Mexico Open at Vidanta

Vidanta Vallarta



PGA Tour

Relentless nice guy Scottie Scheffler is showing his ruthless streak at the WM Phoenix Open

1465143600

Scottie Scheffler plays a shot on the sixth hole during the third round of the WM Phoenix Open.

Maddie Meyer

SCOTTSDALE — "RORYYY MCILROYYY!"

The fan takes another swig of his beer—he's holding two of them—and points to Rory as he approaches the 13th green. "There's like a million golfers in the world, and that guy's No. 1," he explains. "You gotta shout his name."

There was no mention of the man currently holding the No. 2 spot or the 54-hole lead for this week, with Scottie Scheffler holding a two-shot margin over Jon Rahm and Nick Taylor after scoring three-under 68 in the third round on Saturday. As fans gravitated towards McIlroy as he worked his way toward the chaos of the 16th hole, the man who was quietly leading the tournament had just teed off on his first hole of the day.

1247052783

Rory McIlroy walks towards the 16th hole during the third round of the WM Phoenix Open.

Ben Jared

It was the WM Phoenix Open last year that opened the floodgates for Scheffler. This was PGA Tour career win No. 1. A month later, he added wins two and three.

But no matter how high he goes, Scheffler's cruising altitude is perpetually under the radar.

The Masters last year perhaps encapsulated it best. Scheffler came into the tournament the World No. 1. In his sparsely attended pre-tournament press conference, he was peppered with questions about his status as World No. 1. Had it come sooner than he expected?

"I don't really think that far into the future," he said. "I guess I would say that I always believed in myself, and I believed I could perform on this stage."

By the end of the week, Scheffler had a green jacket to prove it. If three rounds at the WM Phoenix Open is any indication, history may well repeat itself this year.

All the talk heading into the tournament was McIlroy and Jon Rahm—each sporting two wins in their previous three starts. Scheffler, the defending champion, duly opened with rounds of 68 and 64 to give him the 36-hole lead. Had that perceived disrespect of the media overlooking him once again placed a chip on his shoulder this week?

"Not really," he said. "I would probably have to agree; they've been winning tournaments."

1465128010

Scottie Scheffler reacts to a missed putt on the eighth green during the third round of the WM Phoenix Open.

Maddie Meyer

Scheffler's polite manner is relentless. His golf game is ruthlessly effective.

Scheffler's trusty fade was failing him during the early part of his third round, but he didn't seem to mind. He pulled two of his first three drives left and fanned the other out to the right, but played the stretch one under. It was perhaps one too many. His three-putt par, courtesy of a short missed putt on the par-5 third hole, felt more like a bogey. No matter. On the next hole, the par-3 fifth, he stuck his tee shot to 15 feet, and dropped the putt for birdie.

There was only one point during the day that Scheffler's lead was threatened. Xander Schauffele, who finished T-3 here last year, started the day at eight-under, but had climbed to 11-under through the 13th hole. When Scheffler bogeyed, they were briefly tied.

No matter. Scheffler stuck his approach shot to four feet from 212 yards on the next hole and made the putt. Schauffele, a hole ahead, left his third shot from a greenside bunker on the par-5 15th hole in the bunker, then missed a short par putt. Scheffler's lead hadn't just been restored. It had been enhanced.

The crew of Netflix's much-anticipated golf show "Full Swing" is on site this week, laying the groundwork for a second season. They've been trailing media darling Max Homa, who comes into Sunday T-14.

It was a similar story last year. The crew focused much of its time on Tony Finau during the early part of the season and only showed a passing interest in Scheffler up until that point.

"When I originally signed up for it, I don't think they wanted very much from me," he said. "Then all of a sudden I started winning tournaments and they were like, 'we need a lot more stuff now.'"

Scheffler may well win again this week. But once again, it'll be Saturday that better tells the story of Scottie Scheffler. He's the player who just keeps showing up and doesn't mind if you notice or not.