March 18, 2024

Has Scottie Scheffler taken it to another level?

The Players Championship isn't officially listed as a Major, but it deserves at least a Golf Star. It has the best field in golf, played on an iconic golf course that produces the same kind of drama that the back nine of Augusta does on a regular basis. A win at The Players is the highlight on anyone's career record that doesn't include a Major. The 50th addition of this event was worthy of every minute of viewing for the casual golf enthusiasts and diehard fan.

Scottie Scheffler has reached into rarified status that was exclusive property of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Greatness is defined in years, which is the only thing that Scottie lacks at this time, but his display of tenacity, guts, and then dominate play was what we have come to expect from a Tiger or Jack. Tiger could raise his game to fit the occasion. He won tournaments with his game lacking. That's a special quality that we haven't seen in a long time. Scottie was fighting through physical problems, but still gutted out hard fought scores of 69 and 68 in rounds two and three. In the final round a healthy Scheffler took command of his game and put on a charge for the last 15 holes that was surgical in nature, in that he dissected a most demanding course and made it look easy. The moment was not too big for him to raise his game to the importance of the event.

Xander Schauffele and Wyndham Clark should have won this tournament. Wyndham had a five shot lead after two rounds, but lost the lead to Xander after round three. His first two rounds were so good that you expected him to keep on rolling and have a signature win along the lines of what Tiger did in his prime. Wyndham is really good, but not elite. Maybe he will get there, but he let this one get away early in round three and didn't come out swinging in round four until he was pressed up against the wall in the late going. His resolve and mental toughness on the last three holes were outstanding and should give him self-assurance when place in a similar situation in the future. Too bad it came too late, but maybe a valuable lesson was learned.

Xander Schauffele is a tactician in his approach to the game. It is why he is consistently high on the money list and posts regular top 10 finishes. His golf swing is almost robotic and demands near precise movement, which he usually can do. However, based on the past few years when he is in serious contention, the swing lets him down. It is my observation that when the going gets tough, he goes back to "playing golf swing" and not playing golf. That fine line between really good and major winner is razor thin and it is my belief that he hasn't allowed himself to trust his swing and shot-making to break through to the next plateau. He, just like Wyndham, should have seized control of the tournament early in the last round and not let Scottie back in the tournament. Xander is a great competitor and his resolve down the stretch also should be commended, but the tournament was lost earlier.

Brian Harman never had the opportunity to run away with this tournament. He was always fighting from behind to get to the leaders. In the end, he had just as good a chance as Xander and Wyndham to tie Scottie for the championship. It was no surprise that he could stay up with this type of competition based on his performance when winning the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool last year. One putt short of a tie, but a solid effort from a player that knows how to play and probably doesn't get proper recognition.

It's probably is too early to crown Scottie Scheffler as the next coming of Tiger Woods, but let's revel in his brilliance that mimicked Tiger at his best. For the seasoned golf observer this one had so many storylines and nuances, which made this so interesting and meaningful. In the end, World Number One showed why he has raised his game above an array of highly talented motived competitors.


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