TULSA: Top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler enters next week’s PGA Championship on a run major rivals are calling “dangerous” and “borderline Tigeresque” even as the 25-year-old American downplays his feats.
The year’s second major tournament tees off Thursday at Southern Hills with Scheffler trying to become the first man to get halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam since fellow Texan Jordan Spieth in 2015.
“It’s nice to be on a good run,” said Scheffler. “I really just try to stay in the moment. Goals, expectations, nothing like that changes for me. I just like being out here playing golf.”
Scheffler began an astonishing two-month run by winning his first US PGA title in February at the Phoenix Open, then captured his second in March at Bay Hill in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
After a disappointing share of 55th at The Players Championship, Scheffler won the WGC Match Play Championship and followed that with his first major title, taking the green jacket and the top ranking with his victory at Augusta National.
“He’s setting the bar pretty high right now and obviously he’s the guy to chase for all of us,” said US PGA Tour veteran Will Zalatoris. “What he’s doing is borderline Tigeresque. It’s pretty cool to see.”
Tiger Woods, the 15-time major winner who returned last month at the Masters from severe leg injuries in a February 2021 car crash, will play at Southern Hills, where he won the 2007 PGA Championship. He tested his stamina for walking the course in a practice round last month.
But Phil Mickelson, who last year won the PGA at age 50 to become the oldest major winner in golf history, will not defend his crown, the PGA of America announced Friday.
The US left-hander has not played since his controversial comments in support of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series were revealed in February. He apologized for the remarks and said he needed a break from golf. He has missed two majors in a year for the first time since 1993.
Mickelson was sure to face questions about his future on the US PGA Tour, which refused to grant members releases to compete in the LIV Golf opener next month in London.
Scheffler played a practice round earlier this month at Southern Hills.
“It’s a really good test,” Scheffler said. “It looked pretty similar to what it did before. A lot of sight lines off the tee were still very familiar to me.
“Definitely cleared out a lot of trees, but other than that most of the green complexes are pretty similar.”
Spieth was the most recent winner of the first two majors in a season at the 2015 Masters and US Open. Before that it was Woods in 2002 with the same combination.
A schedule change has the PGA after the Masters now, a double only three players have managed — Sam Snead in 1949, Jack Burke Jr. in 1956 and Jack Nicklaus in 1963 and 1975.
Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele warns that Scheffler could join his fellow Americans.
“He’s very playful, practices really hard. You’re always going to see Scottie out there chipping or putting pretty late in the day,” Schauffele said.
“I’m not surprised he has been winning so much and playing great. I imagine him being very comfortable, which is a dangerous place for the world number one.”
Spieth eyes career Slam
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, whose late Masters charge left him second to Scheffler, threatens for a third PGA crown.
“I got a lot of confidence from that round on Sunday. It’s something to definitely build on,” McIlroy said.
“Everything feels pretty solid. I feel like the game’s in good shape. It’s a nice time to reboot and get ready for the summer run.”
Spieth, a three-time major champion who won last month’s PGA Heritage, would complete a career Grand Slam by taking his first major since the 2017 British Open.
“It’s going to be a really firm and fast PGA and I think it’s going to be one of the higher scoring PGAs we’ve seen,” Spieth said.
Justin Thomas, the 2017 PGA winner, says Southern Hills will test all facets.
“It’s difficult to get the ball around the hole,” he said. “The person that does that the best is going to have the best chance of winning.”