Masters 2022: Scottie Scheffler’s cool head sparks historic streak and career breakthrough to green jacket
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Most Masters champions start crying as soon as they put on the green jacket. Scottie Scheffler cried shortly after waking up Sunday morning before the final round even started.
Scheffler, who has now won four of his last six golf tournaments and earned $9 million in the past 57 days, won the 2022 Masters by three strokes over Rory McIlroy after shooting a 1 under 71 to finish 10 under for the week. There were shots that stood out on Sunday, of course. He birdied the No. 3 ridiculously. He also birdied the No. 9, No. 14 and No. 15. But it was his presence – his refusal to rush even when the tournament was getting a little interesting – and that long, slow Texas ride on the Augusta National fairways that stood out above all else.
Scheffler is a mega-talent. In 2022 on the heels of a singles win over then world No. 1 Jon Rahm in the 2021 Ryder Cup, every stat imaginable pointed to him winning soon and often. But then again, when you’re 0 for 70 on the PGA Tour to start your career, you have to actually go out and win.
Scheffler did it in bunches starting in mid-February. He ticked off the Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in a torrid run in the march to this 86th Masters. He seemed perhaps more surprised by how quickly he rose to No. 1 in the world than we were.
“I always wanted to be here, and I never expected it,” he told Augusta National Sunday night. “I didn’t expect to be sitting where I am now. You know, you don’t expect things to happen to you in this lifetime. You just do your best and with the hand that’s dealt to you and go from there.
“I never really thought I was this good at golf, so I kept training and working hard, and that’s exactly what I’m going to keep doing.”
In fact, Scheffler has always been pretty good at golf. You don’t win the US Junior Amateur or make the Walker Cup team unless your talent is off the charts.
But there are plenty of juniors who can swing it and never make it to the press center podium Sunday night in Augusta. What apparently sets Scheffler apart is his poised demeanor, which was a struggle through high school and college. It’s also why what he described on Sunday night was such a surprise.
It could have been temperamental early Sunday for Scheffler. He parried the first two holes while the ever-dangerous Cameron Smith, playing in the final duet alongside Scheffler, birdied and moved within a stroke of the 36- and 54-hole leader.
Scheffler must have thought briefly about what he had said to his wife, Meredith, a few hours earlier. They fell asleep watching ‘The Office’ on Saturday night as he tried to ease the stress of holding a Masters lead until Sunday.
In the morning, the pressure overwhelmed him.
“This morning was a totally different story,” Scheffler said. “I cried like a baby this morning. I was so stressed. I didn’t know what to do. I was sitting there saying to Meredith, ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this. I’m not ready. I don’t feel ready for that kind of stuff. And I just felt overwhelmed.”
Scheffler’s emotions are reminiscent of those described by Shane Lowry in 2019 during The Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
“I guess I woke up this morning not knowing if I had what it takes to win a major,” Lowry said after winning the Claret Jug.
Scheffler used different words on Sunday, but the context was the same.
“I think [I felt that way] because it’s the Masters,” Scheffler said. “I dreamed of having the chance to play in this golf tournament. I cried the first time I received my invitation in the mail. We were lucky enough to play here in college, and I love this place. I love this golf course.
“If you pick a golf tournament to win, that would be the tournament I would want to win. You don’t know how many chances you’re going to have. And so having a chance, you know, I think I had a lead of five shots on Friday, then a three shot lead today, I don’t know if you have better opportunities than that. You don’t want to waste them.
Scheffler didn’t waste his. He entered No. 3 from an impossible spot as Smith bogeyed, and at no point in the rest of the day was anyone within two strokes of his lead.
“After that [birdie and pars at Nos. 4 and 5] I just started sailing,” added Scheffler.
With McIlroy posting a heroic record 64 ahead of him – the round of the day and the tournament by three shots – Scheffler put together a Masters-winning clinic on the back nine. He relied on caddy Ted Scottm, who won two over Bubba Watson’s bag, while playing clean, smart golf that belied his age (25) and experience (10 majors played) before this week.
Then Scheffler got to No. 18, hit the green in two and had six putts to win outright. Incredibly, he used four as he missed a 7-footer and a 5-footer to win the Masters before eventually pouring a 3-footer into the cup.
He said it was the first time that day that he let his mind drift away from the reality that he was going to be coming back to this tournament for the rest of his life. It showed.
When he finally landed the tournament-clinching putt, Scheffler threw his fists up and cheered on the patrons who had roared for him for four straight days and 72 holes.
But he didn’t cry.
The tears had already been spent that morning in the rental house the Schefflers shared with Sam Burns and his wife, Caroline. As Scheffler struggled to cope with the monumental task of fending off Smith, McIlroy and the rest of the best field in the world – on a course that shattered even greater talent in its Sunday history – he said the lyrics of his wife were a balm.
The tall Texan who never looks too high or too low on the golf course couldn’t even handle the thought of what the day might hold for him.
That’s the magic of Augusta National. You think you have his keys; then, they add another lock. It’s mystical. More than the sum of its parts portends that it will be.
Think of it this way: The No. 1 player in the world, who had beaten everyone he watched for two straight months, was terrified of driving down Magnolia Lane on Sunday afternoon.
The fear of failure is a unique human condition. You could say it’s a feature, not a bug. We do not want to disappoint those who believe in us. We don’t want the world to remember us for what we couldn’t do.
The fear of success, however, is far more terrifying. When you fear success, what you really fear is people looking at you in disbelief (“Wait, that dude?”) or the reality of our success not filling your soul.
Scheffler seems to have enough humility to handle the first, but his wife had to advise him on the second.
“My identity is not a golf score,” Scheffler said. “As Meredith said to me this morning, ‘If you win this golf tournament today, if you lose this golf tournament by 10 strokes, if you never win another golf tournament again… I will still love you, you’re gonna still be the same person Jesus loves you, and nothing changes All I’m trying to do is glorify God and that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m in position.
“Meredith always prays for peace because that’s what I want to feel on the golf course, it’s peace and having fun and just feeling his presence. So that’s her prayer every day. C is my prayer, and I really felt it today. I felt at peace.”
The self-proclaimed high school and college hothead is now one of the most serene players on the PGA Tour. At least on the golf course. His faith clearly affects his identity and prevents him from believing that a golf tournament is a life or death event.
Questions remain, however. They always will – about our professions, our parenthood, and our performance as humans.
Coincidentally, McIlroy’s words from last fall after winning the CJ Cup fit here. “I kind of realized that being me was enough,” he said after the win.
For Scheffler, “being me” was enough, with or without a green jacket. Meredith reminded him Sunday morning that life is bigger than golf. But as he smiled in a daze with the afternoon turning into evening and a green jacket slipping around his chest, he also realized that being Scottie Scheffler, the golfer was also enough. At least for this week.
“I mean, it’s Augusta National,” Scheffler said. “It’s about as cool as it gets. It’s so much fun to play. I just can’t believe I can come back my whole life and enjoy this golf course.”