Augusta’s surprises: an unexpected leader, the winning caddy and a clumsy Tiger

The concentration of Scottie Scheffler who amazed with his numbers until Friday.  Now comes the biggest challenge: staying still.  REUTERS / Mike Segar
The concentration of Scottie Scheffler who amazed with his numbers until Friday. Now comes the biggest challenge: staying still. REUTERS / Mike Segar

This game called golf is very rare. More than rare, it is inexplicable.

Scottie Scheffler was a great junior player, received a scholarship from the University of Texas, turned pro in 2018, played on the second professional circuit in the United States, and reached the PGA Tour in the 19/20 season. He performed well. but he failed to win despite having had the opportunity on several occasions.

Last year was one of Steve Stricker’s picks to round out the American Ryder Cup squad, which surprised many as other names with more scrolls were left out. He did a great performance there, defeating Jon Rahm on a single on Sunday, but the tour win continued to be denied him. A few weeks ago everything changed.

In February he took his first win by winning the Phoenix Open in a tiebreaker, two weeks later he won again at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and at the end of March he won Match Play.

From failing to win to doing it three times in 7 weeks. You may be wondering what changed this player for achieving this streak of triumphsWell, well, that’s the same question we all ask ourselves because nothing has changed in his game. The only change happened a year ago when changed caddy Y Ted Scott came by to bring him the clubs. Scott is one of the best caddies on tour, he was in Bubba Watson’s bag when he won his two Masters and there’s no doubt he had a lot to do with Scheffler’s breakthrough.

Scheffler's game has changed since he hired an experienced caddy.  While it sounds incredible, since Ted Scott loads the bag with his clubs, everything has gotten better.  REUTERS / Mike Blake
Scheffler’s game has changed since he hired an experienced caddy. While it sounds incredible, since Ted Scott loads the bag with his clubs, everything has gotten better. REUTERS / Mike Blake

After those three victories Scheffler leaps to the top of the world rankings and enters the Masters as one of the names to keep an eye on, but certainly not the undisputed favorite.. He passed half of the Masters and Scheffler with rounds of 69 and 67 is 5 ahead, equaling the biggest difference in Masters history after 36 holes. This 25-year-old, born in New Jersey, is having those times when everything is fine. Where good shots are rewarded, where bad shots don’t cost you and where the putter works perfectly. The best example of this occurred in the last hole on Friday when, after deflecting his tee shot into the trees on the right, he was lucky enough to find himself with an alley in the pines overlooking the green. He took a perfect shot from there and almost got the bird. When all goes well these things happen, when all goes wrong that same tee shot gets stuck on a log and there is no escape.

The day started with a clear sky, but from the beginning the wind started to blow and the temperature never exceeded 18 degrees. Playing Augusta in the wind is particularly difficult, as it swirls among the towering pines and constantly confuses players. The best example is still the 12th hole, the 155-yard short par 3 that has been a death trap for leaders in championship history. In these conditions, the other who stood out besides the leader was Justin Thomas, who yesterday had played very badly and was eliminated with the best lap of the day (67) to get back into the fight for the title.

Among Scheffler’s shooting guards are two former champions in Augusta. South African Charl Schwartzel who won in 2011 and reigning champion Hideki Matsuyama. The first was missing in the foreground and no one took it into account before starting. He spent hours practicing on the green on Wednesday and seems to have found something. On the Japanese side it would seem that the pain in the neck that started him last week in San Antonio has disappeared. Only 3 players in history have managed to successfully defend the title (Nicklasu, Faldo and Tiger) and Matsuyama will try to bring another joy to his country, where golf is a passion.

Tiger Woods greets Chilean Joaquín Niemann, the best in the history of his country.  The American does not appear to be in the best shape of him after the return, but a final rebound is never to be ruled out. REUTERS / Brian Snyder
Tiger Woods greets Chilean Joaquín Niemann, the best in the history of his country. The American does not appear to be in the best shape of him after the return, but a final rebound is never to be ruled out. REUTERS / Brian Snyder

On top of all this, again all eyes were on Tiger Woods. On Friday morning it became known that one of his fellow players, Louis Oosthuizen, had announced his retirement from the Masters due to back problems. Woods would play Niemann alone, which is never a good thing because with groups of three players in front of them they would have to wait a long time on each shot. Tiger’s arrival on the 1st tee did not give good signals. His face showed a lot of discomfort, pain in some parts of his body and he had to do several stretching movements before striking. The start confirmed it and Tiger opened with 4 bogeys in the first 5 holes, failing many shots, but as usual he fought to the end, apart from a round of 74 strokes, two over par, he will play the weekend and if The leader is wrong, he is only 4 shots from whoever runs second. He has passed the qualifying cut which was the first goal, but I have the impression that his chances of winning are slim because his game doesn’t seem ready to go on a rampage this weekendbut as I always say, I have already learned not to bet against these phenomena.

This Saturday it is defined who will fight for the title on Sunday and who will not. That is why it is so important not to lose track of the leader for the final round. Scottie Scheffler will start walking unknown roads from the moment he reaches hole 1. It is one thing to be the leader of a regular tournament and quite another to be the leader of the Masters. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s never easy to play with a big edge and there is plenty of evidence for this. In 1996 the Australian Greg Norman, N1 del. World in those days, he had a difference of 6 on the last day and ended up losing 5 hits to that Masters.

6 years ago Jordan Spieth was 5 forward with 9 holes to play and not even he could. Scheffler has 5 and there are still two rounds to go. This is a place where very strange things happen to leaders, especially in the second 9 holes of the course.

A sunny, very cold and windy day is expected. All the toppings for a very fun third round in Augusta.

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