Different times for Scottie Scheffler as he seeks second green jacket at Masters

Different times for Scottie Scheffler as he seeks second green jacket at Masters
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – The magnitude and magic of the Masters can turn even the most hardened competitors into 6-foot piles of mush – and few know that better than Scottie Scheffler.

Two years ago, he was sitting in this same chair, in this same press building, when he revealed that he “cried like a baby” the morning of the final round. Scheffler had dreamed of winning this tournament for as long as he could remember, and the human condition is to make things bigger than they are, and so there he was, with wife Meredith, blubbering away while wondering if he was truly ready for his life to change forever.

The answer, of course, is now abundantly clear.

Scheffler went on to win that year by three. He has maintained a stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking for much of the past two years. And he has been so dominant this spring, and produced such awe-inspiring ball-striking statistics, that he has evoked Tiger Woods in his prime.

So Scheffler wasn’t merely ready – he was just getting started.

His life figures to change in even more complex ways soon. Not just because he’s leading the 88th Masters by a shot over Collin Morikawa with one round to play, as he looks to cement his status as a player for the ages with his second green jacket in three years. But the dynamics of his rental house are different, too, because Scheffler’s wife is back home in Dallas, just a few weeks away from giving birth to the couple’s first child.

At the start of the week Scheffler had promised to jet home to be by Meredith’s side even if he found himself in this exact position. He doesn’t anticipate that scenario unfolding over the next 24 hours, but, uh, he also doesn’t know for sure.

“I definitely have a way to get home pretty quickly,” he said. “We have somebody here that has access to their cell phone. I’ll be available to go home whenever I need to.”

Scheffler was sharing a house earlier this week with one of his best friends on Tour, Sam Burns, whose wife was, ironically enough, in a similar position, due with their first child in a few weeks. But Burns blew out of town after an opening 80 to miss the cut.

That left Scheffler in the house without his wife, or his buddy – so he called in some reinforcements.

Scheffler recruited a collection of friends – some from his college days at Texas, others whom he has befriended in Dallas – who were already in town to move into the house with him. They came over Saturday morning, ahead of Scheffler’s 2:35 p.m. tee time, made breakfast and hung out. It’s the same crew that has accompanied the Schefflers to the Bahamas over the past few years.

“With these guys it will be pretty easy for us not to talk about golf,” Scheffler said. “We’ve got some fun guys; they’re some of my closest friends. … It worked out decently that I wasn’t at home alone all weekend.”

Their task now: keep Scheffler’s mind off the prospect of another major title.

He moved into position Saturday just when it seemed like his chances appeared to be slipping away. Tied for the lead as he made the turn, Scheffler flagged his approach into No. 10 but his ball landed too deep into the green, his ball bounding over the back and into the bushes, leading to a double bogey (once he rimmed out a 4-footer). He backed it up with another bogey on the difficult 11th. All of a sudden, he had tumbled into a tie for fifth place, three shots behind.

Here’s why those in or near the lead could win the 88th Masters Tournament.

But after missing the green long on 12, he holed a 6-footer to stop the damage, then rifled a mid-iron into the middle of the 13th green. He ran home the 30-footer for eagle – the only 3 of the day on that hole – and let out a rare display of emotion, clenching his fist and shouting, “Come on, baby! Yes!”

“It was nice to be able to steal a couple shots there and get back in the tournament,” he said.

He stole another one on 15, when his 3-iron once again trundled just over the back. It was a tricky spot to a tucked pin, straight down the hill – a spot from which, about 15 minutes earlier, Masters rookie Ludvig Åberg had flubbed his pitch and, instead of an up-and-down birdie, had walked off with a bogey-6. But Scheffler played a deft chip past the hole and then knocked in the 8-foot comebacker to seize the outright lead again. After a slippery bogey on 17, he carved an approach at the flag on 18 and rolled in the left-to-right slider to head into the night with the lead.

How will he rest, now 18 holes away from another jacket?

That wasn’t the problem back in 2022.

He slept soundly and then awoke with his stomach churning and his mind racing. But he was quick to point out Saturday night why he was experiencing such tumult: At the beginning of that year he had never won on the PGA Tour, and then in a matter of six weeks, he had ripped off three wins and catapulted to No. 1 in the world.

“Meredith and I were just a little bit emotional about what was going on at the time because our lives were changing at a very rapid pace,” Scheffler said. “Now I think we have settled more into where our lives are at, and right now, the most exciting thing is not winning the Masters – it’s the baby coming pretty soon. Things are a lot different now, and I feel like we’ve both matured.”

Through tears and then triumph, Scheffler has already proved he was ready for the moment at the Masters. All around him Sunday, no one else will be able to say the same.

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