15 Apr 2024 | Opinion | Professional golf |

Clayton: By making fewer mistakes, Scheffler makes it a Masters double

by Mike Clayton

Scott Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler again left his rivals behind at The Masters

One of golf’s great cliches - and there are plenty of them - is “I’m going to play my own game because I can’t control what the others are doing”.

Does anyone think Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, and Tony Finau would have all sunk balls into Rae’s Creek fronting of the 12th green at Augusta if Tiger Woods hadn’t been hunting them in the 2019?

Even a diminished Woods had long-established a reputation of making few mistakes when dressed in red and black and they all knew it.

Jack Nicklaus was the same. The others knew from experience he wasn’t going to give them anything and, sure, he made mistakes, but the rest couldn’t rely on them.

Scottie Scheffler is neither Woods nor Nicklaus because he hasn’t been around long enough, but his hitting from tee to green is clearly superior to the rest if hitting greens and avoiding critical errors is the measure.

So it was on the final day at Augusta when any one of a quartet players could have won.

Playing partner Collin Morikawa, twice a major champion, made a mess of the ninth hole where the fairway turns from right to left but almost all his drives turn the other way. From the right trees he found the deep greenside bunker and took two to escape.

At the same time Scheffler hit a brilliant short iron, bringing it back down the hill behind the flag to a couple of inches.

If that wasn’t enough, Morikawa made another double bogey at the brutal 11th hole when he flew an iron into the pond.

A group ahead was likely the next great ‘foreign’ player, the Swede Ludvig Aberg.

Imperious from tee to green he made one critical error right at the wrong time. From the middle of the 11th fairway – a par-4, 40 meters longer than both back nine par-5s at Royal Melbourne’s West course - he bounced a middle iron into the pond and made a double bogey.

It was his only error on his five-birdie scorecard but there was no way back in the face of Scheffler’s back nine 33.

Max Homa was the other one with a legitimate chance, but his chance went at the 12th were so many Masters chances have sunk over the decades. He avoided the water in front, instead falling victim to a hard bounce and a horrible lie over the green.

Scheffler too made mistakes but only small ones. He missed the long par-3 fourth with a long iron and he drove right into the trees on the almost absurdly narrow seventh fairway.

One might also count his bogey at the 11th as a mistake but that would be to forget Ben Hogan’s decades old comment, “If you see me on the 11th green you know I’ve missed my second shot.”

Perhaps Aberg and Morikawa are too young to have read any Hogan, but they won’t be the last to make the same mistake.

Scheffler, a fellow Texan however likely knew of Hogan’s 11th green warning and after another iron to kick-in distance at the 14th the last four holes were something between a coronation and a procession.

The best of the Australians was Cameron Smith at sixth, three shots ahead of 12th placed Cameron Davis. I for one miss Smith playing the PGA Tour where most of the best players ply their trade but this week, he showed he still plays serious golf as well as the best players in the world.

This week the interest moves to Houston and the LPGA’s first major championship of the season.

Nelly Korda has won her last four tournaments on the women’s tour and like Scheffler, she can likely play her own beautifully intimidating form of the game and see if the others can stay with her.

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