Scottie Scheffler’s pre-tournament press conference at the 151st Open Championship covered a range of topics from the beloved, beaten-up 2012 Yukon XL he recently upgraded from, to video games and even using YouTube highlights of Tiger Woods’ 2006 Open victory at Royal Liverpool as homework for this week. Only one topic bothered him, and it was the probably most animated you’ll see the usually ice-cold Texan.
It was the topic of his putting struggles, which he feels are being exaggerated.
“I think I had back-to-back tournaments [recently] that I could have won where I putted poorly, and all of a sudden it became this [narrative] where I’ll watch highlights of my round, and even the announcers, any time you step over the putt it’s like, ‘Well, this is the part of the game he struggles with,’” Scheffler said. “If you say it every time and you guys [media] see me miss a 12-footer it’s like, ‘Oh, there it is. He’s struggling again.’”
Scheffler offered a reason why his putting is a target for criticism. “I think that most of what has to happen is something has to be created into a story,” he said. “For a while it didn’t really seem like there was much of a story behind the way I play golf; I think I was viewed as probably a touch boring and didn’t really show much emotion and whatever else you could think of.”
Scottie Scheffler lines up a putt in the 2023 Scottish Open. Jared C. Tilton
If it is a lazy take on broadcasts, there’s at least statistics to back up the analysis. Scheffler ranks first on the PGA Tour for strokes gained/off the tee and in approach, but 137th for putting.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” he said. “The things that I’m working on right now I feel very excited about. I’m hitting a lot of good putts. Pretty soon, a lot of those good putts will start falling in the middle of the hole.”
Enough putts have fallen the past nine months for last year’s Masters champion to compile a fantastic encore to his breakout 2022 season. In 19 events, Scheffler has finished outside the top 10 just four times. He’s won twice, including the Players Championship. He has not posted a result worse than T-5 in his seven starts leading into the Open.
The only reason Scheffler is flying under the radar leading into the final major of the year is professional golf has been consumed by a June 6 peace treaty that somewhat ended a long and bitter civil war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. Much of the attention has been on Rory McIlroy, LIV’s biggest critic and the PGA Tour’s brightest star, who won last week’s Scottish Open before returning to the site of his 2014 Open triumph.
“I’m not really sure where the radar is,” Scheffler said with a laugh. “I do my best to not try and pay attention to things. I don’t know if I’m under, above, [or] on anybody’s radar. I don’t really try to pay attention to that stuff. I try to prepare for each event the same way.”
Scheffler couldn’t prepare for the Open the same way given he’d never seen the course known as Hoylake (after the town in which it’s located). So, he watched Woods’ victory at the 2006 Open at Hoylake on YouTube.
“It’s a pretty valuable tool, really,” he said. “I had never seen this course before. I didn’t really know anything about it, other than it was really firm and [Woods] only hit one driver for the entire week.”
Whether the homework and practice rounds pay off, only time will tell. But Scheffler insisted he won’t consider this year a disappointment if he doesn’t win a second career major.
“A year without winning a major would be pretty similar to the other 25 years of my life, I guess,” he said. “Yes, it’s so fun to win majors, but I’m not going to sit at the end of the year and look back on the year and be frustrated or upset because I didn’t win a major.
“I think if you asked me when I was in college if [by age] 27 [I’d] have six wins, a major and a Players, I’d probably say, yeah, I’m satisfied. But … you win one tournament and you want to win two, and then two turns into three. It’s just never enough.”