Talk about not having much time to bask in victory.
Scottie Scheffler has been the defending champion at Maridoe Golf Club for a mere 19 days, yet he found himself already having to defend his title Tuesday at the Maridoe Samaritan Fund Invitational 2.0, the second fundraising tournament in less than a month at the Carrollton, Texas, club.
After one round, Scheffler might get to hold onto his title.
The PGA Tour rookie and former Texas standout fired an opening 5-under 67 and shares the first-round lead with Tour veteran Ryan Palmer and Korn Ferry Tour rookie Brandon Wu.
“Last time was fun beating two of my good buddies down the stretch,” said Scheffler, who last month edged fellow U.S. Junior Amateur champion Will Zalatoris by a shot and another Tour rookie in Viktor Hovland by two shots. “I feel like we have an even better field this week, so it’d certainly be fun to do it again.”
Scheffler’s opening tee ball Tuesday ended up in a divot in the middle of the first fairway, but that was the last bad break of his round, as he carded four birdies to go along with his eagle on the short par-4 sixth, where he holed a 50-yard pitch.
It was an easier scoring day than the Maridoe member is used to, with the tough layout playing tamer thanks to minimal winds (about 8 mph). Through 18 holes, 28 players are under par and within five shots of the lead, including Tour players Sebastian Munoz (-4), Talor Gooch (-3) and Austin Cook (-2). Zalatoris and Hovland were among those who shot 71, while college stars Cooper Dossey (-3), Austin Eckroat (-1) and Sahith Theegala (E) are also in contention.
The loaded field might not be what the Tour guys see when action resumes June 11 at Colonial, where Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka will be among those competing, but it’s strong enough to get Palmer’s “blood pumping.”
Palmer, who was testing a new driver, missed just one green while racking up seven birdies. He was dialed in with his irons, too, with six of those seven birdie putts coming from inside 10 feet.
“I came into this week really wanting to see where I was at,” Palmer said. “I’ve been practicing and playing quite a bit, but I hadn’t really hit the shots I’ve wanted to hit. Today was the day I needed. There were a couple shots that I hit today, whether it be a little hold, controlled shot here, or a hard shot to a tough pin. I pulled off those shots that I needed to see to tell me, ok, my game’s in good shape.
“It was very encouraging to come out and play well in what was the first kind of blood-boiling-type golf that I’ve played in a long time. It was a huge success mentally for me.”
It’ll likely take more stellar play to take down Scheffler, who already seems to have good fortune on his side. After Scheffler won last month’s inaugural Maridoe event, he didn’t hesitate to donate his entire $9,000 winner’s check to Maridoe’s caddies.
“When [Maridoe owner] Albert [Huddleston] asked me to play, how he originally described it was that it was just 20-30 guys going out and playing and donating a little bit of cash to the caddies, so I’m like, sure, I’m in,” Scheffler said. “So, when they came up with a purse a few days before the tournament, I made the decision then that I wasn’t going to keep whatever I made. I wasn’t really showing up to make any money, I was just hoping to play and have fun.
“I was fortunate enough to win, and then I just gave the money back because there’s no sense in me holding onto that; it’s going to do a lot more for the caddies.”
After Scheffler’s opening 67 Tuesday, the caddies will surely be rooting hard for the hometown hero again.