Despite layoff, Scheffler says game, desire sharp for PGA

Sportem
Sportem
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Since world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler last carded a competitive golf round — a 3-shot win at the RBC Heritage last month, a week after securing his second Masters victory by 4 — Rory McIlroy has won two tournaments, Brooks Koepka has captured one and Scheffler has become a father.

The three-week hiatus is longer than Scheffler normally would take during the PGA Tour season but took into account the circumstances of wife Meredith’s childbirth. Scheffler said Tuesday that he has been able to practice plenty at home in Dallas and feels ready to get back to competition this week at the PGA Championship.

“I’m definitely rested going into this week, for sure. I don’t really feel like any rust has accumulated,” Scheffler said. “I’m able to do stuff at home to simulate tournament golf, especially on the greens, competing and gambling with my buddies. I don’t really want to lose to them, either, so I was able to simulate a little bit of competition at home.”

“I was sitting there with a newborn in my arms and the green jacket in the closet. It was a pretty special time … but at the same time, I think the competitiveness in me doesn’t let me reflect too much, and I was trying to do my best to get ready to play this week.”

Scottie Scheffler

Scheffler said the birth of his son, Bennett, on May 8 has so far forced him to be more efficient with his time while at home, making an effort to be as equally present as he is prepared for maintaining the high level of golf.

“I was at home working out on Sunday, and it was like the fastest workout I ever did at home, just because I was ready to go back in the living room and hang out with Mer and our son,” Scheffler said. “I think a lot of that will come naturally, just being as focused as I can and trying to stay present. When I’m out here at the golf course doing my job, I’m able to focus on that.”

Even though Scheffler already has three wins this season and is sporting the best ballstriking numbers since prime Tiger Woods, the 27-year-old said he has found it easy to maintain perspective. As he pointed out Tuesday, it wasn’t long ago that his struggles with the putter were making people wonder whether he could win again. Now, with a new putter in hand and much better numbers on the green, Scheffler is beginning to feel like golf’s most unstoppable force since Woods.

“I think it’s pretty easy. I don’t really try to look that far ahead,” Scheffler said of his approach. “I may win a lot of major championships, I may be stuck at two the rest of my career. It doesn’t really concern me in the moment. I’m just trying to prepare as best as possible for this week.”

It’s that approach that has players such as Justin Thomas hoping to emulate Scheffler — on and off the course.

“Not only is his golf unbelievable, but that I think [his mindset has] a lot to do with how well he plays,” Thomas said. “He just stays in his own world and stays in his process, and no matter what’s going on. He trusts in his ability.”

Ask any player at Valhalla this week about Scheffler and the response is a combination of effusive praise and motivation for his own game. Even while Scheffler has been away, he has not left the golf world’s consciousness. Everyone is trying to chase him and beat him, and even though he might not be looking ahead, all those who are watching him — including Woods — can’t help but view him as golf’s most reliable competitor.

“If he putts awful, then he finishes in top 10,” Woods said. “If he putts decent, he wins. He putts great, he runs away. So, he’s just that good a ball striker and that good an all-around player.”

Although some might wonder how fatherhood will affect Scheffler’s season and his quest for more majors, the early returns seem to be that the time off was beneficial in more ways than one while not taking any edge off his competitive nature.

“It was a nice time to reflect a little bit on my career so far and where my life has gone,” he said. “I was sitting there with a newborn in my arms and the green jacket in the closet. It was a pretty special time … but at the same time, I think the competitiveness in me doesn’t let me reflect too much, and I was trying to do my best to get ready to play this week.”

If Scheffler does make the cut this week, caddie Ted Scott won’t be there for Saturday’s round. Scott instead will attend the high school graduation of his daughter, according to Scheffler, who noted that Scott will fly out Friday night before returning to Valhalla on Saturday night in advance of Sunday’s final round.

During the third round, Scheffler said his friend Brad Payne — who is also the PGA Tour chaplain — would be on his bag.

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