AUSTIN, Texas – Scottie Scheffler’s father pulled him into a huge bear hug on the 15th green at Austin Country Club right after his boy became the best golfer in the world, but his first words were not about his son’s victory at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.
“I love you, Scott. I’m more proud of who you are than your golf. You’re a wonderful young man,” Scott Scheffler said after his progeny claimed a third victory in five starts on the PGA TOUR, the second quickest from a first to third win since 1996 (David Duval, 21 days).
His wife Meredith – they met in high school – only found out about the chance to become world No. 1 on Saturday night when Scottie told her. The response was, “Promise me you’ll never change.”
It’s a window into the universe of the 25-year-old who has always appeared humble and hardly ever fazed. A balanced life and having fun are more important than rankings on a page. And so there seems little chance he will change despite joining Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm as the only players to reach the top at 25 or younger. With only 92 professional starts to his name, only Woods (21) and Spieth (77) needed fewer to get there.
“I don’t feel like No. 1 in the world. I feel like the same guy I was four months ago, and I hope that doesn’t change,” Scheffler said himself.
“He will stay down to earth. He has three sisters and a wife who will keep him in line,” older sister Callie said as she choked back tears after devotedly watching her little brother win seven matches over five days.
“This is beyond any of our wildest dreams, but golf is just what he does, it’s not who he is. He is an incredible person, brother, son, husband and soon-to-be uncle. It’s great to share in these successes he’s having, but at the end of the day it’s even greater to have him as a brother. We are very blessed.”
Scott’s expectations haven’t changed for his son either. “Don’t think I’m calling you No. 1 now,” he quipped with a laugh a little later when they were reunited following an official presentation and multiple photo sessions. “I’m still number one.”
Dad was referencing the age hierarchy, although the Scheffler kids say their competitiveness is born from their father, who wasn’t the type to let his kids win. A challenge was never far away in their house.
As the only boy amongst three sisters, Scheffler would also be called upon to play games of house, or school, or anything else Callie, Sara and Molly wanted to play during their childhood. “They always had kind of a 3-to-1 vote on me,” Scheffler laughs. But in turn his sisters would become his competition in any and all sports Scheffler wanted to try. Perhaps before taking on his dad.
Molly remembers vividly being educated in the finer points of basketball and lacrosse at a young age from her older brother. Scottie also played football, baseball, soccer and, of course, golf. And the Scheffler girls weren’t the types to shy away from competition. They took their brother on with vigor. They still do. Callie played golf in college. Now, while she waits for the arrival of her first child, she tries to take her brother out in cards or Rummikub.
“The putting contests in the backyard with his sisters were intense,” Scott laughs. “He makes those putts out here because he had to back then. He did not want to lose, and he still doesn’t. That’s why he plays. To compete.”
Indeed, Scheffler says he never dreamed of being world No. 1 growing up. It’s never been a goal on his radar.
“I dreamed of being out here (on TOUR),” Scheffler remembers. “I’ve always been fiercely competitive, and so for me getting out here was a goal per se … just competing out here is really fun for me and now, being able to win tournaments, is pretty awesome. The rankings never really crossed my mind.”
He not only leads the world now, but also has a sizable lead in the FedExCup as a three-time winner this season. He has a 780-point lead over No. 2 Sam Burns.
At Austin Country Club, the crowds were hugely in his corner thanks to his Texas roots. While Scheffler was born in New Jersey, he moved to Dallas as a youngster and found his way onto the University of Texas golf team in Austin from 2014-18, playing with fellow PGA TOUR pros Beau Hossler, Kramer Hickok and Doug Ghim.
The Longhorns won three Big 12 Championships with Scheffler on the team, a fact not lost among the fans on Sunday as he dispatched of Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1, in the semifinals before going on to take out Kisner, 4 and 3, in the afternoon.
But the biggest cheers came from his family crew. His parents, sisters, wife, in-laws, and some close friends made sure he could hear them amongst the many vociferous ‘hook ‘em horns’ chants.
Meredith was there to see him claim his first win at the WM Phoenix Open in February, a breakthrough some suggested might never happen after he lost the championship match a year earlier in Austin, one of a handful of near misses in his early TOUR starts.
Soon after, he was the survivor in a brutally tough Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard with his parents and elderly grandmother lucky enough to also bear witness. But a Texas home game – well, it brought almost everybody out. And it is why Scheffler broke down in tears when they all embraced.
“It was pretty cool to do that in front of my family. They’ve supported me so much along the way,” Scheffler adds. “I have a lot of different passions. Sports is definitely one of them … and I think that was important for me growing up.
“I worked hard in school. My parents encouraged me to do that and encouraged me to spread it around a little bit and not focus too much on one thing. I had a great childhood. I was fortunate to be able to play all those different sports and have some fun with it. And now to do this, it’s surreal.”
And so, what now for Scheffler, who will head to the Masters in a week as the man with the target on his back? The crew will head there also; a family road trip had already been planned before this latest achievement. Do his expectations rise now, and is a major the next step?
“Maybe y’all’s expectations of me (will rise). I don’t place too many expectations on myself,” Scheffler said. “Like I said, I just like being out here and competing. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to do that, and I look forward to doing it for as long as I can.”
* Information and images credit to www.pgatour.com/