Every Sport Could Use a Big, Bad Bully. Golf Has One Now.

At around 4:30 on Sunday afternoon, four players were tied atop the leaderboard at the Masters, each of them six strokes under par for the week. Then, over the next half-hour or so, things started going dreadfully wrong for most of them.

Ludvig Aberg dumped his second shot on the 11th hole into the water. It’s a long par 4, a 520-yard bender from right to left, and Aberg got a little too proud with his approach, spilling it into the only body of water in golf with a name people remember: Rae’s Creek. Aberg, a 24-year-old Swedish rising star, made a double bogey and was no longer a factor in the tournament.

Collin Morikawa did the same thing in the next group. Morikawa usually plays a pretty left-to-right shot shape, and the 11th hole favors the opposite. His right-to-lefter leaked directly into the creek, and Morikawa too was sunk.

Max Homa’s doom came on the next hole, the par-3 12th. Homa tried to play the hole safely, lofting an iron into the middle of the green instead of challenging the seductive hole location on the right edge of the green. But Homa’s ball took an inexplicable skip into a bush. After a drop and an ineffective chip, Homa took his own double bogey.

Scottie Scheffler’s version of a mistake was different. Seeing the field implode around him, the world’s No. 1 player understood his assignment. Scheffler had a two-shot lead when he stood over the same second shot on the 11th hole. His competitors had started to fall apart around him (though Homa’s troubles on the 12th wouldn’t begin for a few more seconds).

Scheffler realized that anything other than a ball in the water was fine, so he bailed out: He sent his approach shot to a vast expanse right of the 11th green. He chipped onto it, missed his putt, and made a bogey. He made par on the 12th and led by three with six holes to play, and that was that. Scheffler birdied three of the next four holes, had a four-shot lead on the 18th tee, and cruised to a four-shot victory to win his second Masters at 11 strokes under par.

Those last few holes were microcosmic of Scheffler’s latest Augusta National Golf Club domination. Scheffler was already the best player in the world. Nobody doubted that. This, though, was the weekend he became truly inevitable. While his rivals collapsed at Amen Corner—that devilish stretch that tends to destroy Masters contenders between holes 11 and 13—Scheffler was just steady. The biggest strength of Scheffler’s game became a relative weakness for him this week, but he rose so high in other facets that it didn’t matter. Scheffler will not win every tournament forever, but the 2024 Masters established him as something like the golf version of Patrick Mahomes: He might not always win, but something has to go catastrophically wrong for him not to have a chance. Then he will probably just win anyway.

The funniest thing about Scheffler’s win on Sunday is that his competitors’ meltdown holes didn’t even matter in the end. Their rounds might have played out differently if they hadn’t taken those double bogeys. But nobody would have caught Scheffler even if each of those scores flipped to a birdie. Everyone except Aberg lost to him by at least seven shots. Scheffler avoided the enormous error, but he also hit so many sublime shots that he was able to run away and hide with the championship.

The sublime shots are what Scheffler does. He’s the best striker of the golf ball since Tiger Woods in his prime, no question about it. He dominates the statistics that capture iron play and is one of the small handful of best players off the tee. He is also a magician with a wedge in his hand; he chipped in from across the first hole on Saturday. He hit some shots from the fairway too, the best of them the one he spun back toward the hole on No. 9 on Sunday, from 89 yards to 6 inches. On the 14th, he moved one from 154 yards to 2 feet, using the slope at the back of the green to funnel the ball toward the hole on a knife’s edge. Most players can’t hit these shots consistently, but Scheffler hits a handful almost every round.

Scheffler’s ceaseless consistency is why he is never out of contention. He hasn’t done worse than 17th in nine events this year, and his past four tournaments now include three wins and a second-place finish in which he missed the tying putt on the 72nd hole.

Putting has always been the closest thing Scheffler has to an Achilles’ heel. The numbers were always jarring: Scheffler gains more strokes than anyone from the tee to the green, but he morphs into an extremely average player (or worse) once he gets there. Entering the Masters, Scheffler was gaining 3.26 strokes per round from tee to green over the past six months, the best in the sport by a full shot. But he was basically a zero as a putter, picking a nominal 0.13 strokes per round against the field. If there was a path to beat Scheffler, that was it: Understand that he’ll stripe the ball all around the course, but he might miss enough putts to let someone else have a chance.

Not this time. Scheffler’s iron play—his best attribute—was more good than great this week. He made a handful of minor errors with his approaches, and by that “strokes gained” stat, he was only the 14th-best iron player in the field. But he was No. 1 pitching and chipping, No. 2 off the tee, and No. 22 putting. Scheffler was ahead even when he didn’t have his sharpest weapon, and he was obscene once he found it.

Tour-level golf is in a bleak moment of its own making. The best players in the world are cleaved onto two tours, and the PGA Tour’s appeal now leans way, way more heavily than is healthy on an aging, noncompetitive Tiger Woods. It remains unclear if the tour will ever strike a deal with its Saudi-backed rival, LIV Golf, or if most of us should even root for that outcome. (Having the best players in the world back together more than four times a year would be nice. Having the Saudi government involved in the PGA Tour at a high level might not be.) The Masters is one of the few great things the sport has that doesn’t feel as if it’s currently under grave threat. But it’s a salve for merely one week a year.

For the other 51 weeks, the sport just needs to be as interesting as possible. Right now it can be only so compelling, given the dilution of talent across two promotions and the unavoidable fact that Woods is no longer a contender. Smart people in golf realized a long time ago that wishing for another Tiger was a waste of time. Nobody will ever be as good, or as cool, as he was in the 2000s. But every sport can use a big, bad bully, and a bully can get only so big and bad if the mantle of “best player in the world” is passed around every few months.

That isn’t happening anymore. Scheffler has been the uninterrupted No. 1 player in the world since May 21, 2023. In total, he’s spent 83 weeks of his life in that spot, the sixth-most since the Official World Golf Ranking came around in 1986. He’ll soon pass Nick Faldo (97 weeks) and could very possibly eclipse Rory McIlroy (122) and Dustin Johnson (135) over the next year and change. Greg Norman (331) and Tiger (a laughable 683) could soon be the only men to have spent more time in the top spot. Scheffler is still just 27. He’ll never be Woods, fine, but he may well have a Woodslike ability to eradicate most of his competitors’ hopes for many years at a time. That’s a start.