AUGUSTA, Ga. — Fifteen minutes after Scottie Scheffler won the Masters, a golf cart rushed him to the back door of Butler Cabin. The only sounds were from a drone circling overhead and some birds. His green jacket was waiting inside. He looked dazed. Of course he did. In the past 57 days, he has won four tournaments, including a major, and changed everything in his life. He can never go back to the way things were.
He is 25 years old. This season, he earned $10 million. Inside the cabin he put on this jacket for the first time – taking it off so he could rehearse the ceremony in front of a crowd waiting for him around the 18th green – and after finishing an interview he returned to the ‘outside. He still looked a little dazed and enjoyed a few long seconds of silence until he came back into view of the patrons, who started clapping and clapping.
“I don’t know what to say…” he said.
He broke down and cried this morning – ‘like a baby’, in his words – feeling just overwhelmed by the moment: a round of golf to win the Masters, and the tornado that may take over a life after something like that. He’s seen him punch people he knows, like Jordan Spieth. He turned to his wife in tears.
“I don’t think I’m ready for this,” he told her.
She made him a big breakfast and tried to calm him down. She said she loved him whether he wins or loses by 10. They talked about their common faith. He arrived at class and began to prepare.
“God, it was a long morning,” he said. “It was long. I’ve had a stomach ache for two days in a row.”
Back in Texas, at the Royal Oaks Country Club, members and staff also prepared.
“It’s the calm before the storm,” head pro Dean Larsson told me Sunday morning.
Scheffler started playing there as a child, after his parents took out a loan to join, all with the aim of following club members like Justin Leonard on the PGA Tour.
“What’s really special,” Royal Oaks club chairman Todd Moen said, “[is] Because Scottie grew up here, everyone got to know him.”
His dream was to turn professional.
“I wore pants as a kid at Royal Oaks,” he said, “because I wanted to play golf on the PGA Tour.”
As a child, he wore these polo shirts and khakis to school, dressing like a tourist pro. His classmates burst out laughing.
“Rightly so,” he said Sunday night, also laughing.
A schoolboy golf legend in his home country, he played at the University of Texas. On Saturday afternoon, Longhorns golf coach John Fields answered his phone at an airport, whisking his current team to California for an event. He chose the tournament because it was designed by Alister MacKenzie, who also designed a small track called Augusta National. Fields wanted to prepare his guys for the bigger stages. Scheffler won this same tournament when he was a student. Fields watched the Masters on his phone as he waited at his door. He’s almost part of the Scheffler family at this point. Five years ago Scheffler played at the US Open in Erin Hills. He walked down the fairway alongside Brooks Koepka, followed by his trainer and father. Scheffler’s father turned to Fields.
“Do you think he will be here one day?” He asked.
It’s funny now, but Scheffler’s dad really didn’t know. Fields did. He had seen the real thing before – he coached Spieth, for example – and he explained to his friend that the young man in front of them was not just going to do the trick, but also build a career on it.
This prophecy has come true in the last 57 days.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Scheffler won his first tour at the WM Phoenix Open. Back at the club, Moen bought a round of drinks for the 19th hole crowd and raised a glass to Scheffler and the club. Everyone roared. They were his people. Then Scheffler went on to win, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He rocketed the world golf ranking to No. 1. At Royal Oaks between wins, he was always working with the kids on the course, inventing games of chipping and putting, which often lasted up to an hour. Before leaving home to come to Georgia, he performed a tour with three members. Then he packed for the Masters. He couldn’t believe it. When his first invitation arrived in the mail, he cried. For the past 57 days he has been a young man living in a dreamscape.
“I don’t think anything has sunk yet,” he said. “My head is still spinning a bit.”
It came to Augusta a bit under the radar, even with all of its success. All eyes were on Tiger Woods, who was returning to competitive golf just 14 months after a car accident nearly cost him his leg. Scheffler wasn’t even a year old when Woods first won here.
“His YouTube clips are such an inspiration to me,” Scheffler said. “I remember watching the highlights of his 1997 win, running away with that, and he never really broke his focus.”
Now, Scheffler wears Tiger-brand golf shoes and shirts and uses his irons, though he likely has his own line of all three coming soon. He topped the legend on Thursday. On Friday, as Tiger’s surgically repaired knee began to fail him, Scheffler took the lead. He kept it on Saturday and after his long night and his busy and tearful morning, he came out on Sunday afternoon to defend it.
His toughest competition came from Rory McIlroy, who tied a Masters final round record with a searing 64. He birdied 18 times and his roar echoed all over the course. Rory had the biggest roars of the afternoon. To tell the truth, the atmosphere on Sunday was hushed. As Scheffler headed home through the back nine, there were open spaces on the ropes that often went five and six deep for those crowning steps. More than a few people were hoping for some sort of meltdown to give McIlroy a shot at a career grand slam.
Scheffler does not lie down.
Back at Royal Oaks, the 19th hole was just a standing room. When Scheffler participated in No. 3, the biggest hit of his life, the clubhouse erupted. A man ran into the room giving high fives. Hole by hole, the room leaned during tense moments, feet sinking into the red and yellow carpets. The guys drank from white polystyrene cups.
When he birdied 14 and sealed the win, the grown men hugged and rubbed their heads like schoolboys. They knew Scheffler as a child, and now he was going to win the same tournament as Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. A chant broke out in the hall, calling for a shoot.
“Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!”