A year after runner-up finish, Scottie Scheffler returns to Houston Open in completely different career spot

HOUSTON – Scottie Scheffler acknowledged last season was the first time he had ever really played well in the fall. Even going back to his college days at Texas, he had never been able to find comfort when playing in the early part of the season.

“Maybe it was because of football season, who knows,” Scheffler said.

Nevertheless, that all changed for the second-ranked golfer in the world at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba last year, when he placed fourth. The following week at the Houston Open, he tied for second, with the round of the week coming on Friday when he fired an 8-under 62.

He held the lead heading to Sunday, but Jason Kokrak shot 5 under in the final round to beat Scheffler by two. However, five starts later, Scheffler won for the first time in his career, and the rest is history.

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He won the PGA Tour’s Jack Nicklaus Award as Player of the Year. He won four times, including the Masters, and finished runner-up at the 2022 Tour Championship to Rory McIlroy.

Now, Scheffler returns to Houston for the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course, where he tees off at 8:13 a.m. ET Thursday, with an entirely different perspective than from a year ago.

“Last year was really the first time where I did (play well), and it was nice going into the offseason feeling very comfortable where my game was at,” Scheffler said. “I was able to just fine-tune things instead of really feeling like I had to work on a ton of stuff. I just played really well.”

Scheffler comes into the 2022 Houston Open as the favorite, and for good reason. Although he has gone through struggles recently, especially with his putting, Scheffler fired a final-round 9-under 62 in Mayakoba last week to finish T-3. Those struggles, which included losing a lead in the final round of the Tour Championship and going 0-3-1 in the Presidents Cup, culminated in him tinkering with his equipment.

Before the CJ Cup in South Carolina, he switched putters. He finished at 1 under for the week in a tie for 45th, but he lost his top spot in the world rankings to McIlroy.

After the first two rounds last week in Mexico, Scheffler again decided to make a putting change back to his old flat stick.

“I’m always working and trying things,” Scheffler said. “I’ve always been a guy that makes little changes at a time. I switched putters at the CJ Cup. I was hitting a lot of good putts, the ball just wasn’t going in the hole, and it was more of the same at the beginning of the week last week. So after Friday’s round, I was like, ‘Well, let me see if it’s me or it’s the putter.’

“I went back to my old putter, something I’m comfortable with, and I putted pretty good over the weekend, so using it again this week. Seemed like the little bit of an experiment failed.”

Scheffler ranks second on Tour this season in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee but is 190th (of 206) in putting. If he indeed found his stroke last week in Mexico, the Houston Open could be a springboard to another great year.

It’s safe to say Scheffler likes playing in Texas. A Dallas native, he finished tied for second (Houston Open), first (WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play) and lost in a playoff (Charles Schwab Challenge) in three starts in the state last season.

There has been plenty of change in Scheffler’s life since this time last year, but he remains a golfer in pursuit of perfection.

“Last week was really solid golf, and it definitely gives me a good bit of confidence,” Scheffler said. “I’m working on a lot of the same stuff I was last year about this time, and so hopefully it will continue to pay off.”

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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek