AUGUSTA, Ga. — He was tired, exhausted, really, and yet Scottie Scheffler tried to exude calm.
The night before the biggest round of his life at the Masters, Scheffler told a cute story about how he planned to get some food, cuddle up on the couch with his bride and blow through a few episodes of season 4 of his favorite show, “ The Office.”
Golf? A green jacket?
Nah, not on his mind.
“I’m not really going to think too much about it tonight,” he said, and because he was so positive, so upbeat, so cheerfully unconcerned, there were plenty of reasons to believe him.
But a few minutes after he finished speaking to the media, Scheffler popped up on the tournament practice area. His caddy, Ted Scott, and swing coach, Randy Smith, were already there waiting for him. Social media exploded at what seemed like an inauspicious sign: the 54-hole leader, staked to a three-shot advantage, beating balls under floodlights after what was already a long day in brutish conditions. Golf Channel analyst Paul McGinley wondered aloud why Scheffler and Smith were getting so technical at such a critical point.
“We were trying to kill time until he could go get rubbed up with his trainer,” Smith explained. They were watching funny Instagram videos, not overanalyzing slow-motion swings. At one point, Smith was seen waving his hand back and forth, seemingly mimicking the tempo or motion he wanted his pupil to emulate – or not. “I saw a red light come on,” Smith said, “and I said, ‘I want to make sure you know the bus to Denmark takes off at 4,’ and just being silly. And they ate it up! They thought we had some instructional stuff going on.”
Of course, they did have one issue to address. After playing in a 25-mph wind for two days, Smith wanted to make sure that Scheffler’s ball position moved up a few inches for the final round, to promote a higher launch instead of a lower trajectory. But that’s it.
“I heard that later, like, Come on, man!” Smith said.
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While the debate raged online, the rest of the evening didn’t unfold how the leader planned, either. On the way home from dinner, he spilled his food on the floorboard of his courtesy car. “That was extraordinarily frustrating,” he said. In the back-left corner of the press building, his wife, Meredith, was cackling. “She thought it was the funniest thing ever,” he said. “I didn’t think it was so funny at the time. But last night was fine.”
“This morning,” he said, “was a totally different story.”
The final group of Scheffler and Cam Smith was scheduled to tee off at 2:50 pm ET. That’s about an hour later than a regular PGA Tour event, and an excruciating wait for someone on the precipice of a career-changing achievement. Alone in the house with his wife, Scottie didn’t handle the downtime well.
“I cried like a baby this morning,” he said. “I was so stressed out. I didn’t know what to do. I was sitting there telling Meredith, ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this. I’m not ready – I don’t feel like I’m ready for this kind of stuff.’ And I just felt overwhelmed.”
In college at Texas, Scheffler played in a couple of US Opens and experienced indigestion for more than a week leading up to the events. Here at Augusta, Scheffler has been bothered by an upset stomach for the past two days. “I couldn’t tell you why,” he said, “but it’s something I’m used to.”
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Before whipping up a big breakfast, Meredith gave her husband a pep talk. They were college sweethearts in Texas, tying the knot in December 2020, when Scottie was just 24. They’re still very much in the newlywed phase, but it’s clear that she also knows how to unlock Scottie’s greatness. “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 said. “We talked about that God is in control and that the Lord is leading me. And if today is my time, then it’s my time.”
It’s the first time in Scheffler’s career that he became emotional before a round.
“It’s because it’s the Masters,” he said. “If you’re going to choose a golf tournament to win, this would be the tournament I would want to win. … This golf course and this tournament is just different.”
The Masters’ long history is literate with nearly men. With leads lost. Scheffler’s 54-hole cushion was three shots, but at one point Saturday it had been seven. He’d closed out his third round with a bogey … and then headed to the range for a nighttime session.
“You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get,” he said. “You don’t want to waste them. The human condition is to make things bigger than they really are. And years from now, people may not remember me as a champion, and that’s fine. But in the moment, you think it’s a lot bigger deal than it really is.”
Well, it is a big deal. It’s a big deal to the club. To the participants. To the tens of thousands of patrons who crammed into Augusta National for the first fully attended Masters since 2019, and to the millions more who were watching at home. The pep talked helped calm Scheffler. So did a hearty breakfast. But he didn’t really pull out of his funk until he drove down Magnolia Lane and headed to the fitness trailer with his trainer Troy Van Biezen.
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“Truly, I felt peace when I’m on the golf course,” he said. “I think the hardest stuff is off the golf course. When I’m out there and once we get into the round, I was settled in. I felt good.”
And he felt even better after his chip-in on the third hole, when from short and left of the green he scooted his pitch shot onto the front edge and into the cup. His lead down to a single shot, Scheffler’s unlikely birdie (coupled with Smith’s bogey) restored his advantage to three shots. No one got closer the rest of the day. At peace, he shot 71 and, even with a messy finish on the final green, won by three shots.
During the trophy presentation, Scheffler choked up a handful of times. He needed a moment while talking about the sacrifices of his family. He paused while discussing the bond with his longtime swing coach.
“I have such a great support system,” he said, “and I’m so blessed.”
But the first person he mentioned was his wife, the MVP of this Masters, who reminded him, in a moment of weakness, that his identity wasn’t wrapped up in a score or a jacket. She reminded him that he wasn’t in control. And she reminded him that he was ready for this. For all of this – the fame, the attention, and the enduring glory that comes with being a Masters champion.