Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

Long Week

Scottie Scheffler finally hit the wall

The World No. 1's third round at the 2024 PGA Championship hinted at the wear of a trying few days and weeks.

Scott Taetsch/PGA of America

Saturday was a long day for World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.

Actually, they've all been long days recently.

Exactly five weeks ago, Scheffler was sleeping on the 54-hole lead at the Masters.

The last time Scheffler was in that situation, he woke up in tears, so nervous about the prospect of losing the green jacket he dreamed of winning. No player since Tiger Woods had come into the Masters with higher expectations, and shorter odds to win. And no player since Woods had succeeded in living up to them.

Four weeks ago, Scheffler was sleeping on another 54-hole lead, this time at the RBC Heritage.


David Cannon

In an era before signature events, Masters champions were understably excused from reneging on their commitment to play following their win. Scheffler honored it. He flew home to Texas on Sunday to visit his expectant wife Meredith, landed in Hilton Head on Wednesday, and played one nine-hole practice round.

"I'll see the front nine tomorrow when I tee off," he said.

Two weeks ago, Scheffler was anxiously awaiting the imminent arrival of his first child.

Meredith could’ve given birth the week of the Masters. She could’ve given birth the week of the RBC Heritage. Another week, then four more days, and the couple finally welcomed son Bennett into the world on May 8.

On Saturday at Valhalla, Scheffler shot a two-over 73—ending a remarkable streak of 42 straight rounds on the PGA Tour, dating back to the final round of the Tour Championship last August, in which he had posted a par or better score. He came into the day just three shots back, but enters the final round outside the top 20. His hopes of extending his winning streak at the PGA are effectively over.

Over the past few months, Scheffler has proven himself elite at mastering the ordinary art of playing golf. Look under the hood of his astonishing run of form, and you'll find a man meticulously checking his grip before each shot. A golfer who understands how to keep his drives in the ballpark, and when to aim safely away from pins.

"The amount of greens he hits; he wears you out that way," Woods said of Scheffler on Tuesday at the PGA Championship.

"When I look at how Scottie plays and what he does better than anybody in the world it is staying in his own world," Justin Thomas said.

This week, the outside world forced its way in.


Icon Sportswire

A day earlier, Scheffler was the center of an international news story. He was arrested, booked and charged after a "misunderstanding" in the chaotic aftermath of a traffic incident that left an officer injured and the World No. 1 golfer in handcuffs.

A man who revels in the task of repeating the intricacies of his various routines was thrown as far away from his comfort zone as possible. Scheffler spent Friday morning stretching in jail, and uncontrollably shaking. When he finally got to the golf course he spent large portions of his pre-round warm up taking long, deep breaths in an attempt to calm himself.

"I think my body was just; I was shaking the whole time," Scheffler said. "I tried to get my heart rate down as much as I could."


Ross Kinnaird

Analysts and players spoke of Scheffler needing to compartmentalize his way through the day, though listen to Scheffler's words, and observe his actions, and you'll find an almost opposite approach.

"Scottie is talking with the police to help calm him. He said he welcomed police over to help soothe him. He drew from the energy in the crowd," Matt Cuccaro, a sports psychologist who works with multiple tour players, says. "He wasn't trying to shove his emotions in a box and act like it never happened. He was present in the moment and embracing things around him that could help."

On Friday it worked. Scheffler shot a five-under 66. Then, on Saturday, he was thrust yet further from his comfort zone. He told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis he spoke with his lawyer before his round as he was continuing to process what had happened. Caddie Ted Scott, who Scheffler said he had leaned "heavily on" a day earlier, had left (with Scottie's blessing) to attend his daughter's graduation.

Amid an exhausting storm of constant change, on Saturday, Scheffler's superpowers on the course temporarily vanished.

Most of the damage to his round came from his par-double bogey-bogey-bogey start, which featured two double-crossed iron shots that left him short-sided, a thinned chip over the green, and another chunked chip short of it. Standard mental errors that Scheffler, like Woods, simply doesn't make with a golf club in his hands. But when the tank is running empty, even the simplest mistakes slip through.

Scheffler told CBS after his round he "fought as hard as he could," and he did. That's how he's wired.

"When you're not performing as well as you should at something, what is the solution always?" Scheffler told me at the Players earlier this year. "It's to try harder at that thing. If you're missing your jump shot, well, you need to practice your jump shots more. If I'm missing putts, well, then I need to practice my putting more."

Scheffler knows how to work his way through a problem, but that's not the solution for him right now. The simple fact is that Scottie Scheffler needs a break. And he deserves one.