Scottie Scheffler is ready to win another Masters. But this one will be different

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There’s no way he doesn’t hear them. Three rows into the Augusta National driving range were the Scheffler clan, holding court some 20 yards from the No. 1 player in the world. There they are: father, Scott; mother, Diane; sisters Molly and Sara; all leaned back in their seats with their legs stretched out, hamming it up without a worry in the world. They’re narrating his shots, and the girls are pressuring Scott to get them cookies before their brother’s round. There’s no way Scottie Scheffler doesn’t hear them, 20 minutes before teeing off as co-leader at the Masters. But all he does is stripe golf balls into the Georgia sky, unaffected, and joke around with his caddie, Ted Scott, and coach, Randy Smith.

This is all just the norm for Scottie Scheffler. Playing weekend rounds in the final groups on the largest stages with his family nearby has become a weekly occurrence. And Sunday, he’ll play for his second green jacket starting with a one-shot lead over Collin Morikawa.

But this week, he doesn’t have Meredith.

His high school sweetheart and wife is eight months pregnant. She’s a mainstay at tournaments, the bubbly, joyful presence who sprints onto greens after his nine wins in 26 months. She’s due in a few weeks (Scheffler has vowed to leave and head home if she goes into labor during the tournament), so for the first time in years, Meredith is not at the house with Scheffler, a disconcerting and foreign feeling for the 27-year-old phenom. He had to make himself breakfast Friday —  some eggs and toast — which he joked was an adjustment. “Fortunately Nike kind of takes care of my clothes this week so I don’t have to pick my own outfits,” he said.

Then his housemate and best friend, Sam Burns, missed the Masters cut Friday, meaning Scheffler truly had the house to himself for the weekend. That didn’t feel right, so he invited some of his good friends to stay with him. They made breakfast Saturday morning and hung out before it was time to go to the course.

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Scottie and Meredith Scheffler after his 2022 Masters win. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

But the story of Scheffler at the Masters cannot be told without Meredith and their emotional morning two years ago. Their lives changed forever that day, just like they’re about to change this month when they have their first child.

Two years ago, Scheffler led the Masters by three strokes. He was 25 and entered that year without a PGA Tour win. Suddenly, he was about to become golf’s greatest force. That morning, he cried, “I don’t think I’m ready for this. I’m not ready.”

“She told me, ‘Who are you to say that you are not ready? Who am I to say that I know what’s best for my life?’” Scheffler recalled. “And so what we talked about is that God is in control and that the Lord is leading me.”

Scheffler went on to win the Masters by three shots, launching his life into a new orbit. He’s No. 1 in the world. He’s become the best ball striker we’ve seen over a three-year span since Tiger Woods. He’s racked up nine wins, finished top-10 in five of the next eight majors and became the kind of star who gets scrutinized when he doesn’t win. And the morning before all of those big Sunday rounds, Scheffler had Meredith.

It can’t be overstated how often Scheffler is in this position. Since the beginning of 2022, he’s been in the final two groups entering Saturday 17 times. Nobody else in golf has more than 11. He’s had the 54-hole lead or co-lead 10 times in that span. Next best is five. One can criticize Scheffler if they’d like for not winning even more, but nobody can deny his mind-boggling consistency. He’s finished top five in 31 of his last 59 events. He hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since August. He hasn’t done worse than 31st since October 2022!

With that consistency comes a toll. Yeah, you’d rather play well than not, but most great players have great weeks with a few duds in between. That’s just how professional golf works. But Scheffler has to ride the adrenaline and stress into Sunday every single weekend. Yes, that is success, but it also means pain. Nine wins are great. But that doesn’t make finishing so close 26 times without a win any easier.

“I think mentally it can be very taxing,” Scheffler said after winning the Players Championship last month. “Physically it’s fairly taxing, as well, but mentally it’s a lot of fun being in the final groups, but it also takes a toll on your body and your mind.”

It also means he’s prepared for this.

So Scheffler stepped to the first tee Saturday, tied for the 36-hole lead at the Masters, and waited opposite a 23-year-old Dane named Nicolai Højgaard playing in his first Masters. Højgaard is sharp. He’s composed. He’s really good and is going to win a whole lot of tournaments in his prime. But being ready for the second-to-last group at the Masters is a whole different experience.

So on the first green, after Scheffler left himself left off the green, Hojgaard watched from a better position as Scheffler hit a filthy, spin-filled, bouncy chip that rolled straight into the hole for birdie. The crowd erupted, grown men standing out of their seats, raising their fists and shouting, “Yeah, Scottie!” (If this sounds dramatic, it was truly the scene). And poor Højgaard had to experience this and follow. He left his chip way short and bogeyed the hole.

Or there were the moments in which Scheffler appeared to be collapsing. He had the solo lead at the turn before double-bogeying 10 and bogeying 11 to go from first to sixth on the leaderboard. The old Scheffler would have fumed, but he’s so used to this now. He just kept his head down, stared at his shoes and made the short walk to the 12th tee. He parred that hole, but on 13 he hit a 217-yard iron shot safely onto the 13th green. When he made the 31-foot eagle putt to jump back into the lead, he throttled his fists and shouted to the crowd. He knew there was a chance he would give this tournament away, and he knew he just took it back.

Meanwhile, Højgaard went from 7-under through 10 holes and in the lead, to bogeying the next five holes to drop to sixth.

“I think that’s just part of maturing as a person,” Scheffler said two days earlier of his tunnel vision. “So maybe you’re born with a little bit of it, but I think you have to train yourself to do that over time as well.”

Scheffler was made for this moment. Hojgaard was still learning to be.

Scheffler birdied 18 to finish Saturday with a solo lead at 7-under. He’s the frontrunner to win his second green jacket and potentially solidify himself as his era’s most dominant player.

But the strangest part was Scheffler going home Saturday night without Meredith. He hit balls for about 10-20 minutes on the range after his round. The plan was to go back to his place and see his buddies. They’d order some food. They’d hangout. Maybe play some cards.

He’d also call Meredith. They’d talk about how she’s doing and what he’s feeling. He said the plan is in place for somebody on his team to have a phone ready for if she goes into labor, Augusta National rules be damned, and he’ll have a plane ready to get him back to Texas immediately.

Then he’d go to bed and wake up ready to play Sunday at the Masters with a lead. Two years ago in this spot, he was just a kid with his life changing at a very rapid pace. Now, he is a man, one about to be a dad, dominating his sport for the foreseeable future. Whether or not he wins Sunday, Scheffler’s golf life will remain pretty similar. He’ll keep shooting in the 60s. He’ll keep competing at the biggest events. His family will surround him. This week, though, will forever be different.

“Now the most exciting thing is not winning the Masters,” Scheffler said. “It’s a baby coming pretty soon.”

(Top photo of Scottie Scheffler: Andrew Redington / Getty Images)

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