Friday July 19, 2024

Sizzling No.1 Scheffler seeks more golf history at US Open

June 12, 2024
World number one Scottie Scheffler (left) walks with golf instructor Claude Harmon III on the fourth hole during a practice round ahead of the 124th US Open at Pinehurst. — AFP/File
World number one Scottie Scheffler (left) walks with golf instructor Claude Harmon III on the fourth hole during a practice round ahead of the 124th US Open at Pinehurst. — AFP/File

PINEHURST: Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, already off to a historic golf season start, took his first true look Monday at Pinehurst, where he´s an overwhelming favorite to win the US Open.

Scheffler has already broken his US PGA Tour season prize money record and won more titles before the US Open than any player in 44 years and oddsmakers like his chances even though he hadn´t seen the 7,543-yard Pinehurst layout live before Monday.

“Just because I´m the favorite doesn´t really have any affect on my score,” Scheffler said. “I think we all start at even par, if I remember correctly.”

The 27-year-old American, who became a new dad in May, will be tested by a course with sloping greens, unique sandy native areas and snarly wiregrass lurking off fairways and greens. Patience and accuracy will be at a premium. Scheffler won his fifth tour title of the season Sunday at the Memorial, edging seventh-ranked compatriot Collin Morikawa by a stroke.

Scheffler added to a trophy haul that includes triumphs at Bay Hill, the Players, the Heritage and the Masters, where he captured his second green jacket in three seasons.

He has already broken his own PGA Tour money earnings record for a single season with $24,024,553 after setting the full-season mark of $21,014,342 last year.

This week, he will try to match Tiger Woods as the only player to win a US Open while ranked world number one, the 15-time major winner having done so in 2000, 2002 and 2008. “It´s a good place to be. I like how my game is feeling right now,” said Scheffler. “I feel like I´ve been playing some good golf. It has been great to see some results too. Out here the margins are so small between winning and losing. It´s a putt or a shot here or there.

“I´m going to stick to my game plan and prepare the way I usually would and get ready to go out and compete again on Thursday.”

Scheffler has been first or second in seven of his past eight starts and in the top-10 in 12 of 13 events this year.

He´s in rare company with such an amazing start.

Not since Tom Watson in 1980 had a player won five times before the US Open.

And not since Arnold Palmer won six before the 1962 US Open has a player won so many in that span with a major among them.

“There´s so much excitement with so much guys playing well, Scottie dominating,” said 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson. “He´s doing everything exceptionally well.

“He capitalizes on wedge shots and par-5s. He just doesn´t make mistakes. He´s so hard to beat.

“To play this well for this amount of time, a couple years where he´s for sure the guy to beat every week, it´s fun to watch. I don´t see any reason he´s going to slow down anytime soon.”

Scheffler hopes to become only the seventh player to win the Masters and US Open in the same year after Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Woods, Palmer, Craig Wood and Jordan Spieth.

Americans have won each of the past five major titles. US players have not taken six consecutive majors since a run from the 1981 British Open through 1982 PGA Championship.

“I´m always trying to work on all aspects of my game,” Scheffler said. “I feel like I put in an awful lot of work into this game and just because I got to number one in the world doesn´t mean I´m going to stop working.”

Second-ranked Xander Schauffele, who won his first major at last month´s PGA Championship, will try to become the first back-to-back major winner since Spieth took the Masters and US Open in 2015.

Two-time major winner Morikawa, ranked seventh, likes his form with a chance for his first US Open title.

“If I could play like this heading into every major, I would take it in a heartbeat,” Morikawa said.