Lessons from Jacksonville: Don’t mistake Scheffler’s brilliance for a poor field without LIV golfers
When Scottie Scheffler arrived on the 18th tee at TPC Sawgrass on the 12th of March, there was no danger of him losing the Players Championship. Ordinarily, with water up the entire lefthand side of the fairway and a small green to aim for, this is normally a hole that decides who is going to win golf’s unofficial fifth major.
Scheffler, however, had a five-shot lead over his nearest opponent so instead of sweating over his tee shot under trembling legs, the Texan enjoyed the warm tropical breeze that was blowing through Florida as he launched another powerful drive into the air that found the short stuff. There must be few better feelings for any golfer when the danger that keeps most players up at night has no effect on them.
Scheffler though is not your run-of-mill golfer.
Scheffler aims to go back to back at the Masters
In fact, if you’re betting on golf then you will see the 26-year-old is the tied favourite to win the Masters at Augusta National in April at odds of 8/1. Scheffler will, of course, drive up Magnolia Lane as the Masters’ defending champion after winning the 2022 showdown by three shots over Rory Mcllroy. As touched on, this is a golfer with exceptional ability.
However, despite being a generational talent, the conversation around the recently concluded Players Championship has leaned more towards the field being of a poor standard as opposed to Scheffler being good enough to blow the competition out of the water in the way he did.
In short, the detracting voices are saying that it was the lack of competition that explained Scheffler’s runaway win, and if the LIV Tour players were allowed to take part, they would have kept Scheffler honest and perhaps even beat him.
Is there any truth to this?
Cameron Smith – LIV Golf’s genuine superstar
You would have to start off by saying that there can be no denying the fact that Cameron Smith’s exclusion from the competition as the defending champion was far from ideal. The Australian is, without question, one of the most talented players in the world, and when he defected to the Saudi-backed rebel league, there was genuine regret among those on the PGA Tour’s governing body around losing one of their biggest draw factors. Indeed, out of all the players to jump ship, Smith’s decision to do so caused the biggest shockwaves.
With the 29-year-old’s ability in mind, perhaps golf fans were starved of watching him go toe to toe with Scheffler in Jacksonville but that is purely down to the fact that Smith is one of the best golfers in the world. In this sense, you could admit to there being an element of truth to the argument but in general, it is a point of view that then begins to unravel quite quickly when you consider the bulk of players on the LIV Tour and where they are in their respective careers.
At least, Scheffler was beating the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and Pat Perez without breaking much of a sweat when they were all competing on the PGA Tour together. The point is that regardless of who Scheffler plays, whether it be opponents on the PGA Tour or LIV Tour, the Texan has been able to keep all of his competitors at arm’s length over the last 12 months.
After all, the 26-year-old cumulatively held the world number-one spot for 29 weeks from March to October 2022, this is an astonishing achievement that has, for whatever reason, gone under the radar.
The reality is that the unassuming Scheffler is turning into a modern-day great, with almost every other player on the planet unable to match his consistency and that was especially evident at TPC Sawgrass. Indeed, an exceptionally strong field gathered in Ponte Vedra Beach but not for the first time, they were washed away by Scheffler’s tidal wave of talent.