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Scheffler a dominating force coming into the Masters

Scottie Scheffler Scottie Scheffler - The Canadian Press

It wasn’t the most memorable finish to a Masters, but for Scottie Scheffler, his four-putt on the 72nd hole at the 2022 event was still good enough for him to earn a green jacket.

Now, two years later, he’s set to return to Augusta National as the odds-on favourite. It’s not hard to see why.

Scheffler has played eight times this season and finished inside the top 10 in seven of those. The eighth one was a tie for 17th. In his last three starts prior to the Masters, he finished first, first and tied for second.

A look at his statistics shows him leading the PGA Tour in 28 different categories, ranging from scoring average, which sits at a stunning 67.39, to official money. In three months, he’s amassed $11,493,235, which is more than Tom Watson earned in his career.

While Scheffler’s play has been exceptional in 2024, what’s jaw-dropping is it could have been even better had it not been for a troublesome putter that hampered his early starts. In the first five tournaments on his calendar, Scheffler was on the negative side of Strokes Gained in three and barely into the positive on two others.

While those numbers are glaring on their own, it was the length of the missed putts that was even more startling. Scheffler regularly failed to hole putts that would be considered gimmees on Saturday morning games between mid-handicappers. It was almost as if he lost control of his hands while standing over the ball and stabbed two-footers past the cup.

“It's frustrating to not have the best of myself, just because I know that I can putt really well,” said Scheffler in the middle of his slump. “It's not like I've been a bad putter my whole career. I've just gone through a stretch where it's been tough.”

After lugging his bad putting around like an anchor, he made a switch to a TaylorMade Spider putter in March, trading his blade for a mallet, and promptly won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He followed that up by defending his championship at the Players and then a runner-up finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open.

In all three tournaments, Scheffler’s putting was good but not necessarily great. But it showed just how dominant he can be.

Now, after a at home, he’s set on trying to earn a second green jacket. His odds of winning have shrunk to +430, a sign that a lot of folks figure he can do just that.

This time, of course, he knows what it takes to get it done and he understands the job at hand. He is more than aware that all the great play up to this point doesn’t mean anything when he’s standing on the first tee.

“You know, when you show up at a tournament being No. 1, I don't start at one-under, I don't start at two-under, I start at even,” said Scheffler. “You've got to approach every week the same. You've got to put in the same amount of work, you've got to show up prepared.”

The 27-year-old from Ridgewood, N.J., has played in the Masters four times. He finished tied for 19th and 18th in his first two visits and followed his 2022 win with a tie for 10th last year. Ten of his last 11 rounds at Augusta National have been under par.

His fine play also extends past the Masters. In his last 11 major championship starts, he’s finished inside the top 10 eight times, including a tie for second at last year’s PGA Championship and a third-place finish at the U.S. Open.

Still, none of that has changed Scheffler, who friends describe as quiet and of strong faith, but also a competitive individual who has remained the same despite his extraordinary success.

“At the end of the day, I think it all goes back to the support system at home,” he stated. I really do have a great support system. I'm very thankful for it. I have a great wife, and if I started taking my trophies and putting them all over the house and walking in all big-time, I think she would smack me on the side of the head and tell me to get over myself pretty quick. Winning golf tournaments doesn't give me any brownie points at home, so I just try and do my best.”

It was to his wife, Meredith, that Scheffler shared his worry on the Sunday morning prior to winning the Masters in 2022. He revealed that he didn’t think he was ready to win a tournament so prestigious and had a small breakdown. Meredith was the one who put him back on track.

“She told me, ‘Who are you to say that you are not ready? Who am I to say that I know what’s best for my life?’” Scheffler said after his win two years ago.

Win or lose at the Masters, the two will be celebrating later this month when they welcome the arrival of their first child. That might hinder Scheffler’s preparation for the PGA Championship and it won’t bother him one bit. He has is priorities clearly established.

It’s hard not to see Scheffler among those who will go into Amen Corner on Sunday with a chance to win. His play this season has been dominating and if his putting is merely average it could be good enough.

Four-putts aside, it feels as if this is his time.