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Masters 2024: Golf has a Scottie Scheffler problem

2024 Masters
April 09, 2024

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Golf has a Scottie Scheffler problem. So what if he’s posting Tiger-like numbers, or one of the few stars who has shined in a year plagued by power outages. That his cool, unruffled nature is a welcome diversion from the sport’s melodrama. He is as unproblematic as it gets, and that’s a problem, because golf mistakenly thinks Scottie Scheffler is boring.

Which is ridiculous. Waiting, lag putts, laying up; there are a lot of boring things in golf, including, at times, golf. What Scheffler is doing is far from dull. Eighteen top-10s in his previous 24 starts, highlighted by two wins and a runner-up in his last three appearances. First in strokes gained overall, SG/tee-to-green and approach, and in scoring average. Back-to-back Player of the Year honors and looking like a good bet for three in a row. For the last decade, golf has wondered when, if ever, it would see another dominant performer, and now such a man is on stage and the game is unable to see him.

It doesn’t help that Schefffler is not exactly a self-promoter. Asked on Tuesday what he thought about entering this Masters as the guy, Scheffler replied, “I try not to look too far into the future. I'm excited about how I've been playing to begin this year … I think it's just one of those deals where all I'm trying to do is put myself in contention in the tournament and hopefully finish it off. I really am not looking much past tomorrow. I'm focused on my preparation right now. And those things don't really occupy many of my thoughts day-to-day.”

Whoa, Scottie, easy with the bulletin-board material.

It’s easy to understand the boring parallels. Scheffler’s game is consistent and measured and total, a game that produces rounds that can come off as plodding in the best possible connotation. His greatest sin is that performance, coupled with an unrelenting niceness, can come off as mundane. He is not a roguish cowboy, someone who makes a mess by firing first and asking questions later, saving the day in spite of himself. He is a Navy Seal, in and out and mission complete before anyone is the wiser. It’s not as exciting, but that’s the point.

Even when Scheffler has looked human, fans can’t relate. His putting struggles should be proof that no one can master this beautifully stupid sport. Instead, fans tend to air frustration, unable to grasp how someone can hit the ball so well for 500 yards can’t finish off the final 15 feet.

“I saw somebody on the internet say he’s boring,” Max Homa said at the Players Championship. “I would imagine that’s what you would dream of, to become the best player in the world and someone who is going to set records and win a bunch of majors. You want to play as boring of golf as you can, you want it to be as even-keeled as you can. You’d think that’s what you would build in a lab.”

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Andrew Redington

You know who’s an exciting golfer? Jordan Spieth, who’s never not made a detour from tee to green. He has a penchant for finding himself on parts of the course not on the property map. Spieth has a flair for the theatrical, a magician performing in front of an audience that knows there’s no guarantee the trick will succeed. But theatrics are not easy on the heart. Look at Michael Greller, whose beard has gone from jet black to silver watching Spieth do the things that Spieth does. The same could be said for Phil Mickelson and Seve Ballesteros and Arnold Palmer. They weren't so much golfers as tortured artists.

Scheffler? No detours, only direct flights. Why would he put himself in a compromising position? It was Jack Nicklaus—a pretty good golfer who was often considered boring in Palmer’s shadow—that once said the best way to avoid trouble is to aim away from trouble. In a related note, Scheffler ranks first in bogey avoidance.

Now, he is not electric. The zingers and anecdotes behind the mic are rare. His two most personable traits seem to be his beard and his love for “The Office,” and even on those fronts don’t expect much fireworks: When asked what character from the comedy series he related to last year, Scheffler responded, “Gosh, that’s a tough one. I don’t know; I am going ‘no comment’ on that one.” (C’mon Scottie. The answer is Jim.) He won at Bay Hill last month and celebrated by eating cheeseburgers with his family, which was slightly more muted than the celebrations of the ‘86 Mets. Still, he is thoughtful, and he’s not afraid to throw elbows. “If the fans are upset [at golf’s divide], then look at the guys that left,” Scheffler said at the Players. “We had a tour, we were all together, and the people that left are no longer here. At the end of the day, that’s where all the splintering comes from. As far as our tour goes, we’re doing our best to create the best product for the fans.” It was a smart, passionate response, but because it can’t be packed into a headline it went mostly ignored.

Scheffler’s considered boring because he’s inevitable, contending in a Koepka-esque eight of the past 12 majors. He’s considered boring because he doesn’t post curated videos on social media or start beefs. He’s considered boring because he’s humble; he had a brutal performance at the Ryder Cup, but instead of throwing someone under the bus or staging an informal protest he went back out on the course as he fought through the tears of disappointment. He’s considered boring because he doesn’t want golf to define him, instead pointing to his family and his faith as his cornerstones.

But mostly Scheffler is considered boring because sports often take for granted greatness until it’s gone.

If Scheffler continues that greatness this week, it will likely spur a conversation about the trajectory Scheffler is on and how far he could go, and part of that discussion will ask why the sport doesn’t treat Scheffler like the superstar he is. It’s a worthwhile question, but Scottie Scheffler isn’t the one who has to answer.

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