For Scheffler, a new world awaits as the Masters champion

Apr 10, 2022, 11:10 PM | Updated: 11:54 pm
Cameron Smith, of Australia, walks past as Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning the 86th Mast...

Cameron Smith, of Australia, walks past as Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning the 86th Masters golf tournament on Sunday, April 10, 2022, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler just wanted dinner. The best option, he decided, would be for him and his wife Meredith to grab some takeout and head back to their rented home so he could rest up before the final round of the Masters.

Small problem.

On the way home, Scheffler spilled dinner all over himself.

“Meredith is still laughing at me,” Scheffler said. “She thought it was the funniest thing ever.”

Whenever he returns to the Masters, for the rest of his life, there is guaranteed to be at least one night where Scheffler’s dinner won’t need transporting. Masters champions get to go to the Masters Club dinner, and Scheffler has a permanent seat at that table now after his score of 10-under 278 gave him a three-shot victory over Rory McIlroy on Sunday at Augusta National for his first major championship.

It further cemented his status as the No. 1 player in the world, was his fourth career win — all coming in a span of about two months — and capped a week where the 25-year-old seemed to handle the pressure that comes with being in Masters contention with ease.

He cried when his first Masters invitation came in 2020. They’ll never stop coming now.

“That’s the coolest part about this whole deal,” Scheffler said. “This is such a fun golf course. It’s such a fun piece of property. I mean, it’s Augusta National. It’s about as cool as it gets. It’s so fun to play. I just can’t believe that I can come back for a lifetime and get to enjoy this golf course.”

McIlroy closed with a flourish, his 8-under 64 on Sunday sending him vaulting up the leaderboard and into second place after starting the final round 10 shots back. Shane Lowry (69) and Cameron Smith (73) tied for third, five shots behind Scheffler. Smith started birdie-birdie and briefly got within one shot, before a two-shot swing on the third hole — Scheffler chipped in for birdie, Smith made bogey — restored order. Scheffler kept the lead the rest of the way, and not even making a double-bogey 6 on the finishing hole derailed his march toward a green jacket.

“Scottie’s just been sort of unflappable,” McIlroy said.

The No. 1 tee and the No. 18 green at Augusta National are relatively close to one another, which means that at around 2:40 p.m., that little piece of acreage was the absolute center of the golf universe. Scheffler was on one side, starting his march toward a first Masters win. Tiger Woods was coming up the other side, finishing off his comeback tournament after his career — and life — could have ended in a February 2021 car crash in the Los Angeles suburbs.

Numbers-wise, it was Woods’ worst Masters ever, one of his worst tournaments ever. Of the 52 players who made the cut, Woods beat five of them. He shot a 78 for the second consecutive day, ended the week at 13-over 301, 23 shots off the lead.

And he was thrilled. He finished. Nothing else mattered to the five-time Masters winner.

“It’s been a tough road, and one that I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to be able to grind through it,” Woods said when it was over. “A lot of different things could have happened, but (after) 14 months, I’m able to tee it up and play in the Masters.”

Augusta National does not let go of past champions, a part of the tradition that is celebrated from the very onset of the tournament. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player began the week with ceremonial tee balls, this time with Tom Watson joining in for the first time.

“I would like to say how honored I am to be with Gary and Jack,” Watson said before he took his ceremonial swing. “I’ve watched this ceremony many times in the past … and to be a part of this thing, I’m truly humbled.”

That’s what Augusta does. It humbles. It celebrates. And for the luckiest few, like Scheffler, it crowns.

The place has been a celebrated part of the Scheffler family story for years, and not for the reasons one would think. Scheffler drives a 2012 Chevrolet Yukon with nearly 200,000 miles on it, and it was purchased in Augusta a decade ago. Scott Scheffler, the new Masters winner’s father, was there that year and the vehicle he was driving died. He was there to watch Bubba Watson, and the car the the senior Scheffler drove to Augusta “expired” on the trip.

“Everyone got a T-shirt,” Scott Scheffler said. “I got a car payment.”

Scott Scheffler could barely keep his emotions in check Sunday night. He proudly tells the story of holding up a flashlight so his son, then just a little kid, could hit extra balls at a driving range at night. He defers all the credit for his son’s success. And on Monday, he’ll be driving that Yukon home.

Yes, the Yukon is still his son’s car. It was there on Sunday. Scott Scheffler will use it to bring home the family dog on Monday. It’s anyone’s guess if the Yukon is coming back next year.

It’s a certainty that Scottie Scheffler is coming back.

The new Masters champion woke up unable to control his tears on Sunday, the enormity of the moment briefly getting to him. He spilled that dinner on Saturday. None of it seemed funny at the time. And then, Sunday night, wearing his new green jacket, it all just made sense.

“I never expected to be sitting where I am now,” Scheffler said. “You know, you don’t expect things to come to you in this life. You just do the best that you can and with the hand you’re dealt and just go from there. I never really thought I was that good at golf, so I just kept practicing and kept working hard, and that’s just what I’m going to keep doing.”

___

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For Scheffler, a new world awaits as the Masters champion