, in this place, he was just a child and his life was changing at a rapid pace. Now he’s a man, about to become a dad, dominating his sport for the foreseeable future. Whether or not he wins on Sunday, Scheffler’s golfing life will remain pretty similar. He will continue to shoot in the 60s. He will continue to participate in the biggest events. His family will surround him. But this week will forever be different.

“Now the most exciting thing is not winning the Masters,” Scheffler said. “It’s a baby coming very soon.”

(Top photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

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