For First Time in a While, Scheffler a Bit Befuddled

By Ron Driscoll, USGA

| Jun 15, 2024 | Village of Pinehurst, N.C.

For First Time in a While, Scheffler a Bit Befuddled

At the start of the week, many were wondering when someone was as much of a prohibitive favorite to win a U.S. Open as Scottie Scheffler this year. By the end of Round 3 of the 124th edition at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2, Scheffler was wondering when he had burned so many edges of the hole with his putts.

“I just haven’t been able to hole anything,” said Scheffler after his Saturday round. “Hit a lot of putts from 7 to 10 feet, where it would be good momentum for me to get going in the round. Hit the putt, it will be burning the edge. I feel like that’s a lot of what this week was for me so far.”

Scheffler struggled to a 4-over-par 74 in Round 2 on Friday, and his 36-hole total of 5-over 145 barely got him into the weekend of the championship on the cutline. His round of 1-over 71 on Saturday did include a pair of birdies, the first of which, on the par-4 eighth hole, snapped a string of birdie-less holes that had stretched to 26 – the longest such drought of his professional career. He sits in a tie for 42nd place going into Sunday’s final round with, among others, two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka.

“I had a lot of putts where I felt like I hit it really good; I looked up and they were not going the way I thought they were going to go,” said Scheffler, who came into the week with five victories and two runner-up finishes in his last eight starts on the PGA Tour, including a victory last week at the Memorial Tournament. That drew comparisons to the dominance of 15-time major champion Tiger Woods, and made Scheffler the odds-on choice to capture his third major title, after winning the Masters Tournament in 2022 and 2024.

Scheffler’s travails this week were encapsulated by a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 fifth on Friday, when he took five strokes from a native sandy area about 20 yards from the elevated green. Similar to the putting miscues, he has had trouble gauging how the ball would fly out of the lies that he encountered in those situations.

“I think that’s part of the mystery of the sandy areas,” said Scheffler, who has held the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for more than a calendar year. “You get down there and it’s kind of luck of the draw, whether or not you have a shot. Really all you’re trying to do is get it up onto the green somewhere, but it’s so unpredictable.”

Scheffler is the first to admit that avoiding the potential pitfalls in the first place is central to success in this championship. The 27-year-old University of Texas graduate is competing in his seventh U.S. Open, with his best finishes the past two years: a tie for second in 2022 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., behind Matt Fitzpatrick and a solo third last year at The Los Angeles Country Club behind Wyndham Clark.

“You have a pretty good understanding of where you’re trying to hit the ball,” he said. “It’s when I start not hitting the ball into the places where you should hit the ball, that’s where things get tricky. You can blame it on luck or whatever, but I knew not to hit the ball down there. I knew where to hit it and not to hit it.”

As he completes the week and rues one that got away, Scheffler is quick to check off a few positives.

“I’ll hit the gym this afternoon, pack up, put my feet up for the rest of the day, hang out with my little man [1-month-old son Bennett] and my wife [Meredith],” said the new father. “I’ll show up tomorrow morning, come out to the course again, see if I can learn.”

As he waited on Friday to find out whether his weekend plans would include golf, Scheffler mulled a schedule adjustment going forward.

“In terms of prep work for a week that I know is going to be as tough as this, I’m leaning going forward to maybe not playing the week before,” he said. “It may be in my best interest. That’s something for me to figure out later in the year.”

It has been a while since Scheffler has had to worry about figuring anything out on the golf course.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.