Tiger Woods comparisons ‘inevitable’ for Scottie Scheffler after Players Championship win

Scottie Scheffler gave a knowing smile when an inevitable comparison with Tiger Woods was made in the immediate aftermath of his historic Players Championship victory at Sawgrass.

Such is the current dominance enjoyed by the man who became the first to defend the PGA Tour’s flagship title, some are starting to equate him with the 15-times major champion.

Scheffler’s mind went back to Woods’ tournament, the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, last month. “I think that’s a funny question,” he smiled.

“I’m not going to remember the exact numbers, but we were playing at ‘Riv’ this year, and I hit my tee ball and this guy yells out, ‘Congrats on being number one Scottie. Eleven more years to go. Eleven more years to go’.”

And, of course, the fan was right. Scheffler is miles away from coming close to the longevity of dominance achieved by Woods in his pomp. But right here, right now, there is an argument to mention the two players in the same breath.

“Any time you can be compared to Tiger is really special, but, I mean, the guy stands alone in our game. He really does,” Scheffler added.

“This is my eighth tournament win now out here, I’ve tied him in Players Championships. Outside of that, I got 14 more majors and 70-some PGA Tour events to catch up.

“So I think I’m going to stick to my routine and just continue to plot along, try and stay as even-keeled as I can.”

That said, we cannot disregard the level of play that Scheffler is achieving at the moment.

Sunday’s win was his second big title in as many weeks in Florida. The last man to do that double in the Sunshine State was Woods in 2001.

And Scheffler did it in style with an imperious bogey-free final round of 64 to fend off two reigning major champions in Brian Harman and Wyndham Clark.

The Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele also tied for second a single shot behind. It was a welcome star-studded leaderboard aand just what the beleaguered PGA Tour needed at its flagship championship to showcase its best talent.

For Scheffler it was the narrowest of wins, but it was champion stuff that was in keeping with the way the tall American dominates so many aspects of the game.

This season he tops the PGA Tour charts in scoring average, birdie average, strokes gained, greens in regulation and approach shots to the putting surfaces.

He does not need to putt the lights out to win. When he does – as he did at Bay Hill the week prior – he wins big. Five shots was the margin of victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

At Sawgrass he was 37th in strokes gained on the greens, which was decent. Indeed, his work with English coach Phil Kenyon and the switch to a mallet-style putter is paying off nicely.

But the rest of his game is what sets him apart. Last week he was number one in strokes gained off the tee, tee to green and in driving accuracy. He has the ball on a rope with such reliable and powerful ball striking.

Statistically he was top 10 around the green and from bunkers – not that he has to rely very often on those departments. And for greens in regulation he tied third in the putting stats.

It is a formidable armoury that is allied to an exemplary mental approach. A painful and niggling neck problem that emerged in the second round of the Players only served to increase his determination to become the first to defend the title.

“That’s probably why I kept playing,” he said of the moment he received treatment five holes into his round on Friday. He still felt he could win and he did not want to spurn the opportunity.

Nevertheless, he needed to make up five shots in the final round, a feat only previously achieved twice at Sawgrass – by Justin Leonard and Henrik Stenson – in Players history.

This is where his unflappable temperament came to the fore. Scheffler is blessed with a real sense of perspective allied to a fierce competitive spirit.

He does not get carried away, which is why his rivals should continue to fear him as the golf year heads towards major season starting with the Masters in April.

“I try not to place too much emphasis on results, good or bad,” he said, refusing to look further than his next PGA Tour stop in Texas later this month.

“I think you can take some positives in the momentum, but I’m going to go home, get some rest and continue my prep work for Houston.”

This is someone who used to wear the same brand of clothing as Woods out of fandom. He has long since been paid handsomely to do that.

And he is starting to match the 82-times PGA Tour winner in the way he sits at the top of the world rankings.

Admittedly they are somewhat compromised by the absence of points being awarded to LIV events, but the gap between Scheffler and number two Rory McIlroy (4.4 points average) is greater than the margin between the Northern Irishman and Collin Morikawa, who is 18th in the standings.

It is a commanding position. Then again, Woods’ lead over Phil Mickelson was once greater than between the world number two and anyone else in the standings.

So let us not get too carried away. As Scheffler said: “Yeah, we all idolise Tiger. He’s been our guy. Watching what he did in special moments over the years is crazy to watch.”

What we can say, though, is that Scheffler’s Sawgrass exploits over the past two editions, and his current overall statistics, are also of the rarest quality.

SOURCE: BBC Sport   (go to source)
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