Any praise of Scottie Scheffler’s historic 2023 has often been followed with a caveat.
He had the best statistical ball-striking season since 2000 by anyone not named Tiger Woods. Yeah, but what about the putting?
Well, he amassed 17 top 10s and won twice, including in runaway fashion at THE PLAYERS Championship. Yeah, but he would have won a lot more if he could just putt average.
With every big tournament and close call, Scheffler was questioned – “what’s exactly going on with the putter?”
He ranked 161st in Strokes Gained: Putting. He would say he was hitting good putts; they just were not going in. You could tell he was working on it. He spends more time on the practice green than any other pro on TOUR. But it wasn’t yielding results.
Finally, mercifully, it has. Through three rounds of the Hero World Challenge, Scheffler has gained nearly four shots on the greens – and, after a Saturday 65, he leads by three shots.
“Nice to see some putts go in,” he said. “I’m rolling it good.”
It has come with a change in coaching, perspective and equipment.
Ahead of the Ryder Cup this fall, Scheffler began working with Phil Kenyon, a highly respected putting coach who regularly bounces between a half-dozen clients on the practice green during tournament week. The two worked on striking the right balance of athleticism. Don’t be too robotic, but make sure you have sound mechanics. Focus on your setup, but don’t try to be perfect.
It may sound like a fine line, but Scheffler has found the right combination at Albany Golf Club. And while the performance could still be a one-week anomaly, it feels more sustainable because Scheffler is more comfortable – both on the greens and discussing his struggles.
“I’m much more clear in what I need to be working on ” he said Saturday.
With a fairly straightforward approach to the game, Scheffler is not one to wax poetic in press conferences. In his pre-tournament media availability, he was as open about what he was working on as ever before, taking more than two minutes to answer the question. It was nuance seldom offered up by Scheffler.
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” he started before fully doing just that.
“I felt like I was using too much, like too much hands and stuff like that in my stroke,” Scheffler said. He compared it to a similar issue in college with his full swing, where his hands were too often underneath the club. He explained it began manifesting in his putting and causing too many heel strikes and pulls. He detailed how his mechanics are finally back in a good place, allowing him to turn off his brain and use his athletic ability.
“I feel like I’m in a place with my putting where I can use my feel, my instincts to kind of turn off and just go there and try and hit putts and be OK with the result whether it goes in or doesn’t,” he said.
And they are going in this week.
Then, of course, there’s the actual change in putter. Scheffler has ditched his Scotty Cameron blade for a blade putter made by Olson, a relatively unknown bespoke manufacturer.
“It’s very similar to some stuff that I used in the past,” he said, adding the alignment aid on the top of the putter, which has been one of the main differences in helping him with more consistent strikes.
Whatever credit can be ascribed to each factor, the summation of it all is an ideal recipe. His ball striking has stayed elite this week (he ranks second in SG: Tee-to-Green), and it’s been paired with a renewed confidence in putting.
He needed 26 putts to make two eagles, four birdies and a bogey. The eagles came courtesy of a pair of 15-footers on No. 3 and 15, two of the five par 5s on the course. He tapped in for a birdie on the par-5 sixth, made a 16-foot birdie putt on No. 7, and a pair of 14-foot birdie putts on No. 9 and No. 12. His most memorable putt, though, was a 7-footer he made on No. 16 to save par.
“I never step up on a hole thinking I’m going to have to make something for par,” Scheffler said. “So anytime you get in that six- to 10-foot range, and you’re able to hole a putt for par it’s good momentum.”
It’s those putts that will be critical on Sunday.
At 16 under, he leads Matt Fitzpatrick by three shots. Justin Thomas (11-under) is the only other golfer within five shots. Scheffler will run into a few birdies on ball-striking prowess alone. If his putter can get him out of any jams he finds himself in, he will be tough to beat.
Scheffler has come close to winning in the Bahamas before. He has finished runner-up to Viktor Hovland in back-to-back years at the Hero.
With his confidence back on the greens, Sunday is Scheffler’s time to end the close calls and the caveats.
Source : PGA Tour