Scottie Scheffler survives ‘oh crap’ moment to lead the Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — It seems like every marshal on every corner of Augusta has come to the little bush that separates the 18th fairway from the back end of the concession stand.

It was the no-man’s-land where Scottie Scheffler hooked a duck hook on the tee, suddenly throwing his multi-day Masters domination into doubt. Maybe, just maybe, the 25-year-old Texan, currently on the heater for two months of all, but staring at the pressure of trying to shut down his first major is about to change things have fun.

Lost the ball on the 54th hole?

No one can find it, no matter how many people stick their heads out of the bushes or peek in corners. A couple climbed the green fence to view the trash area behind the stands. Another searched through several empty boxes. Others tend to stare at the ground.

“Have you seen the ball?” a marshal asked a few fans standing by.

They laughed when he grimaced at the situation. He is serious.

“Have you seen it?” he repeated.

Back at tee 18, Scheffler began to notice the commotion, all hurrying in the woods. At one point, his calm demeanor was terrified.

He seems to have answered every bubble here with a birdie, showing that he’s not going to collapse. However, losing the ball would be a one-shot penalty and would require Scheffler to tee off again. While he had a four-stroke cushion on Cam Smith at the time, the idea of ​​finishing with a double bogey or worse wasn’t appealing.

“We saw that guy with the flag always felt a little panic about the ball,” Scheffler said. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ … [My heart rate] Went up when I saw they couldn’t find the ball. …you hate to lose a golf ball with the people around you. “

The ball was eventually found deep in the bushes. Scheffler made a penalty but did not return to the tee. Instead, he said his heart returned to normal function, and he hit a 3-iron on the 18th hill, straight behind the green.

After a quick ascent and descent, he avoided a crash with a bogey. “It felt like a par,” he said.

He’ll be at -9 heading into Sunday, and only Smith (-6) and Sungjae Im (-4) look like legitimate contenders. All in all, it’s still his Masters win.

“It’s great to be in control of the golf game,” he said.

Schaeffler is now a fascinating character. Despite 3 years and 64 games on the PGA Tour, he didn’t win a single event until mid-February when he won the Waste Management Open in Phoenix. Since then, he’s won two more championships on the tour and lit up Augusta in a way no one else has.

He was under par in the third round despite the relentless wind Saturday. Only six other golfers were in the red throughout the tournament.

Schaeffler’s strength lies in being able to play with unusual balance and purpose. It seemed impossible for him to babble on, take every decision seriously, and talk about some kind of Zen around him. He even walked in at a leisurely pace, like he was just floating around the joints.

Again, here’s a guy who never won a tournament two months ago, admits he was a “hothead” in college and laments that he often lacks the focus to play a full round at his peak level.

Now he’s a steely, steady veteran?

“It’s definitely something I’ve learned over time,” Scheffler said. “I’ve matured a lot since I played junior golf and college. … When I finish a shot now, I’m totally confident I’m going to hit a good swing. That’s all I can do .. the rest is not up to me. I can’t worry about the gusts or the direction of the wind or how the footage will bounce…

“It’s not easy to win golf championships here,” Schaeffler continued. “It’s very challenging. So it’s extremely important to know that bad things are going to happen and to be able to react to those things in a positive way.”

If Scheffler is going to get the field back into this tournament, a gusty back nine is it. But when “bad things” happened, he just shrugged. He made 12 bogeys but made a birdie on the 13th hole. He made 14 bogeys before seeing a gust of wind push his ball across the hole for birdie putt on the 15th.

“Stop, wind,” Scheffler shouted.

He posted another bogey but didn’t let the frustration linger. He went on to birdie No. 17. Yes, he hit the 18th — “Well, obviously I didn’t hit a good tee,” he joked — but kept going. It was a game of ups and downs on a well-known course, even the all-time great, but he just kept smiling.

“I had a lot of fun there,” he said.

He does know he’s leading the guru, doesn’t he?

“Just trying to stay in my own driveway.”

Schaeffler loves it all. He was eager to have a 54-hole lead and the pressure that came with it. It’s the kind of game-in-game challenge he’s always wanted to face.

He’ll be going to the practice range soon, saying he’ll spend the night with his wife in the rented house here, looking at the office.

He thinks they’ll make it to the third episode of season four — “Angela still isn’t happy with her cat.” Maybe some more after that.

“It’s by far my favorite show,” he said. “I like it.”

He didn’t look nervous. He didn’t look nervous.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

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