TULSA, Okla. – Scottie Scheffler left the Green Jacket he won in April hanging in his closet at home in Dallas this week. As New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick might say, Scheffler’s on to Southern Hills, a course where he won the Big 12 men’s individual title at Texas and once called it his favorite course.
Scheffler shot a 64 during a practice round at Southern Hills two weeks ago and shot 61 at his home course before shooting 19 under at the AT&T Byron Nelson. CBS Sports analyst Colt Knost said that Southern Hills reminds him a lot of Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, where Scheffler grew up playing and still is a regular.
“Him saying it’s one of his favorite golf courses has to be terrifying for the rest of the field,” Knost said.
Though the course received a facelift from noted architect Gil Hanse, Scheffler brings a comfort level to Southern Hills and the 104th PGA Championship that could be a difference maker in his pursuit of the second leg of this season’s Grand Slam and his fifth win of the season.
“I didn’t feel like Gil made any massive changes to the course and it still played fairly similar to how I remembered it other than a lot of the run-offs are a bit different. But outside of that, it still feels pretty much the same,” he said. “It’s just really hard. It’s right in front of you. You know what to do. It’s just hard to actually do it.”
Scheffler is making his third start at the PGA and has recorded two top-10 finishes. The difference is that now he’s learned what it takes to win.
“I definitely took some confidence from Phoenix,” he said of the site of his maiden win on Super Bowl Sunday this year. “I think I made four bogeys the first 11 holes and still won the tournament, and I think in the past, I believed I had to play perfect golf on Sunday in order to win. So for me to know that I can make mistakes and bounce back from them and still be able to win tournaments is really important.”
Scheffler was praised for how he handled major-championship pressure Sunday at the Masters, and it wasn’t until his post-round news conference that he admitted he “cried like a baby” that morning as the weight of the moment hit him like a bag of bricks.
“I think it was just fantastic that he shared how heavy it was. Then how did he respond? There he was in the Green Jacket,” said Scott Van Pelt, the lead anchor for ESPN’s PGA Championship coverage. “I just thought it gave you context that a guy who hadn’t shared with us much that he felt those things, and he shared it with the world. Maybe it’s easier to do that when you’re wearing the jacket because now you can be truly honest about it. I thought it was really cool.”
“Pre-round, it’s all apprehension, isn’t it?” said CBS Sports lead analyst Nick Faldo. “We’re the worst at thinking what could go wrong, and it does in this game. But it’s a wonderful feeling, and I’ve felt it, you get on the range and you’re hitting balls and you’re absolutely fine. You are the duck on the pond and you are absolutely happy. He obviously has that ability.”
At a course where he’s had success and oozing with confidence, the World No. 1 and reigning Masters champion is the man to beat.
“My game feels like it’s in a good spot,” Scheffler said. “I’ve obviously been on a pretty good run here recently and I’m definitely not trying to stop it. So hopefully going to keep it rolling this week.”