2024 Players: Scottie Scheffler fights through neck injury in title defense

2024 Players: Scottie Scheffler fights through neck injury in title defense

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Scottie Scheffler awoke Friday feeling every bit the world’s best golfer after a dominant performance last week at Bay Hill, followed by an effortless 67 to start his week at TPC Sawgrass where he’s the defending champion. That all changed on his second hole.

After a flawless start to his second round — a tee shot down the middle of the 10th fairway, followed by an approach to 2 feet for birdie — Scheffler said he “felt a little something in my neck” on the par-5 11th hole. That led to multiple visits from a trainer for therapy during his round and a gutty performance that left him tied for fourth when he signed his card at The Players Championship.

Scheffler needed therapy on the 14th hole and again walking to the 16th tee, but the pain and stiffness persisted. The world No. 1 declined to speak with the media after his round and went directly to the PGA Tour’s “recovery center” for more treatment.

“I did enough I felt like today to keep myself somewhat in the tournament and so that's really all I could ask for,” Scheffler told a Tour official. “The way I was getting around the course, the way my neck was feeling, I didn't know if I was going to be able to continue playing, so yeah, good fight out there.”

Despite the obvious discomfort and lack of motion, Scheffler countered bogeys at Nos. 15 and 6 with five birdies to move to 8 under for the week. He was also able to match his solid ball-striking from Day 1, picking up 3.3 shots on the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

“He did a good job of grinding it out. He wasn’t able to go at it full speed. It seemed like backswing and getting to the ball was a little tough with his neck being tight,” said Rickie Fowler, who was grouped with Scheffler for the first two rounds. “To score around this place is pretty good when you’re healthy, I mean he tied me [with a 3-under 69] and I don’t have a whole lot I can complain about. I’ve had a sinus infection for a bit, but my neck’s fine.”

Thanks to his grinding performance, Scheffler will begin the second round six shots off the lead after Wyndham Clark, who finished second last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, posted his second-consecutive 65.

“It speaks to him. Someone like Scottie probably viewed it as a challenge, let’s see how I can get it around here and get it to the house and try to get some rest and get ready for the weekend,” said Justin Thomas, who was also grouped with Scheffler on Friday. “It didn’t look very comfortable and I’d assume it’s not great, but he’ll be fine.”