Inside Scottie Scheffler’s continual evolution in becoming indisputable mental giant

Inside Scottie Scheffler’s continual evolution in becoming indisputable mental giant
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Rick Barnes, the former longtime head men’s basketball coach at the University of Texas, once told John Fields, “Either your players are your best recruiters, or they’re not.” So, one day in 2008, Fields asked some of his Texans on the Longhorns men’s golf team, “Who’s the best player coming up out of Dallas?” Charlie Holland, a Dallas native who attended Highland Park High School, didn’t hesitate. There was this little, 12-year-old kid who played out of Royal Oaks and was coached by Randy Smith. He always wore pants and never backed down from competition. His name was Scottie Scheffler.

As Fields remembers it, Holland stated, confidently, “No question about it, he’s going to be great.”

A few weeks later, Fields was standing behind the green at the par-3 16th at Spanish Oaks as Scheffler, his older sister, Callie, on the bag, launch a towering iron shot that landed on the front fringe and took a massive bounce over the green. Scheffler’s ball had hit a sprinkler head, which sent it barreling into a bush.

“I’m standing by the bush when he comes by, and I’m like, I want to see how he reacts to this because I want to see his character,” Fields recalls. “He goes back there, and he’s got a smile on his face, and he looks at Callie and says, matter-of-factly, ‘Can you believe that ball hit that sprinkler head?’ And then he figures out a way to get it on the green from this bush, and he ends up making ‘4,’ and he just moves right on.

“And I’m like, I am recruiting this guy, for sure.”

That middle-schooler from Dallas is now a 27-year-old world No. 1 (and by a considerable margin), two-time Masters champion, generational ball-striker and mental giant, who said of Sunday’s second triumph at Augusta National, this victory by four shots, “Emotionally, this week was as good as I’ve ever been.”

Two years ago, Scheffler was in tears the morning before his maiden Masters win, not sure if he was ready for the moment. He credited his wife, Meredith, whom he first met in high school, for easing that anxiety and reminding him of what’s most important: his faith.

With Meredith back in Dallas on this Masters Sunday, just days away from giving birth to the couple’s first child, it was Scheffler’s buddies who told Scheffler, again overwhelmed, that Scheffler’s “victory was already secured on the cross.”

“That’s a pretty special feeling to know that I’m secure for forever,” Scheffler said in his winner’s presser on Sunday night, “and it doesn’t matter if I win this tournament or lose this tournament.”

For Scheffler, maintaining that mindset has been “a constant battle.” By nature, he’s an ultra-competitive person. “Whatever we’re doing,” Scheffler says, “I love winning and I really, really hate to lose.” And it’s that characteristic that has often tormented the minds of pro golfers, believers or not, as they play a sport where you lose much more than you win.

Asked by Webb Simpson on the Bible Caddie podcast, how he balances that desire to win with the desire to also not let golf define him, Scheffler offered this explanation:

“I feel like God kind of created me with a little bit of extra competitiveness. Since I was a kid, whatever we were doing, I always wanted to be the best that I could at that thing. … And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It can become a bad thing when I’m looking to whatever it is for that satisfaction. So, when I’m out there playing golf, for those five hours that I’m out on the golf course, I’m competing to the best of my abilities. But when the round is over, you take your hat off, shake hands and we’re friends again.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all to be extremely competitive, as long as you’re gracious in winning and in defeat.”

Scheffler has embodied that better than most, ever since he was a kid. However, he’s not been perfect. Fields points to Scheffler’s first semester in Austin, which, mentally for Scheffler, was “kind of a disaster,” Fields reveals.

For one, he and Meredith’s relationship was in its early stages, and Meredith was two hours away, attending Texas A&M. Secondly, Scheffler didn’t initially qualify for the elite McCombs School of Business, and if he wanted to still get in, he had to “basically get straight A’s” for two years while competing on one of the top golf teams in the country and against the nation’s best players, names such as Jon Rahm, Maverick McNealy and his teammate Beau Hossler.

“That combination threw him off balance,” Fields said. “Scottie was really dealing with that, and it was very difficult, and it led to some poor golf that semester.”

Scheffler couldn’t crack the top 40 in each of his first two college starts, and though he capped the fall with a pair of top-6 finishes, it wasn’t until that next semester when Scheffler began to truly settle in. At the Longhorns’ spring opener, the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii, Fields first noticed Scheffler traveling with his Bible. By the end of the season, Scheffler had won twice, at the Western Intercollegiate (the same day that Jordan Spieth won the 2015 Masters) and earned the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top freshman.

Still, it was a “continual evolution” for Scheffler, Fields says. During the fall of his sophomore year, Scheffler slipped up with an outburst at the Nike Golf Collegiate at Pumpkin Ridge. He hit a shot that spun off a green and into the water, which prompted Scheffler to yell out a loud expletive. Fields remembers Oregon head coach Casey Martin being upset by Scheffler’s actions, and when Scheffler walked out of scoring that afternoon, Fields demanded that Scheffler go over to Martin and apologize.

“He didn’t just say, ‘I’m sorry,’ he had a conversation with Casey, “Fields said. “And I saw Casey today (at Pasatiempo, where Fields’ current Longhorns are playing the Western), and he remembered that, and he goes, ‘You know, I really appreciated that.’”

Life continued to come together for Scheffler throughout college, as he and Meredith became increasingly serious (they married in December 2020). Scheffler got into McCombs and earned his degree from one of the top business schools in the country. And on the golf course, he shook off injuries to contend at multiple NCAA Championships; help Texas to a national runner-up finish by taking down Oregon’s Aaron Wise in 2016; qualify for two U.S. Opens, including in 2017 when he captured low amateur honors; and earn his place on a loaded 2017 U.S. Walker Cup team, which has had eight of its nine members who eventually turned pro reach the PGA Tour.

Now, Scheffler is not only the most talented professional golfer in the world from a physical perspective but also between the ears.

Fields argues, though, that Scheffler couldn’t have undergone “this transformation” alone.

“He has had several angels in his life,” Fields said. “The most significant one, in regards to the evolution of his demeaner, is Meredith. And then his evolution as a golfer is Randy Smith. And his extraordinary value as a player now, that’s Ted Scott. So, essentially you have all these angels that are allowing this guy to play with the freedom that he’s playing with right now.”

Added Scheffler: “I’m really am extremely thankful for the people who have been put in my life. … I have the best support system at home that I can ever dream of having.”

Scheffler’s Masters victory marked the 101st win on the PGA Tour by a Texas alum – and the 10th major. Each of those titles, along with Longhorns who have won LPGA tournaments, are commemorated on a wall on the Spieth Lower 40, a six-hole par-3 course at UT Golf Club. Needless to say, Fields is running out of room on the wall – and it’s largely because of Scheffler right now.

“There’s only one row left,” Fields says. “We’re going to have to build a new wall soon.”

No question about it.

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