Being the number one player in the world should normally be something to shout about, yet Scottie Scheffler just isn’t that sort of guy. Respectful, almost quiet, he goes about the sport with perfect calm… and lets the golf do the talking.
He tells RSNG.com about his focus, ambition, and why he feels golf as a game is in such a great place right now…
Knowing Where To Focus
Do the bookies often get it wrong? Well, when Scottie Scheffler went into the Masters in 2022 in his first tournament as Official World Golf Ranking number one player, he wasn’t favorite.
Should the top-ranked player on the planet always be at the head of the betting markets? Probably not, as there are many different courses on the PGA Tour and no two set-ups play the same. But Scheffler won at Augusta. What does that tell him?
“I don’t really pay attention to anything which I don’t think is going to benefit me playing well at any tournament,” the 26-year-old begins, “and that’s regardless of who is doing the talking or writing.
“It’s not my job to listen to anyone outside of my coach, caddy, family or whoever is supporting me in my career. The only thing I know I should be doing is being focused on the next tournament, the next round, the next shot.”
Facts, numbers and statistics all back up the New Jersey-born man, as less than 10% of world number one players at the time have won major championships. However, Scheffler is part of that 10%, another feather in his cap.
In 2022, he was best in show in the world rankings for all four majors, winning the Masters, finishing T-2 in the US Open at Brookline and T-21 at St Andrews for the 150th Open. The only anomaly was a missed cut at the PGA Championship.
I’m as competitive as they come and although I like to be a nice guy… at the end of the day I am fighting to win the biggest trophies out there
That calendar saw him win three other times on the Tour, at the Phoenix Open in February, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the beginning of March and then the Dell WGC Match Play at the end of March, beating Kevin Kisner in the final match.
“I went through a lot of stuff in college, battled injuries, and sometimes those dreams that I had of being a golf professional were just that – dreams. But I fought and fought, practiced hard, used my dedication and here I am.
“I’m as competitive as they come and although I like to be a nice guy, have a good attitude, be polite, courteous and respectful, at the end of the day, I am fighting to win the biggest trophies out there and be the best I can.
“Getting to world number one was so surreal, I didn’t believe it. The run of form I was on seemed almost too good to be true, and don’t get me wrong, being world number one doesn’t define me – but it’s nice. However, winning is my only goal.”
A Balanced Approach To The Sport
The fact that Scheffler is ever the professional, and such an honest, sincere and thoroughly likable guy, is always going to go down with golf’s paying public.
In addition, he is ultra-competitive, though not to the nth degree, where he feels he has to do anything to win, to get under an opponent’s skin, to try and win the psychological battle. He just lets his golf do the talking – and it spits rhymes.
If you overshoot the goals and think you’re bigger and better than you are – maybe that’s when it all comes tumbling down.
“I never got to the point in the dreams I had where I would be sitting on top of the world – I don’t think I ever could. That’s not the way I am built, and I have overcome some big hurdles and setbacks in my life, so maybe that’s a reason.
“If you overshoot the goals and think you’re bigger and better than you are, maybe that’s when it all comes tumbling down. But I’ve learnt not to get too down on myself when I can’t do something, and instead just relax. It’s working at the moment.”
Getting back to those numbers of players who have won majors while being number one in the world: Tiger Woods x 11, Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler.
When the world rankings began in the lead up to the 1986 Masters, German golfer Bernhard Langer was at the top of the ladder. He finished T-16 at Augusta. The fact that it was Woods who laughed at that stat is no surprise.
But it does show that what Scheffler has done under pressure – not a burden he professes to feel weighs heavy on his shoulders – is remarkable and over 100 players have failed to do the same. Does he feel proud of that?
“I just want to play competitive golf. If I win at 50th in the world or at world number one, a win is still a win. It still feels the same, and that’s all I really care about – my performances.
“If I am world number one, that means that I must be doing something right and my game must be ok. So, if that’s the case and I am winning tournaments, I will be happy. Winning is a habit and gives me a good feeling, it’s what I’m here for.
“The standard of golf at the moment is extraordinary, there are so many players who can win at any time, so many who are capable of winning and the young guys coming through all the time are a threat. Golf is in a good place.”
Continuing A Longhorn Tradition
Scheffler is continuing a great tradition of Texas Longhorn graduates who have won golf majors. Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Justin Leonard and Jordan Spieth have now been joined by the 2015 Phil Mickelson Freshman of the Year.
Even though when you look at the top of the PGA Tour leaderboards, most of the names are American, at the time of writing when Scheffler sits number one in the world rankings, he is only the ninth United States player to hit the top spot.
That figure is largely skewed by the fact Tiger Woods spent a total of 683 weeks there – strangely enough, he was the ninth player overall to be number one. Scheffler is the 16th player since Woods.
But at least Scheffler has already got the monkey off his back by not following in the footsteps of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, neither of whom won a major at any point in their career. “You do feel for some of these guys who have always been there but just not managed to pop one over the line.
“Still, if my career is anything like as long and rewarding as a player like Lee, then I will be happy.”
WHAT NEXT? Find out what it takes to win The Open with RSNG.com’s exclusive interview with Cameron Smith, soon after his 2022 victory.