World No. 1 or not, Scottie Scheffler remains same simple, ruthless competitor
AUGUSTA, Ga. – When it comes to his peers, no one knows Scottie Scheffler better than Sam Burns. The 25-year-olds used to trade blows on the AJGA circuit as juniors, and now as professionals they are basically brothers, both three-time PGA Tour winners and top-11 players in the world with Scheffler a newly minted world No. 1 and Burns having cracked the top 10 for the first time last month.
On Tuesday afternoon at Augusta National, Burns immediately preceded Scheffler in the interview room, so naturally, he was asked by a reporter what question he’d like relayed to his buddy.
“Ask him how his matches have gone this week so far,” Burns said with a huge grin. “That’s a good one.”
Burns knows that Scheffler, while even keeled and simple on the outside, has a fierce competitive streak within. They are sharing a house this week in northeast Georgia, and each night, after long days of practice and money games as part of their Masters prep, the competition spills over to cards and board games with their wives.
Knowing the question was coming, Scheffler, when it was his turn to sit down, snuck in a playful jab – “Sam who?” – before glossing over his match record this week – he’s yet to win – in favor of sharing his successes on the Sequence board.
“I’m not going to talk about the golf because that didn’t go as well for me,” Scheffler said, “but I destroyed them in board games last night.”
When it’s counted, though, Scheffler has dominated the opposition on the golf course over the past couple of months. He’s won three of his past six events, including most recently at the WGC-Dell Match Play two weeks ago, and quickly ascended from 15th to the top of the professional golf world.
With six top-20s in majors since the start of 2020 (tied for the most with Patrick Reed and Jon Rahm), Scheffler is on the short list of Masters favorites as he tries to become the sixth player to win in his first start as world No. 1. (Ian Woosnam, in 1991, was the only one of the previous five to do so at the Masters.)
But Scheffler isn’t big on rankings, or titles – at least the non-tangible ones. He hasn’t looked at the OWGR site since he was battling for that coveted top-50 status. He’s also not bothered that Tiger Woods has sucked most of the spotlight away from Scheffler and other fellow competitors.
“I look forward to preparing and playing good golf and executing shots and being in contention,” he said. “That’s what’s fun.”
Scheffler’s mindset and approach to the game figure to serve him well as he makes his first start with that big target on his back. Then again, for a guy with a No. 1 in front of his name, Scheffler still flies very much under the radar compared to the Spieths and McIlroys of this sport.
Perhaps, that’s because he doesn’t make anything a bigger deal than it needs to be. It’s a simplistic view – play golf, compete to win, repeat. And let the accolades and awards take care of themselves.
“I don’t place too many expectations on myself,” Scheffler said. “I don’t really look too far into the future. I’m extremely competitive. So, for me, staying present is usually what’s best. … It’s like if I’m going to look too far ahead, I’m not going to be preparing as hard as I can. And if I’m staying in the moment, I’m not taking things for granted and playing in the Masters like it’s my last.”
Burns is impressed by how Scheffler is not defined by his golf talent. Yes, Scheffler is ruthless with a wedge – and apparently, cards – in his hand, but when he steps out of his spikes, he’s dedicated to being a loving husband, son, brother and friend. He says he still must do his chores around the house, and he’s not gone out much in the past few weeks to even gauge how much more fans recognize him in public. He’s also not afraid to be self-deprecating.
“He has not changed a single bit, so I can tell you that,” Burns said. “I mean, he’s just his goofy self. Off the golf course, he’s a fun guy to hang out with. He just relaxes and doesn’t take life too seriously. … He’s a very genuine person, and once you get to know him, like he would do anything for you. That’s just kind of the guy he is.”
Just don’t get the better of Scheffler in Scrabble.
“He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met,” Burns added. “He definitely hates to lose.”
Whether in golf or board games, Scheffler has a desire to be the best.
He just doesn’t need any sort ranking to tell him he is.