Scottie Scheffler got to reminisce a bit about his experience at The Country Club on Tuesday and also paid forward a little of his experience as the top-ranked golfer in the professional game.
Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion and the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, is among the collection of players in the 122nd U.S. Open who competed nine years ago here in the 2013 U.S. Amateur. Scheffler had won the U.S. Junior Amateur earlier that summer, and he acquitted himself well in the Amateur, advancing to the quarterfinals before falling to Brady Watt, 1 up.
“That was a really cool event for me. I had won the U.S. Junior that year. It was a really cool year for me in golf,” said Scheffler, 25, who is making his fifth start in the championship this week and is hoping to improve upon his T-7 finish a year ago at Torrey Pines. “I have great memories of this tournament. I was walking around with my coach [Randy Smith] here in 2013, and he was here in '99 when Justin [Leonard] made the putt, and he was teaching Justin at the time, so we both have great memories of this place.”
Scheffler is referring to the long putt Leonard made against Jose Maria Olazabal on the 17th green that essentially locked up the USA’s Ryder Cup victory over Europe in 1999.
Back to the 2013 Amateur, where Scheffler showed some resiliency before being defeated.
“I remember being down in pretty much all my matches and coming back,” he said. “On the three [matches] that I won, I came back late on all of them. I think I made a big putt against maybe Brandon Hagy? I think it may have been Brandon on 17 [in the Round of 32]. It was a lot of fun.”
Of course, it had to be the 17th hole.
Scheffler, a Dallas native, has been the hottest player in golf this year, winning four times, including his first major title at the Masters. His record in majors has been stellar – seven top-20 finishes in his first 11 appearances – but he missed the cut at last month’s PGA Championship. He bounced back the following week and nearly won the Charles Schwab Challenge, falling to Sam Burns in a playoff.
“You can learn anything from failure. That's always a good learning time,” he said. “For me I'm not going to sit there and be, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, how did this happen? How could I ever miss a cut? What's going on?’ Just sitting back and looking, well, I could have approached this differently. Mentally I could have been a little bit different approaching this shot, and it's more stuff like that versus, I missed the cut, what am I doing out here? I was able to have a nice reset after that and play good the following week.”
Scheffler played a practice round Tuesday with amateur Travis Vick, not that it’s a shock that he would let Vick tag along, given that, like Scheffler, he has represented the University of Texas in golf. Vick, who got in via the final qualifier in Dallas, was a member of the Longhorns team that recently won the NCAA Division I title.
Scheffler remembers playing practice rounds with U.S. Open champions Jordan Spieth, another Longhorn, and Dustin Johnson when he qualified for the championship as an amateur in 2016 and ’17.
“Yeah, that's something I'm always going to try to do. I got to learn a lot, mostly just by watching those guys [Spieth and Johnson], how they prepare for golf courses, the type of shots they hit, how they practice around the greens and stuff like that. I learned a ton by being able to sit there and be a spectator.
“Playing with Travis … hopefully he'll be able to learn a little something from me. It's definitely fun. He is a fantastic player. He is really talented. As we saw a couple of weeks ago, he plays really good under pressure as well. That's an important skill to have when you come out here on tour.”
As Scheffler well knows.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.