‘It would be borderline unfair’: Can anyone stop Scheffler if he fixes his putter?

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- On a sizzling Sunday at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, in late May, Scottie Scheffler had just tied for third in the Charles Schwab Challenge, missing a playoff with eventual winner Emiliano Grillo and Adam Schenk by one stroke.

Scheffler had once again led the field in strokes gained: tee to green, even making an ace on the par-3 eighth hole in the final round. After signing his scorecard, a reporter asked Scheffler a question that left him bewildered: "How are you going to turn this thing around?"

At the time, Scheffler was the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world and had put together an incredible streak of 14 consecutive finishes in the top 12 in official PGA Tour events, including victories at the WM Phoenix Open and the Players Championship.

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"I'd already won twice that year," Scheffler said. "I was number one in the world. I hadn't finished outside of [12th], I think, all year. ... I was like, 'All right, let's pump the brakes. I'm not far off. I'm playing good golf.'"

Fresh off his seventh PGA Tour victory at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Scheffler is still ranked No. 1 in the world. This week, the 27-year-old will try to become the first back-to-back champion in the 50th Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

By almost any measurement, Scheffler has put together one of the most impressive runs of consistency in PGA Tour history over the past year.

Since Scheffler ran away with a 5-shot win for his sixth victory in 13 months at the 2023 Players Championship, he has finished in the top 10 in 16 of his 20 starts in official tour events, including 12 top-fives. In addition to his second victory in three years at Bay Hill, he also captured the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial event in the Bahamas that featured a 20-man field of elite players.

Scottie Scheffler averaged 27 putts per round (T6 in the field) in winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

He was runner-up twice and finished third five times. Scheffler hasn't missed a cut in 19 months and posted a score under par in each of the 23 rounds he played this season.

According to Data Golf, Scheffler has gained 2.84 strokes on the field over the past year, which is more than a half-stroke better than any other player on tour and more than a full stroke better than all but four players (Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Patrick Cantlay). This season, he leads the tour in shots gained: total (2.497) and tee-to-green (2.572) and is second in approach (1.198), a testament to his world-class iron play that rivals Tiger Woods' ballstriking at the height of his career.

"He's been super consistent," McIlroy said. "I think being as consistent as Scottie has been is really, really difficult in this game. Anyone can pop up and win an event here or there or get on a good run, but the consistent performances that Scottie's been putting in week-in and week-out every time he tees it up, it is incredible."


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Yet, until Scheffler had a hot putter at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, one of the most discussed questions in the sport was what was keeping him from finding his putting rhythm on the greens and what he needed to do to overcome the hurdle to win again.

"I think it's a mental battle just to stay patient because I think when you have the spotlight like I've had on me for the past year and a half, it's a really great place to be," Scheffler said. "But it's also not an easy place to play from when you're getting knit-picked on every move."

Going into last week's tournament, Scheffler ranked 144th on tour in strokes gained: putting, losing nearly a half-stroke to the field. He already had 11 three-putts this season. He has missed five putts from 6 feet, three from 5 feet, six from 4 feet and two from 3 feet.

For a golfer whose ballstriking and work around the green has been nearly unparalleled, his inability to consistently make putts was a paradox that perplexed even Scheffler himself.

After the third round of last month's Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles, Scheffler sat on a bench in the women's locker room, which was being utilized as the scoring tent that week. For more than 15 minutes, he discussed the subject that had almost become taboo for others to bring up around him.

"I think that's what I love about golf is you can never perfect it," Scheffler said. "I mean, I think that's part of the thing with my putting. I think people just expect me to show up and because I hit it really good, then I should also make every putt. That's just not a realistic expectation. I'm going to have good weeks, I'm going to have bad weeks.

"I think that's why I love golf so much, just because I'm always working to try and get a little bit better at a time. I'm never going to solve the puzzle, but getting in there, putting in the work, is kind of what I enjoy about it."

At the end of last year, after Scheffler's problems on the greens became so profound that he brought in renowned putting coach Phil Kenyon to help at the Ryder Cup in Italy, he watched videos of Woods' tournaments on YouTube to help him put things in perspective.

"There's never been a perfect golfer," Scheffler said. "I mean, they used to tear his ass apart on the coverage if he didn't win the golf tournament. If you go back and watch it's pretty unbelievable. And he's by far the best golfer that we've ever seen for a point in time. And if he wasn't winning golf tournaments, they were ripping him."

Woods won 82 times in 374 starts on tour, about once every 4½ starts. The 15-time major champion is regarded as one of the greatest putters of all-time. From 2002 to 2005, Woods missed only three of 1,543 putts from inside 3 feet.

"It's not [that] they were doing it on purpose, they just expected perfection out of the guy, and it's unattainable in our sport," Scheffler said. "That would be a great place for me to be if I'm not winning golf tournaments. It'd be like, 'Why isn't Scottie winning golf tournaments?' That would be amazing."

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That's exactly where Scheffler found himself before he won again at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After switching to a mallet putter, Scheffler made each of his last 23 putts from inside 15 feet. He one-putted each of the last seven holes in the third round to grab a share of the lead, then blitzed the field with a 6-under 66 on Sunday to win.

"I'm not expecting to show up every day and make every single putt and never miss a putt again," Scheffler said. "I'm just trying to control what I can control and hit good putts and be free on the greens. And I'd say that would be kind of the biggest challenge of it when the story wants to be created that I can't putt because I've won seven times in the last two years, a major, a Players, a bunch of elevated events. I don't think I'm that bad."

Many people had theories on why Scheffler was struggling so much on the greens. At the Genesis Invitational, McIlroy suggested to CBS Sports that Scheffler should use a mallet putter instead of a blade model (it seems he was right). Scheffler played with a TaylorMade Spider Tour X mallet putter at the API and caught fire on the greens.

Former PGA Tour pro and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who rarely is afraid to offer his opinion, wondered whether Kenyon was the right coach to fix Scheffler's flaws (it seems he was wrong).

"I have no doubt that Phil Kenyon knows a lot of different things as it relates to putting, but he's been working with him since before the Ryder Cup, so, we're sneaking up on more than half a year," Chamblee said on the Golf Channel last week. "I feel like most players who make substantive changes in their putting, I think you'd know within 10 minutes on the putting green."

All the while, Scheffler believed his putting stroke was better than a year ago when there were more than a few times he immediately knew putts inside 10 feet had no chance of going in the hole. He hit too many putts on the heel of the putter and wasn't starting them on his chosen line.

Despite the struggles this season, he believed his putts would start falling eventually.

"I've cleaned up a lot of that to where most of my putts are starting within the realm of where they should go in and it's exciting for me," Scheffler said. "No, I'm not going to putt great every single week, but I'm also not going to live up to people's expectations of what I should do on the golf course."

Maybe that's Scheffler's biggest dilemma -- that he's so good in every other part of his game that we've grown to expect perfection from him on the greens as well.

"It definitely is frustrating because I haven't really struggled with something for a while in golf, and it's definitely come to the point now where anytime I do something poorly on the greens is the first thing that people want to write about," Scheffler said at The Genesis.

"And when you're hitting the ball as good as I am, it's not really that easy to make all your putts. It's a lot easier to chip it underneath the hole to eight feet and roll in that eight footer and gain half a shot than it is to hit a 5-iron in there and have a downhill, left-to-right 8-footer and make that putt. It's just not as easy, and that's a simple fact."

And now the player that rival golfers feared -- the world-class ballstriker with masterful imagination and touch around the greens who also putts well -- seems ready to take off again.

"He's the No. 1 player in the world for a reason," Will Zalatoris said. "The kid's been a world beater his entire career -- junior golf, amateur golf, college golf, and now on the professional level. Yeah, I don't ever want to say that you expect it and throw those expectations on someone, but I would say I'm definitely not surprised."

Added reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark: "It would be borderline unfair if he starts putting really good. I never want to wish ill on anybody, but if he starts putting positive each week, it's going to be really hard to beat [him]."

Even McIlroy, the No. 2 golfer in the world, recognized the sleeping giant he might have unintentionally helped awaken with the Masters, the first major championship of the season, right around the corner.

"We all knew that he had this in him," McIlroy said. "His ball striking is, honestly, on another level compared to everyone else right now. We knew if he started to hole putts, then this sort of stuff would happen."


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