Afterward, they lined up a few steps from Augusta National’s eighteenth hole to greet the 2022 Masters champion with bear hugs and tears and words that Scottie Scheffler surely could not hear over the roar of the packed gallery Sunday afternoon. Surreal does not begin to describe Scheffler’s life at this magical moment.
At this point, the 25-year-old Texan and top-ranked player in the world, who had just gone from winless on the PGA Tour to winning four events in 57 days, lost the composure that had allowed him to put a headlock on the world’s best-known golf course despite four days of howling winds and temperatures dipping into the 40s.
He had flicked away every challenge—and every challenger—with machinelike shotmaking. He was the only golfer in the field to break par in all four rounds, finishing ten shots under.
Augusta National threw its counterpunches at him—late in Saturday’s third round and early in Sunday’s fourth—and both times Scheffler responded with breathtaking recovery shots that spoke volumes about his ability as well as his confidence.
He’d taken the most famous walk in golf up the eighteenth fairway late Sunday afternoon with a five-stroke lead. He had climbed atop the leaderboard on Friday, tied the all-time record with a five-stroke lead after two rounds, and never relinquished it.
“His career,” CBS announcer Jim Nantz said, “goodness, what a rocket ship.”
Goodness indeed. Scheffler’s lead was so comfortable by the time he reached the final hole that he withstood a momentary breakdown, when he missed a couple of makeable putts and saw his lead shrink to three. He smiled, surveyed the amazing scene around him, and knocked in the clincher.
That’s when he poured himself into the arms of his wife, Meredith Scudder, his sweetheart from Highland Park High School in Dallas. She attended Texas A&M while Scheffler played golf at the University of Texas and earned a finance degree. After that, friends and family formed the sweetest of victory lines. There were the parents, Scott and Diane, who borrowed money during Scheffler’s youth so the family could afford a membership at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, where he shaped his game. There was one sister, Callie, who had caddied for him on courses all over North Texas and another sister, Molly, who had been dragged to so many tournaments that she lost count. A third sister, Sara, watched her brother win the Masters on a television in Portugal.
Amid this joyous scene, Scheffler and Scudder held each other as they headed for Butler Cabin, where Scheffler would slip comfortably into the most coveted green jacket on earth and join the rarefied air of Masters champions.
After the ceremonies and photographs and all the rest, after he’d joked about binge-watching The Office to relax on Saturday night, after he’d revealed that he’d spilled his dinner in the car, after trying again and again to wrap his mind around the pressure of winning a Masters, Scheffler admitted he’d been a puddle of nerves Sunday morning.
“I cried like a baby this morning,” he said. “I was so stressed out. I didn’t know what to do. I was sitting there telling Meredith, ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this. I’m not ready, I don’t feel like I’m ready for this kind of stuff,’ and I just felt overwhelmed.”
He calmed himself down with breakfast, and by the time he got to the golf course, he was prepared for the final round of a golf tournament that has brought some of the world’s best to their knees.
“My identity isn’t a golf score,” he said. “Like Meredith told me this morning: She says, ‘If you win this golf tournament today, if you lose this golf tournament by ten shots, if you never win another golf tournament again,’ she goes, ‘I’m still going to love you. You’re still going to be the same person.’ ”
“Gosh, it was a long morning,” he added.
Scheffler’s final round started poorly. He hit wild tee shots off the first three holes, and suddenly his three-shot lead was down to one, with Cameron Smith close behind. After hitting from the tee on the third hole, Scheffler pointed to the left, signaling trouble. His shot landed in the straw behind a scoreboard and near a folding chair.
That’s the moment he regained control of the Masters. First he slapped the ball in front of the green, then chipped it onto the green and watched it roll into the hole.
“After that I kind of just started cruising,” he said. “I felt comfortable with pretty much most of the aspects of my game.” As Smith wobbled and fell out of place, Rory McIlroy made a run, but Scheffler grabbed back control of the tournament for good.
“Hats off to him,” McIlroy said. “He’s sort of been head and shoulders above everyone else this week.”
When Scheffler won the Waste Management Open in Phoenix earlier this year, he shed the label of being the best golfer on the PGA Tour without a win. He has won three of five tournaments since, climbing from fourteenth to first in the world rankings and earning a different kind of stature.
“It’s really, really impressive to see someone that young handle a moment this big so easily,” fellow pro Justin Thomas said. “His world is changing. The Masters is different than the PGA Championship. They’re both great, and they both change your life, but nothing changes your life like a Masters.”
Tiger Woods, whose comeback from last year’s horrific car accident made him the biggest story of this Masters, achieved his own kind of victory by getting through all 72 holes on a reconstructed right leg. He finished 23 strokes behind the winner and understands better than almost anyone what Scheffler is feeling.
“We all wish we had that two-, three-month window when we get hot,” Woods said, “and hopefully majors fall somewhere along in that window. We take care of it in those windows. Scottie seems to be in that window right now.”
Scheffler can seem eerily calm. His old UT teammates say that calmness masks a raging competitive fire, and they remember board games and pickup basketball games that occasionally evolved into tests of will. Scheffler said his poise was something he had to learn.
“It’s definitely something that’s been acquired over my lifetime,” he said. “I was a bit of a hothead, I think, in high school and college, so to be able to just stay patient and realize mistakes are going to come, and winning golf tournaments out here, is not easy.”
He was never more impressive than Saturday on eighteen, when he hit his tee shot so far into the trees and shrubs that attendants had trouble finding it. He calmly swiped his way through the brush in search of his ball, took a penalty drop shot to drop the ball into a clearing, then responded with a beauty of an iron shot onto the green. That one allowed him to end the day with a satisfying bogey and three-shot lead.
“I’ve never been a guy that likes to look too far into the future,” Scheffler said. “Just staying present has always been what works best.”
This is the game his friends, coaches, and competitors saw as it was shaped shortly after his family moved from New Jersey to Texas when he was six. He finished in the top twenty in all six majors in which he competed during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Beyond his shotmaking, Scheffler’s strength has always been the ability to eliminate the noise around and focus on the task at hand.
“He was pretty quiet, as he is now,” Justin Leonard, another former Longhorn star and one of Scheffler’s mentors at Royal Oaks, told the Washington Post. “He didn’t ask a lot of questions. He just kind of took things in. But he wouldn’t just sit there all day long, either. He was working a lot on his own stuff.”
After needing four putts—and taking a double bogey—on the final hole of the tournament, Scheffler admitted that he’d let his mental guard down at the finish line. “I didn’t break my concentration until we got onto the green on eighteen,” he said. “Once we got on the green, I was like, all right, I’m going to enjoy this, and had some fun with it.”
He joins Tiger Woods and another Longhorn, Jordan Spieth, as one of the only three 25-or-younger players to win the Masters in the last forty years. Back in February, at the beginning of his hot streak, Scheffler was ranked fourteenth in the world and had $8.7 million in career earnings. He has more than doubled that since then, adding $2.7 million at the Masters alone.
Right before Scheffler put on his green jacket Sunday, Nantz asked when he had started dreaming of this moment. Scheffler said it had been only two days earlier, when he believed he might win. Before then, at Highland Park and at UT and during his start on the tour, he just couldn’t get his mind around the idea of winning the Masters. He’d had dreams, but he added: “I never really make it this far.”