90.1 F
Los Angeles
Monday, July 22, 2024

Before She Was a 6-Time U.S. Olympian, She Was ‘Free Diana’

Follow our Olympics coverage in the lead-up to the Paris...

House Dems insist primary is 'open' despite rushing to coronate Kamala Harris

House Democrats are insisting that anyone is free...

Inside Katie Ledecky’s Evolution From Teenage Phenom to Olympic Veteran

Follow our Olympics coverage in the lead-up to the Paris...

Where Does Scottie Scheffler’s Golf Season Rank Among the Greatest Ever?

SportWhere Does Scottie Scheffler’s Golf Season Rank Among the Greatest Ever?

It was dark. Nobody else was on the range. And for a moment, Scottie Scheffler led the Golf Channel-watching public to believe he was grinding with 18 holes to go at the Masters. Scheffler had just finished a late third round at Augusta National with a one-shot lead. He did his media obligations late into the night and wandered over to the area between the range and the training building.

With his coach Randy Smith and his caddie Ted Scott behind him, Scheffler pulled out a club and took some hacks under the range lights. Smith and Scott stared into the phone, its camera aimed at Scheffler’s swing.

“I don’t know what they’re doing! He’s hit one bad shot this week. He’s hit the ball beautifully! They can’t be working on anything,” Paul McGinley said in Irish exasperation as he and Brandel Chamblee watched on during Golf Channel’s “Live From” broadcast.

Here’s the thing: They weren’t working on a damn thing. “We mess with Brandel and (Paul McGinley) up there in the booth,” Smith told The Athletic.

They were killing time as Scheffler waited for a massage appointment, and Smith and Scott saw the red light go on the “Live From” set across the range and decided to have some fun. “Hey, Scottie, go pretend you’re swinging.”

“Ted pulls out his phone,” Smith recalled, “We’re looking at the phone. They think we’re looking at his swings. We’re not. We’re watching a Desi Arnaz and Lucy video!”

Because right now, Scottie Scheffler doesn’t have much to work on. He went on to win that Masters in April for his second green jacket. He won again the next week in Hilton Head for his fourth win in five starts. Two months later, he won the Travelers Championship on Sunday for his sixth win in 10 starts. He’s suddenly the first player since Arnold Palmer in 1962 to win six tournaments before July.

It was already safe to call this the best PGA Tour season in roughly a decade. Scheffler has been on the best three-year ball-striking run since peak Tiger Woods. The superlatives are well documented. But now, Scheffler is taking his run into the conversation for the best seasons of all time.

In the PGA Tour era when there was an actual, organized tour (pretty much the 1970s on), we all know how much Woods won, compiling six different seasons of six or more wins. The record for PGA Tour wins in a season is nine — Woods in 2000 and Vijay Singh in 2004. Only two other players even reached that modern six-win club, Tom Watson in 1980 and Nick Price in 1994.

So where does Scheffler’s campaign rank? And how much further can we go?

There’s context for many of the others. Singh’s 2004 is, indeed, one of the greatest seasons ever. He won nine times, including the PGA Championship, and racked up 18 top 10s. But the season had a different, longer format back then with the Tour Championship in November. Singh’s fourth win came in his 22nd start, and his ninth came in his 30th start. Scheffler likely won’t make another start after the Tour Championship in August and might make 20 starts all season. That doesn’t lessen Singh’s achievement. It’s just different.

Unless Scheffler wins a grand slam some day, nobody is catching Tiger Woods’ 2000 (3 majors, 9 wins). That’s in a tier of its own. And for the sake of comparison, we won’t bother using the incredible pre-modern era seasons like Byron Nelson’s 1945 (18 wins, including one major!) or Bobby Jones’ 1930 (all four majors).

If Scheffler doesn’t win again, this season already should go down as one of the 10 best years ever. On pure wins, it would be behind Tiger’s two or three best, Jordan Spieth’s breakout 2015 (five wins, two majors) as well as Singh, Nicklaus (1972) and Palmer (1960, 1962).

But thinking of it this way leaves out two things.

One: Golf is not a zero-sum sport. It would leave out the seven other top-10s in the nine starts that weren’t wins or he’s only finished worse than 17th once all year. It would leave out that he got slammed against a cop car and arrested hours before his Friday tee time at the PGA Championship and still tied for eighth. It would also leave out the overall shot-by-shot transcendence, with DataGolf putting Scheffler’s 2024 form as the second-best season since the dawn of shot tracking (the last 30 years). He’s gaining 3.1 strokes compared to the field. Only Woods’ 2000 peak was better.

It also leaves out the scale of Scheffler’s wins. All six wins are big boy events. He won the Masters, the Players Championship and four more signature events against all the top PGA Tour stars. These were at courses like Augusta, Sawgrass, Bay Hill and Muirfield Village, some of the best tests in the world.

Yes, it should be mentioned Scheffler is playing on a PGA Tour without Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith who left for LIV, but those stars also only have a combined one win on LIV this season.

Scottie Scheffler’s son, Bennett, is six weeks old and has been a part of two trophy celebrations. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Two: Scheffler’s season is not over.

So what’s next? Scheffler will likely take the next two weeks off before heading to Scotland for the Open Championship. After his win Sunday, he implied he wouldn’t be playing the Scottish Open the week before, but that is unclear. Then, he’ll go to Paris for the Olympics on Aug. 1. That wouldn’t count as a PGA Tour win, but in a loaded Olympic field with pretty much all the top players (except DeChambeau) an Olympic gold would realistically rank somewhere between a major and a big-time PGA Tour event. Then, Scheffler will have three FedEx Cup playoff events in August to wrap up the year.

That potentially leaves Scheffler just four more official tournaments, plus another significant opportunity at the Olympics. He’ll be the favorite at each.

Maybe it will take a second major at the Open Championship at Royal Troon to truly put this season up in that tier of the greatest ever. It’s fair. It would feel strange to have a player so comically ahead of the field week to week only win one major. The unfortunate truth is that’s how difficult major championships are. But if he does put himself at seven (or more wins) with two majors, it will become a sincere argument whether this is the second-greatest season ever.

If Scheffler doesn’t win the Open but gets to seven or eight wins overall, it pushes him further into that top-five tier. It will become about personal preference

This is all just fun stuff for bar room debates. It isn’t real. These are all just ways to take a step back and make sure we’re appreciating the fact we are watching greatness. Scheffler isn’t just having the best season in a decade. He’s on a three-year run of 12 wins and 36 top-5s. He is special. Enjoy it.

(Top photo: James Gilbert / Getty Images)


Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles