Masters win puts the rest of the golf world in Scottie Scheffler's shadow

Masters win puts the rest of the golf world in Scottie Scheffler's shadow
By: ESPN GOLF Posted On: April 15, 2024 View: 43

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Sports often produce some of the best underdog stories. We gravitate to them with ease and cherish them while they last. But the not-so-secret truth about it all is that nothing beats the innate desire to watch and witness greatness.

The nature of golf's individuality facilitates this narrative. One player is responsible for every shot and the weight of every miss and make falls on his or her shoulders. This only serves to enhance the peaks and the valleys the best golfers in the world will inevitably go through. But once in a while, a figure arrives who seems to transcend the see-saw nature of sports and produce a dominance that leaves fans and peers in awe.

After winning his second Masters in three years at just 27 years old on Sunday -- his ninth career tournament win and third this year -- Scottie Scheffler has established himself as the sport's dominant force. The fact that it was widely expected only makes the accomplishment that much more impressive and cements Scheffler as someone the sport hasn't had in a while: a Goliath.

"I think his superpower is people that are super powerful are good at everything," Scheffler's caddie, Ted Scott, said. "And he seems to be good at everything. He doesn't really have a weakness."

A lot has changed since Scheffler won his first Masters in 2022. He's older, is sporting a full beard and is about to be a father. On the golf course, however, he has only gotten better.

"I feel like I'm playing really good golf right now. I feel like I'm in control of my emotions as I've ever been, which is a good place to be," Scheffler said. "I feel like I'm maturing as a person on the golf course, which is a good place to be."

Before this tournament began, Scheffler's inevitability could only be discussed in theory. His dominance had manifested itself in both statistics and results, but players of his caliber are measured by majors and being the outright favorite earned Scheffler nothing but high expectations.

For three days, Scheffler showcased every part of his complete game -- consistent driving, improved putting, historic ballstriking and underrated short game. But it wasn't until Scheffler's ninth hole on Sunday, that the feeling of inevitability crystallized into reality.

He was only up by 1 stroke on Ludvig Åberg as he surveyed his short approach shot from the fairway. His long limbs swung over his head as he struck the ball, a snapshot of the fact that whatever grace the aesthetics of Scheffler's swing may be lacking are made up by the sheer precision it produces. The ball landed on the green, spun back onto the perfect slope and nearly went in the hole.

After watching Scheffler nearly hole out for eagle and leave himself a tap-in birdie so short he didn't even remove his glove, the inevitable chants from the patrons at Augusta National Golf Club began.

"Scottie! Scottie! Scottie!"

The walk from the ninth green to the 10th tee carried with it an energy that Augusta National hadn't had just yet. As patrons said out loud, "It's over!" and "He's going to win!" what was in the air wasn't just an inevitability for how the rest of the day would unfold; it was the realization that those on the grounds were witnessing greatness.

From there, every blade of grass Scheffler's shuffling feet touched from tee to the green all the way up the 18th fairway, was accompanied by a serenade of cheers that recognized the magnitude of the moment. Any desire for a thrilling finish gave way to a coronation.

"I tried to soak in stuff around me today," Scheffler said. "I looked up at the trees at times. I looked up at the fans occasionally to try to soak in some of their energy. But did not ever let myself get attached to the lead. I just tried to keep pushing."

As his competitors crumbled around him, putting balls into the water on 11 or long of the green on 12, Scheffler's steadiness never faltered. And once he made the turn, he only accelerated, making five birdies on the second nine and leaving everyone behind. It was a performance that acted as a reminder and a warning: This is the best player in the world and he could be just getting started.

"I'm just pinching myself honestly. I don't really know what I'm seeing," Scott said. "The guy is special. He's a different kind of special. I think we're all seeing it, and we're all questioning, 'Where did this come from?' When he called me, I had no idea he was that good."

Scheffler is not your typical dominant figure. He speaks softly and walks calmly. He talks about his faith as much as his game and believes in only controlling what he can control. He's not afraid to be vulnerable and share a time when he was stressed or emotional. But Scheffler's seeming affability often camouflages the hyper-competitive mentality that lies beneath the surface.

"I was sitting around with my buddies this morning, I was a bit overwhelmed," Scheffler said. "I told them, I wish I didn't want to win as badly as I do. I think it would make the mornings easier. But I love winning. I hate losing. I really do."

Life is about to change for Scheffler and his mornings are about to get much harder. His wife, Meredith, is expecting their first child and he's fully aware that golf will take a back seat. But that doesn't mean he won't keep trying to win every time he tees it up.

"Golf will probably now be fourth in line," Scheffler said of his priorities. "But I still love competing and I don't plan on taking my eye off the ball anytime soon."

The sport has never been as deep and talented in its history as it is at this moment and yet Scheffler feels so far and away the best player in the world that peers trying to beat him can't help but want to draft off his greatness.

"To have someone beside you that has a great attitude and sort of does everything the right way, it's nice to try to feed off that," World No. 2 Rory McIlroy said of playing with Scheffler the first two rounds. "Scottie does such a good job of -- it doesn't look like it's 6-under par, and then at the end of the day it's 6-under par. He's just so efficient with everything."

When Scheffler made that walk from the ninth to the 10th hole Sunday, McIlroy, happened to be coming up 18. After starting the week playing with the eventual champion, McIlroy would finish 4-over for the tournament -- 15 shots behind Scheffler.

Scheffler returned to Butler Cabin for the third time in three years on Sunday, and this time it was last year's winner, Jon Rahm, who had to place the jacket on Scheffler's shoulders. Not too long ago, Rahm was considered to be Scheffler's equal, fighting for the sport's top spot with Scheffler. Now, Rahm has left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf and watched as Scheffler has won the tournaments he once wanted. This week, the Spaniard finished 20 shots behind Scheffler, whose second Masters win puts him in elite company: Tiger Woods is the only other player who has won multiple majors as World No. 1.

If it wasn't the case before, Sunday's victory further sets the stage for the sport's future. Every player, whether on the PGA Tour or LIV Golf, is chasing the seemingly unflappable Scheffler, who may be the closest thing the sport has had since Woods.

Scheffler's win gives golf not only a far-and-away favorite at every event, but also two compelling chases: everyone else's quest to beat him and Scheffler's quest for more.

"He makes us better," the runner-up, Aberg said. "He makes you want to beat him."

As the sun washed over the 18th green Sunday while an impassioned Scheffler celebrated, his 6-foot-3 frame created its own long Augusta shadow. After this week, that is where every other professional golfer resides.

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