[PHOTO: Maddie Meyer]

Scottie Scheffler comes into the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla in the midst of the greatest run of golf we’ve seen since Tiger Woods.

No player has gained more shots on his competitors in the Strokes Gained era since Tiger, but in many ways the best way to appreciate Scottie Scheffler’s recent run of form is by beholding the more basic stats.

These are Scheffler’s finishes since the Arnold Palmer Invitational – the tournament where Scheffler switched putters, which helped the work he’s been doing with famed putting instructor Phil Kenyon make sense. Paired with with Scheffler’s longtime, legendary coach Randy Smith, it proved an unstoppable combination.

1st (Arnold Palmer Invitational)

1st (Players Championship)

T-2 (Texas Children’s Houston Open)

1st (Masters Tournament)

1st (RBC Heritage)

It’s an incredible run even his peers can’t quite believe.

“It’s inspiring,” Max Homa said on Tuesday at the PGA Championship. “It’s cool to see somebody kind of push the limit on what you thought was possible. I did not think you could hit a golf ball this well this long. I did not know that was possible.”

With the delicious possibility of new dad Scheffler extending it with another major championship win, I spent the week ahead crunching the numbers on every shot Scheffler hit during this stretch. What, specifically, makes him so good?

Off-speed driver specialist

Scottie isn’t the longest driver on tour, and he’s not the straightest driver either, but he’s the best overall driver on tour by Strokes Gained because he’s elite at keeping his drives in play.

Scheffler averages just 18 feet from the fairway when he misses the fairway – that’s some 60 percent better than average, and makes him the clear No.1 in that category.

Over his run, Scheffler hit 72 percent of his fairways, but when he does miss the fairway it’s never by much – and it’s why you don’t see much notable drop-off in the results.

  • Scheffler only gains, on average, less than 0.1 SG per shot on approach shots from the fairway compared to the rough. A sign that when he misses the fairway, he’s leaving perfectly serviceable spots.
  • Along those lines, Scheffler’s proximity to the hole is almost identical when he hits the fairway compared to when he misses into the left rough (33 feet). It spikes when he misses into the right rough (45.7 feet). His right miss, it seems, is his only bad miss off the tee, and even then, it’s still only slightly worse than tour average (29.5 feet).

Scheffler does this because he’s become the master of off-speed pitches, to borrow from baseball parlance. A go-to fairway finder for him is a kind of intentionally heeled shot, where the ball speed drops, the shape moves from left-to-right, and the overall height of the shot comes down.

His Power Percentage, a new statistic which measures how close to a player’s maximum speed they’re swinging, is only 93 percent. That’s one of the lowest on tour, meaning Scheffler tends to swing very within himself.

It’s why Scheffler’s driving distance is actually longer on drives that end in the rough (301.23 yards) compared with his overall driving distance average (299.3 yards).

When he does reach for a little extra, it’s almost always on risk-free holes where it’s basically impossible to find trouble.

The downhill ninth hole at Augusta National is one of those holes for Scheffler. He smashed the longest (384 yards), second-longest (383 yards) and seventh-longest (358 yards) drives of his streak during the third, second and fourth rounds, respectively.

Safely away from (almost every) pin

At any given moment, Scottie Scheffler is capable of sticking an approach shot into near tap-in range. He’s hit an astonishing 50 shots inside of 10 feet during this run, including one hole-out.

But those are the shots that make Scottie’s highlight reel, not his pay cheques. Shots inside 10 feet account for only about 14 percent of his 360 approach shots during this run. What about the other 86 percent?

Scheffler leads the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach (1.398) and in proximity on shots from 50-125 yards (13 feet), and 150 to 175 yards (21 feet). But like his driving, that low overall proximity is bolstered mainly by a careful and conservative approach into greens, which limits the size of his misses.

As part of his analysis I charted where the pin position was on the green of every hole during this run, and where Scheffler hit his ball in relation to it. Quickly, patterns started emerging.

For as many shots as Scheffler flags (we’ll get to that), he spends most of his time aiming away from the pin, and towards the fat part of the green.

“When I look at how Scottie plays and what he does better than anybody in the world is staying in his own world,” Justin Thomas says. “Not only is his golf unbelievable, but he trusts in his ability and stays in his process, no matter what else is going on.”

One classic rinse-and-repeat strategy you’ll see from Scheffler comes to pins on the right side of the green, where Scheffler will aim left of the pin and see if his fade drifts back. When the pin was located on the front right of the green, Scheffler finished long left of the pin 24 percent of the time, and short left 32 percent of the time.

He’d do the opposite to left pins. Often clubbing down, aiming at the middle, and trying to draw something towards the pin. Scheffler finishes short or pin high right of pins on the middle-left of the green about 60 percent of the time.

He’d work this strategy from front-to-back locations, too, which is why Scheffler literally almost never short-sides himself, especially to back pins; Scheffler’s proximity to the hole was longest to back pins (37 feet when the pin was back-left and 36.5 feet when the pin was back-right), but it was a fair trade, because his ball finished in the short side just 2.82 percent and 3.23 percent to back-left and back-right pins, respectively.

Not getting aggressive on mid-range first putts

In some ways Scheffler’s ball and the pin worked like the north and south poles. He hits it short-left to back-right pins and long-right to front or middle left-pins. Scheffler only really fired directly at middle pins. It’s why he gained, on average, more than 0.1 shots per shot to middle pins than other pin locations, and his average proximity to the hole was best (21.1 feet) to these locations, too.

It meant he almost always had relatively easy lag putts across the green, and for as much scrutiny as Scheffler’s putting gets, he’s good at this: Scheffler ranks above average on tour in approach putt proximity, and of the 28 bogeys Scheffler made during this run, only one was a green in regulation – a three-putt bogey.

“The amount of greens he hits; he wears you out that way,” Tiger Woods said of Scheffler on Tuesday at the PGA Championship. “If he putts awful, then he finishes in top 10. If he putts decent, he wins. If he putts great, he runs away. He’s just that good a ball-striker and that good an all-around player.”

High praise from Tiger Woods, but well deserved. Tiger set the bar during his peak, and nobody has come as close to touching it as Scottie Scheffler has, right now.