U.S. Open 2023: Why Scottie Scheffler is 'scaring' his misbehaving putter
LOS ANGELES — There may be no player who comes into the U.S. Open hotter, and somehow colder, than World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.
Scheffler came into the 2023 season red hot, once again. He defended his title at the WM Phoenix Open, added a Players Championship victory to his résumé and finished T-10 and T-2 in the year's first two majors.
And somehow, he's done it with a putter that's frigid, to say the least.
Over his past 30 rounds, Scheffler has gained more strokes than anybody tee-to-green: A whopping 3.4 strokes on average. He's first in strokes gained/off the tee, strokes gained/approach, strokes gained/total and greens in regulation.
And 148th in strokes gained/putting.
Kevin C. Cox
"It's strange that I've been struggling the past few weeks with my putter," he says.
It's the flatstick that's the issue, and Scheffler knows it, potentially keeping him from winning at the PGA Championship last month at Oak Hill, where he finished tied for second. He also knows he'll need to heat up his putter if he hopes to lift the U.S. Open trophy this week at Los Angeles Country Club, but he's feeling confident that he will. Here's how he plans to do it …
Don't panic, be patient
During his press conference on Tuesday, Scheffler acknowledged he's not putting the way he wants to, but he didn't appear overly concerned about it. The rest of the world is focused on results, but in Scheffler's mind that's the problem. Sometimes putts fall. Other times, they don't. You have to ride the good waves as they come and not fret too much when they don't.
"I try to focus on results as little as possible," he says. "If I hit a really good 6-iron, sometimes it's going to go to two feet and sometimes it's going to go to 15 feet, I'm not overly pissed off because I'm like, 'wow, I hit a great shot.' Putting is different because it's one of those things that has finality attached to it. If I hit a six-footer and I hit a really good putt and one time it goes in and then one time it doesn't, everyone is like, oh, why did he miss that putt? So I try not to add too much finality to what I'm doing on the greens."
Jared C. Tilton
Find the positive anywhere you can
One thing that pros are really, strangely good at doing is finding the positive in things. Even if it's irrational. They'll bend reality any way they can to find something to be encouraged by.
Darren Carroll/PGA of America
For Scheffler, it means taking confidence in the fact that he can play well even if he's not putting well. Not letting a bad putting round ruin his day. Appreciating that good days can happen even when the putter isn't cooperating.
"I'm most proud of what I did; to still somehow give myself a chance to win when I wasn't putting my best," he says. "I think that's something that I've worked on over the years out here being on tour, is having that kind of mental edge and not letting a few bad swings or bad putts ruin my day."
Sometimes, it is the putter’s fault
On Monday ahead of the tournament, Scheffler was spotted testing out a new, wider version of his Scottie Cameron putter with a different weight configuration. Change for the sake of change isn't going to help much, but when things aren't where you want them on the green, a well-considered change can re-jig things.
"I don't ever take decisions on switching equipment lightly," he says, "but sometimes you just got to bring another putter around there to make the original one scared."
Find the feels
Scheffler practiced putting with a wedge earlier this week, to help feel the "release" of the head of the putter and tune-in his feels. Ultimately, that's what putting is, Scheffler says. It's an art, and good art is created by feel. Nothing more.
"Putting is such a weird thing. Sometimes when you're on the green, sometimes when you feel good you feel like you're never going to miss and then sometimes when you feel terrible you feel like you're never going to make," he says. "It's such an art … Putting is just so different than the rest of the game."