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Monday, June 17, 2024

PGA Tour, LIV Golf pros praise Scottie Scheffler at U.S. Open

Scottie Scheffler arrives at Pinehurst No. 2 as a massive 3-to-1 favorite, astonishingly low odds not seen since the mid-2000s, when Tiger Woods dominated the sport.

Consequently, Scheffler has become the talk of the town, as fans, pundits, and his fellow players alike cannot stop buzzing about what the reigning Masters champion has accomplished this season. He has five wins already, the most before the U.S. Open since 1980. He also has finished no worse than a tie for 17th, which came at the American Express in January.

His advanced statistics are off-the-charts impressive, too.

“When you start getting compared to Tiger and things that Tiger has done, that’s when you know you are at a level that is quite special,” said LIV Golf’s Jon Rahm, who, like many others, fielded a question about Scheffler during his pre-tournament press conference Tuesday.

“To win five times in a season… And winning the tournaments, he’s winning. To win Bay Hill, The Players, Masters, RBC [Heritage], and then the Memorial, you’re basically replicating a Tiger Woods season. It’s fantastic to see. He’s been playing fantastic golf and doing what he needs to do.”

Scottie Scheffler, U.S. Open

Scottie Scheffler hits a tee shot during a Tuesday practice round ahead of the 2024 U.S. Open.
Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Everyone is talking about Scheffler because no player has had a season like this since Woods was in his prime.

“The fact that the only thing that took him from winning a golf tournament was going into a jail cell for an hour,” joked Rory McIlroy, referencing Scheffler’s PGA Championship arrest.

“Seems like he’s always in contention. The most exciting thing about last week at the Memorial was when he made the triple on 9 [on Saturday]. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, looks like he might let people in here,’ but he finds a way to steady the ship and make a few birdies when he needs to. Undoubtedly the best player in the world at the minute by a long way. It’s up to us to try to get to his level.”

Scheffler’s ability to bounce back after a mistake is one of the most impressive facets of his game. Whenever he misses a short putt or hits an errant tee shot, he always seems to bounce back, just as he did at Muirfield Village last week to eventually beat Collin Morikawa by one.

“You can’t win that many tournaments or be up there on the leaderboard without doing everything well,” added Viktor Hovland.

“Because if he had holes in his game, he wouldn’t perform as well as he would.”

Before the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, numerous pundits knocked Scheffler for his struggles on the greens. He looked shaky with the putter and failed to convert plenty of opportunities earlier in the year.

But then he switched to a mallet putter at Bay Hill and has been tearing apart the PGA Tour since.

“He tried the Spider [putter] last summer for a couple of tournaments,” added McIlroy.

“But I think the work that he’s put in with [his putting coach] Phil Kenyon as well, I think that’s a big part of it. I know they started to work after the FedExCup Playoffs last year. Obviously, the work they’ve done has really been paying off.”

Scottie Scheffler, U.S. Open

Scottie Scheffler chats with Byeong Hun An and putting coach Phil Kenyon ahead of the 2024 U.S. Open.
Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA Tour via Getty Images

CBS Sports invited McIlroy to join the broadcast at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February. In doing so, McIlroy noted that Scheffler should change from a blade to a mallet putter, which helped his own game, too.

But that switch elevated Scheffler to a new stratosphere, as he now looks unstoppable.

“From my perspective, he’s got full control of his golf swing. He’s figured out a lot of his putting. From what I can tell, he plays some incredibly strategic golf. He doesn’t go too crazy. He just hits the right shots at the right time. He’s really in control of the environment, not only his environment but the conditions on the golf course,” explained LIV Golf’s Bryson DeChambeau.

“He knows what the golf ball is going to do. He knows how to react accordingly. When things go right, he can right the ship pretty quickly. That’s just a recipe for success, and he’s been able to do it longer than anyone has for a long time. He is the gold standard right now, and we’re all looking up to him going, ‘All right, how do we get to that level?’”

No doubt that Scheffler is currently in a league of his own.

The odds reflect that, and his fellow players agree with that assessment, too.

But are we now at a point where, like Woods in his heyday, we ask the question, ‘Is it Scheffler versus the field?’

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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