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It’d be a mistake to say this was Scottie Scheffler’s coming-out party.
Not a grave one perhaps, but an error nonetheless.
Scheffler announced his presence long ago.
This party’s been ongoing for a while now.
The former Texas Longhorn arrived on the PGA Tour scene long before he survived a grueling morning match against match play phenom Matt Kuchar and reached the finals of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play against a torrid Billy Horschel on a blustery Sunday afternoon.
This was just the latest example of Scheffler’s — if not meteoric at least momentous — ascent.
This may not have been how NBC or Dell projected this event to turn out, but many would find themselves properly introduced for the first time to a young, rising star in Scheffler, who is the latest in a long line of outstanding University of Texas golfers. He’s right on the heels of Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Jordan Spieth, in talent if not yet titles.
He’s New Jersey-born, but like most smart folks, got to Texas as soon as he could when his family moved to Dallas when he was 6. That in so many ways prepared Scheffler for a moment like Sunday, from getting tutored by Dallas legend Randy Smith or playing in winds so stiff in Texas it’d blow a man over if his pockets were empty.
That kind of inborn confidence and training helped Scheffler this week as he navigated a dangerous path and overcame a string of opponents like third-seeded Jon Rahm, match play guru Ian Poulter, top 10 golfer Xander Schauffele and 2016 Dell champion Jason Day. In fact, he never trailed in his duel with Kuchar, whose 33 Dell Match Play victories are second only to Woods’ 36.
“He’s a fighter,” Scottie’s mom, Diane, said. “But he’s always very calm.”
If anything, Scheffler blamed his hotly contested, 1 up victory over Kuchar, the winningest golfer in match play this side of Tiger Woods — on being too comfortable. After solid birdie putts on Nos. 9 and 11 holes to go 2 up, he lost the next two holes with drives in the water before taking the lead for good with a nifty 10-foot putt on No. 17.
“I felt really good about how I was playing all day,” Scheffler said. “My stroke felt good. My swing felt very good, and I was comfortable. I think I was almost too comfortable. Kind of lost focus on 12 and 13. I felt good about my game, and I knew if I kept executing and hitting good shots I would have a chance to win.”
That he did.
With a No. 30 ranking in this week-long grind for 64 of the top 69 golfers in the world, Scheffler may have been the lowest seed to get to this point. But he’s already accomplished enough in his brief pro career that he’s far from a nobody and has such a dominant overall game and a strong will to ensure he’ll be a somebody for a long time.
Scheffler, a tall, powerful 24-year-old who has length and accuracy off the tee and can putt the eyes out of a pin, won the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors. He’s finished in the top four of last year’s PGA Championship with three rounds in the 60s. He tied for fourth in his FedEx playoff debut. And he’s already played in five majors, including a couple of U.S. Opens.
When it was mentioned to Tom Kite during Sunday’s semifinals match that Scheffler had yet to win his first PGA event, the 1992 U.S. Open champion said, “The big word you said is yet.”
“There’s no question he’s going to win,” Kite added. “Hey, it may happen this afternoon.”
Scottie Scheffler during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 28, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
One almost wonders if Scheffler’s mad he hasn’t broken through yet in his previous 41 Tour starts. But his family members discount that emotion.
He has finished third in two tournaments at the 2019 Bermuda Championship and the 2020 The American Express.
But no one should be surprised he was playing for his first winner’s check, even if it was his first appearance in the Dell tourney and just his fourth WGC start ever.
Heck, at this rate, Scheffler will become a strong consideration to join the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the knock-down, drag-out at Whistling Straits in September. No one should underestimate this guy, not even Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker.
“He’s so good, he’s just got everything there is,” Kite said. “He’s got tremendous length off the tee, and he’s got the build for today’s game. He’s got so much game. Just been rock-solid on all his putts.”
Scheffler’s been chock full of confidence ever since he won three state championships in high school and competed as an amateur at a couple of U.S. Opens.
Scottie Scheffler during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 28, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
On his bag then was his sister, Callie, a former Texas A&M golfer who caddied for her brother for much of his amateur career before she became a commercial real estate developer in Temple. Oddly enough, this is a family that has always come to an understanding since Callie and Molly are Aggies, and Sara and Scottie are Longhorns.
This is such a golf family that Callie even helped club him to a hole-in-one on the second hole when he was playing the hometown Byron Nelson as a teenager.
Scheffler was convinced a 4-iron was the right club. Callie handed him a 5-iron, and in trickled the ace.
“We got a great hugging picture out of it,” their dad, Scott Scheffler, said.
Mom said Callie was always the most prepared caddie he’d ever had.
Of course, Scottie’s pretty much been calm and controlled his entire life. Unflappable, no matter how much stress.
“He had to be even-keeled,” Callie said. “He’s got three sisters.”
In fact, nothing much at all ever rankles Scottie, even though Sara said he’s not too happy with how his March Madness bracket is faring.
But this is definitely one tight-knit family that sticks together, no matter what their college allegiances.
Callie followed her brother’s round Sunday morning along with Sara and Molly as well as Scottie’s wife, Meredith, and mom Diane. Their parents aren’t big golfers. Diane has worked as the CEO of a law firm in Dallas, and Scott pretty much raised the kids. But they all took in every shot Sunday.
“They’re great golf watchers,” Callie said.
Good thing. They figure to watch plenty more high-caliber golf in the future.
Pretty much everyone on Tour has learned that by now.
Why, even Florida Gator Horschel said of Scheffler on Saturday, “Other than being a Texas Longhorn, he’s a really good player. It’s a matter of time before he wins and I’m not saying it because he’s (standing) here. He’s going to have a long career. It’s just a matter of time before he gets a victory.”
Then, he added wryly, “You can pay me later, Scottie.”
If he won’t, many tournament sponsors soon will.