Players Championship: Scottie Scheffler finds putting form before Sawgrass defence

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US Open champion Wyndham Clark perhaps summed it up best when he said “it would be borderline unfair if he starts putting really good” after Scottie Scheffler romped to victory at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Players Championship: Scottie Scheffler finds putting form before Sawgrass defence
Players Championship: Scottie Scheffler finds putting form before Sawgrass defence

World number one Scheffler sent a seismic message to his rivals with a five-shot victory – the largest since Tiger Woods won the event in 2012 – that owed as much to his prowess with the putter as it did to his superior work in getting the ball to the green from the tee.

It was the American’s first PGA Tour triumph since the prestigious Players Championship title last March and, while he again led many statistical ball-striking categories, it was his performance on the greens that piqued interest.

On Sunday Scheffler had 16 putts from inside 10 feet and holed them all. That helped him finish a week inside the top five putters for only the third time in his career.

He was also the only player to register a bogey-free final round at the notoriously tough Bay Hill course in Florida, and his six-under-par 66 was seven shots better than the average for the field.

“There had been a lot of chatter about my game, so it was nice to come in here with a good mental attitude and perform well under pressure,” said the 2022 Masters champion, who has been reluctant to talk about his putting woes in the face of relentless questioning.

“It’s not like I’ve been a bad putter my whole career. I’ve just gone through a stretch where it’s been tough.”

It was Scheffler’s seventh PGA Tour victory and sets him up perfectly for this week’s return to TPC Sawgrass in Florida for the 50th playing of the flagship Players Championship.

The 27-year-old was similarly dominant 12 months ago when he won the Players by five strokes. That was his sixth win in 13 months. But further victories failed to materialise as Scheffler’s putting stroke came under increasing scrutiny.

However, despite his troubles with the ‘Texas wedge’, Scheffler posted 17 top-10 finishes in 2023 – the most since Vijay Singh in 2005 – and finished outside the top 10 only four times in 19 events since the 2023 Players.

Scheffler led numerous statistical categories related to ball striking and ended the season with the seventh-lowest scoring average in PGA Tour history. The top six belong to Woods. He achieved this despite ranking 162nd in putting.

The start of this year has followed a similar trend – Scheffler finished in the top 10 in four tournaments in 2024 while being 144th in putting, despite working with renowned British putting guru Phil Kenyon since just before last September’s Ryder Cup.

But he feels the work with Kenyon, who has also coached English major winners Justin Rose and Matt Fitzpatrick, is beginning to show fruitful signs.

“I hired Phil towards the end of last year and we saw some results pretty early on in the relationship. I’m excited about the stuff we’ve been working on,” Scheffler told BBC Sport.

“My main focus was definitely just trying to improve my putting. The putting stats can be funny.

“Each year in the off-season I try to have one emphasis that I’m going to improve upon. One year it was staying in the gym, one year it was my ball striking. And then this last year my emphasis has been on the putting.

“I’m always going to be working on everything, so it’s nice to have that one thing that I’m going to put a little bit of extra effort into.”

Speaking to Golf Magic, external a couple of months into their partnership, Kenyon said: “One thing I’ve tried to do is just simplify a lot of things, tell him some things that he does really well, and then provide some simple solutions relevant to some of the things I feel he can improve on.

“His struggles have been well documented by many, but if he can putt well, I mean, wow, what a golfer.”

The rest of the PGA Tour players are also acutely aware of what an improved Scheffler could mean for their chances.

As Clark said: “If he starts putting positive each week it’s going to be really hard to beat.”

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