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Scottie Scheffler is a Masters champion again. And he's never satisfied

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LA Post: Scottie Scheffler is a Masters champion again. And he's never satisfied
April 15, 2024
DOUG FERGUSON - AP

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler manages enormous expectations so well because he never spends too much time thinking about the past or the future. The temptation was never so great at the Masters.

Behind him was a swift sequence of events that put him in control at Augusta National when three of his closest challengers made double bogey in the heart of Amen Corner. Ahead of him was the dreamy prospect of another Masters green jacket.

All he thought about was the 215 yards between his golf ball and the flag on the par-5 13th late Sunday afternoon. His lead was two shots over Ludvig Aberg, the 24-year-old Swede who a year ago was in college and played his first Masters as the No. 9 player in the world.

Scheffler was oblivious to everything except what was in front of him.

“He just seemed focused on doing Scottie Scheffler things,” said Ted Scott, the caddie who has been on Scheffler's bag during his amazing ride to the top of the golf world.

“That's what he said on 13. He goes, 'Should we go for it?' I said: ‘Absolutely. Why don’t we do what we do and what we're good at?' He's the best ball striker in the world,” Scott said. "He hit an unbelievable 4-iron, which is just incredible to that small target.

“Those targets seem big when you're caddying for Scottie Scheffler.”

The ball hit the safe part of the green, setting up a two-putt birdie to extend his lead. His wedge on the 14th settled a foot away for another birdie. And then he made another.

Before long, Scheffler twice slipped into the green jacket — first in Butler Cabin, and then on the 18th green, both times accompanied by a wide smile.

And to think it was only two years and two months ago that Scheffler was trying to win for the first time on the PGA Tour. Since then, he has picked up 10 victories worldwide and has finished in the top three a staggering 44% of the time.

“It's been a while since we've had a guy out there that tees it up and he's supposed to win, and he wins,” Xander Schauffele said. “I feel like we've had a bit of a bounce-back with three or four guys for that top spot. And he's cruising along pretty nicely.”

He is No. 1 in the world by a margin not seen since peak Tiger Woods. As for expectations, consider Scheffler and Woods are the only players to twice win the Masters as the No. 1 player.

It only looks like Scheffler is cruising.

Remember, it was just two months ago when his position as the No. 1 player in the world was in question because he couldn't seem to make a putt. Scheffler spent a lot of energy trying to block out the noise, believing he was on the right track.

And then he won at Bay Hill by five shots, he won The Players Championship by coming from five shots behind, he missed a playoff in the Houston Open by one 5-foot putt and he won the Masters for the second time in three years.

Only three other players who were younger than the 27-year-old Scheffler have won a second green jacket — Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Woods.

Even before he started on Sunday, Scheffler felt enough discomfort in his neck — the same area that nearly caused him to withdraw at The Players Championship — that he applied kinesiology tape. It was the first time since The Players he felt that, and he's not sure why.

“I think my body was just reacting to the stress," he said.

A trio of players tried to add to that. Aberg caught him with a 35-foot putt down the scary slope on the ninth hole, only for Scheffler to hit lob wedge that spun down the slope and was inches from going into the cup.

Collin Morikawa was tied for the lead until he put it in the bunker left of the ninth green, took two shots to get out and made double bogey. Morikawa made another bogey by putting his approach into the water on No. 11.

“I got greedy. Greed can get the best of us,” Morikawa said, speaking about his game but a noteworthy choice of words given golf's current landscape.

Max Homa had a brief share of the lead, and he pulled one stroke behind with a shot to a foot on the 10th hole and a smart par on the 11th. And then he hit a shot to the par-3 12th that bounced over the back of the green and into the ivy bushes. He had to take a penalty drop and wound up making double bogey, from which he never recovered. It was a cruel break.

“The honest answer is it didn't feel fair,” Homa said. "I hit a really good golf shot, and it didn't feel fair. I've seen far worse just roll back down the hill.

“The professional answer is these things happen.”

And so the stage was set for Scheffler. His closing 68 was the second-best score Sunday. His final margin was four shots. His standing in the game has never been greater. And even with his first child due to be born by the end of the month, Scheffler doesn't expect things to change.

The one trait that has never left him is his desire to win no matter much he has won. He was like that after he won his first PGA Tour title. He is like that even after two Masters.

“The guy is special,” Scott said. “He's a different kind of special. I think we're all seeing it, and we're all questioning, ‘Where did this come from?’”

Odds are it has been there all along.

___

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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