Perhaps the only appropriate way to celebrate winning the Players Championship and its $4.5 million prize is to enjoy a few casual rounds of golf on a certain well-known course where you’ve also had success. That’s what Masters champion Scottie Scheffler did the last two days when he stopped at Augusta National Golf Club on his way home to Dallas.
Scheffler returned to Augusta National for the first time since last April when he captured his first major title and fourth win in six PGA Tour starts with a three-stroke victory over Rory McIlroy. He became just the second player, after Ian Woosnam in 1992, to win a Green Jacket in his first week as World No. 1 — the position he occupies again after his resounding five-stroke victory on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass.
A club member hosted him, his father Scott and his swing coach Randy Smith.
During a 30-minute call with reporters on Wednesday, Scheffler couldn’t divulge the identity of the member who hosted him or which former Masters champion with whom he will share a locker in the Champions Locker Room. He offered a scouting report on the new tee at the par-five 13th hole and hesitated before getting the all-clear sign to share his thoughts on his culinary choices for the Champions Dinner held on Tuesday night of tournament week.
“I’m always scared,” Scheffler, 26, said with a nervous laugh in reference to answering any questions about Augusta. That’s why he at first demurred on the subject of his dinner menu. “Yeah, I’ve never gotten in trouble [with the club], but that’s probably because I’m pretty cautious.”
But as he was talking with the media, the menu was published.
His take on it: “So I think we have steak … it’s basically just, like, my favorite foods. So you got some steak, you got these cheeseburger sliders that I love, family-style sides, then the fish, which I don’t really eat fish very much, but we have fish on there for people that don’t eat red meat and would like something else. I think it’s Texas redfish, if I remember right. Then for dessert chocolate chip cookie and ice cream.”
Pretty straightforward, which you would expect from the reserved Texan.
You know who else should be scared? The rest of the field in the 87th Masters that begins on April 6 after Scheffler described his first encounter with the revamped dogleg-left 13th hole. Augusta National has pushed back the tee box 35 yards into the woods behind the 12th green, making it 545 yards. On Monday, in his first go from the new tee, the Masters champ grabbed his driver and promptly plunked his tee shot into Rae’s Creek left of the fairway. On Tuesday, he reached the green by going driver-4-iron.
Buckle your chinstraps, boys. The course was dry, and the ball was running.
“I usually hit a big, hooking 3-wood off that [13th] tee, and now I hit driver on a little bit of a different angle,” he said. “So it’s definitely changed the hole significantly, whereas if you hit a really good drive before, you could kind of get around the corner, or I could kind of get around the corner and have maybe a mid-iron in. And now you’re kind of hitting into that slope in the fairway and you may be ripping 3-iron at that green. So, you could see more guys laying up to that hole, especially depending upon pin position. We’ll see how it plays during the tournament.”
Scheffler was wearing his Green Jacket during the Zoom call. He said he knows Augusta National well enough now that there aren’t any surprises. Nothing else of significance has changed, except, he said: “There’s always a couple greens that are different than the rest, depending upon which ones they have replaced and that I noticed.
“I think I’ve been around the golf course a good amount,” he added, “where I kind of know what’s happening and I have a good feel for what goes on and when you go and play this time of year it’s still a lot different than the tournament because the green speeds aren’t exactly the same and the pin locations obviously are a bit different.”
Oddly, however, what he didn’t know was the size of the coveted jacket he was wearing. He had to search the interior of the garment before finding that it’s a 44 long. He’ll only get to wear it a few more weeks outside of the club, a perk for the champion, but then it can’t leave the grounds — unless he wins again, of course.
But back to the size. The 6ft 3ins world No. 1 golfer looked to one side, then the other, then back to his right.
“I doubt it’s on the inside,” he said as he looked for a clue. Then he found it. “Oh, 44 long, I believe. LG means long, or large, probably long.”
He has worn the jacket while throwing out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers baseball game and also while dropping the puck at a Dallas Stars NHL game. But the most enjoyable moments, really, were during this recent visit when he wore it while strolling around Augusta National.
“I think when you’re walking around the grounds, and I’m wearing the same jacket as some of the members, yeah, it was definitely a pretty special feeling,” he said. “It made the win definitely seem a bit more real.”