2023 Players Championship: ‘Boring’ Scottie Scheffler Poised for Another Victory
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Scottie Scheffler.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Scottie Scheffler isn’t exactly the most exciting PGA Tour player around, so allow me to honor him by writing what isn’t exactly going to be the most exciting final-round preview.
Like you expected anything else.
First things first: Before I tell you all about how and why Scheffler is primed to win The Players Championship on Sunday afternoon, allow me to offer a brief explanation.
Pick: Scottie Scheffler -230
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When I describe Scheffler as “isn’t exactly the most exciting,” what I mean is that he’s boring. And I mean that as a massive compliment.
This isn’t about his personality – he’s a super nice guy! – but the way he goes about his business. The former world No. 1 (and impending world No. 1, as he’ll likely vault back to that position after the final round) doesn’t drive the ball 350 yards, doesn’t get the galleries fired up after brilliant iron shots and doesn’t fist pump his way around the greens.
Rory McIlroy’s superpower is gobbling up momentum like Pac-Man devouring pellets, stepping on the gas pedal when things are going right. Jon Rahm’s superpower is another kind of stepping, his superior competitiveness allowing him to step on throats when he’s climbing the leaderboard.
Scheffler? His superpower is the ability to take the air out of a big-time tournament and render it a lifeless coronation, all while armed with an aw-shucks smile plastered across his face.
Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that – at least, if you’re him.
Recall, if you will, last year’s edition of the Masters Tournament. Anyone who had Sunday’s final round circled on the calendar was undoubtedly left unfulfilled, as Scheffler entered with a three-stroke lead, stretched it out during the day and was able to giggle his way through a final-hole four-putt without ever having to sweat.
It was a similar story at last month’s WM Phoenix Open, when Scheffler entered the last day with a two-stroke lead, birdied two of the first three holes, added an eagle on the back and never carded a bogey on his way to giving the rest of the contenders a Heisman stiff-arm, keeping them from getting any closer down the stretch.
If we expect things to be any different on this Sunday, we’re probably fooling ourselves.
“I prepare to be in these moments; I prepare to come out here and play well,” he said. “When I’m at home getting ready for tournaments, I’m hopeful that I’m going to be in this position and I’ve been fortunate so far this year that the hard work is continuing to pay off. I’ve been on a lot of leaderboards, and I’ve said it a few times, it’s a lot more fun being in the lead than it is being in 20th going into today and shooting 2-under and finishing 30th or whatever it is. It’s a lot more fun being in the arena and being in the moment.”
Scheffler is certainly in the moment, leading by two strokes entering the final round at TPC Sawgrass, with FanDuel listing him as a substantial -230 favorite to claim his sixth victory in the past 13 months. (If you think that number is short, check out his top-10 odds of -8000. Hell of a way to make a buck or two.)
Perhaps just as importantly, the group of contenders isn’t exactly a who’s who of proven winners. Min Woo Lee trails by two; Cam Davis trails by four; and Tommy Fleetwood, Aaron Rai, Chad Ramey and Christiaan Bezuidenhout trail by five.
As Scheffler goes after his sixth win, every other player inside the top-10 has combined for that same number.
All of which leads back to that burgeoning superpower.
As the rest of the contenders aim to overtake him, as many observers root for a dramatic Sunday afternoon, Scheffler owns the ability to take all of the air out of the festivities and make it boring.
It’s what he does best, and it’s tough to believe he stops now.
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