Another glorious Masters Tournament is behind us.
This was the 24th Masters I’ve covered as a sports broadcaster for WFAN-NY, hosting “Talking Golf” on Sunday mornings from the dazzling Augusta National Media Center. It was another compelling Masters, certainly with the return of Tiger Woods, 13 and a half months after his near-fatal car crash. And the fact that not only did Woods play and maneuver his reconstructive, aging body around the steep terrain of Augusta National; he made the cut, which is quite remarkable. Yes, I will be writing future columns on Tiger’s heroics.
This column is about the new, most impressive Masters champion. And it doesn’t matter how far ahead the 54-hole leader may be, heading into the Final Round, I always find Sunday at Augusta National and the stories that come out of it, to be as compelling as ever. And this year was no exception.
Scottie Scheffler makes a great champion, on and off the course. The 25-year-old Texan — born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and moved to Texas at the age of 5 — continued his sizzling play to win his first Major Championship and his fourth title in a six-tournament stretch. His outstanding shot-making and creative play were on stage for all to see.
And off the course, it’s been a real pleasure getting to know him a bit, asking him questions in the press conferences, listening, and observing him closely. And I’m truly impressed with what I’ve heard and seen so far.
I was first taken by his family story when he said that his father stayed at home to raise Scottie and his three sisters while his mother worked as an attorney. And I adore the tender moment after he won the WGC Match Play in March when his Dad hugged him and uttered, “I’m more proud of who you are than your golf. You’re a wonderful young man.”
And then there’s Scheffler’s honesty. As poised and unnerved as he looked while navigating the twists, turns and hills of Augusta National, he admitted to being so nervous on Sunday morning before the final round, that he cried like a baby.
“I was so stressed out,” he said after his win. “I didn’t know what to do. I was sitting there telling Meredith (his wife), ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this. I’m not ready. I don’t feel like I’m ready for this kind of stuff,’ and I just felt overwhelmed. She told me, ‘Who are you to say that you are not ready? Who am I to say that I know what’s best for my life?’ And so what we talked about is that God is in control and that the Lord is leading me, and if today is my time, it’s my time. And if I shot 82 today, you know, somehow I was going to use it for his glory. Gosh, it was a long morning. It was long.”
That’s about as honest and open as anyone can be under the microscope.
From a mental standpoint, Scheffler was able to stay in the present for most of the weekend and not let distractions such as pressure, nerves, severe wind gusts, cold temps in the third round, all the attention and frenzy that comes with leading The Masters, prevent him from winning the Green Jacket. And yes, four-putting the final hole showed he’s indeed human.
Scheffler was ahead by three shots going into the final round (and by a record-tying five shots through 36 holes), but a three-shot lead at The Masters can certainly dissipate quicker than a blink of an eye.
And Scheffler saw his lead shrink to one after Aussie Cameron Smith birdied right out of the gate on holes 1 and 2.
But true to form, Scheffler maintained composure and focus, and sunk a brilliant pitch shot on the par 4, third hole, from about 30 yards up a steep slope to the green. A birdie there and a bogie for Smith brought Scheffler’s lead back to three and Scheffler never looked back. Smith made birdie on the very difficult 11th hole, but on the par 3, 12th, his 9-iron found Rae’s Creek resulting in a triple-bogey. Smith admitted it was “just a terrible swing.”
Maintaining a sizable lead under the enormous pressure of the back nine during the Final Round of The Masters is no small feat. Golf historians can easily recall Greg Norman’s epic collapse in 1996, starting the Final Round with a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo. Norman had bogies on holes 9–11, his tee shot found Rae’s Creek on the 12th and he ended up shooting a 78 while Faldo carded a 67. And who can forget Rory McIlroy, ahead by four to start the Final Round in 2011, duck hooked his tee shot on 10, tripling there, followed by a bogey on 11, four-putt double on 12 and a splash into Rae’s Creek on 13. McIlroy ended up carding an 80 and finished in a tie for 15th. (Two months later, McIlroy bounced back like a champ and won the U.S. Open by eight shots.) And of course, Jordan Spieth, who won the Green Jacket in 2015, a year later, led by five shots with nine holes to play, but bogeyed 10, 11, and hit two balls into Rae’s Creek on the 12th for a quadruple-bogey, finishing 1-over-73, good enough for an agonizing second place finish behind Danny Willet.
Scheffler rose above the fear, the nerves, the overwhelming moments. And this is only the beginning for the 2022 Masters champion.
Ann Liguori is a trailblazer in sports broadcasting. You can hear her “Talking Golf” show on Sundays, 7–8 a.m., on WFAN-NY, her “Sports Innerview” show on Saturdays, 7–8 a.m. on WLIW 88.3 FM, and her weekly podcasts on SI Golf/Morning Read. For more information on Liguori, visit annliguori.com.