Scottie Scheffler’s U.S. Open dud raises an uncomfortable question

scottie scheffler points fore at the u.s. open in blue shirt and white hat
Scottie Scheffler’s U.S. Open finish was his worst in 602 days.

There was not a world in which Scottie Scheffler envisioned himself busy on Father’s Day morning.

Not that the Schefflers were being presumptuous on their first Father’s Day since welcoming a son, Bennett, into the world — but Scottie hasn’t had pre-noon plans on a Sunday in months. His existence in the hunt at golf tournaments is so consistent it has become routine. And with such a routine in mind, Meredith Scheffler planned the perfect Father’s Day surprise for U.S. Open Sunday: Breakfast.

“Meredith surprised me this morning with a New York Bagel,” Scheffler said Sunday with a chuckle. “Little man was screaming as I left the house, so maybe that was a good time for me to be leaving after all.”

We could forgive him for his lack of Sunday morning enthusiasm. He arose in Pinehurst on this Sunday three-quarters of the way through his worst professional start in close to two years, ending his recent string of dominance with a dud at golf’s toughest test. Scheffler was six over when he woke on Sunday, and was eight over by the time he strolled up the 18th hole around 2 p.m. local time.

In a stark illustration of how unusually bad it got for Scheffler, the World No. 1 arrived on the 18th green at Pinehurst No. 2 to almost no fanfare. The reason why? Scheffler’s usual Sunday afternoon tee time — the day’s final pairing — was going off on the first hole just feet to his right. When it was all done, the leaderboard placed Scheffler’s name T45, his worst finish at an event since the 2022 CJ Cup some 602 days ago.

It will be easy for Scheffler to forget this week in Pinehurst, as he all but admitted himself on Sunday afternoon. Outstanding concerns about the recent state of his play can be answered with any of the five trophies added to his mantel in the last six months. (“One tough event following a great event — I’m not going to look too much into it,” he said Sunday.)

But that doesn’t mean Scheffler will be quick to forget what caused his performance this week. The World No. 1 spoke about “fatigue” a handful of times at Pinehurst, indicating that he might not have been as prepared as he would have liked for the challenge at the U.S. Open. After his championship was done on Sunday, he expanded on what he meant by those comments — and raised an uncomfortable question about the state of the pro golf calendar in the process.

“I think last week — with the golf course the way it is — probably was not the best prep work for me coming into another really challenging event,” Scheffler said, referencing last week’s win at the Memorial Tournament. “I think maybe my prep would have been a little bit better for this week if I was at home, but I’m obviously not going to skip Jack’s tournament.”

Those paying close attention to the golf schedule know that Scheffler’s calendar has been noticeably loaded through the early part of the summer. He’s had five starts since his Masters victory in April, and four of them came in the month between the PGA Championship and U.S. Open.

Scheffler’s game has strengthened as the weeks have worn on, following up T8 and T2 finishes at the PGA and Charles Schwab with a dramatic victory at Nicklaus’ home tournament, the Memorial. But burnout comes for us all, particularly when, as in Scheffler’s case, you’re managing the physical maintenance of the golf swing with the emotional maintenance of becoming a new parent and the mental maintenance of moving past a stunning arrest. Add in a grueling week in contention at one of the toughest setups anywhere at Muirfield Village, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for a U.S. Open disappointment.

Is Pinehurst ‘borderline’? Scottie Scheffler had the perfect answer
“It’s a tournament that I’m humbled to be the champion at,” Scheffler said point-blank on Sunday. “But as far as prep for this week, it may not have been the best.”

But all of this raises a rather uncomfortable question for the powers that be in professional golf: Why?

Why is the golf calendar sculpted in a way to jam so many of the PGA Tour’s “signature” events in the weeks immediately preceding and following the major championships? And why isn’t more consideration being given to the fact that Scheffler could view his participation at of the Tour’s trademark events, the Memorial, as harming his U.S. Open preparation?

The golf calendar is a fickle beast, and the work of creating it each year for PGA Tour officials involves managing a shapeshifting mix of broadcast needs, course availabilities and sponsor interests — logistics that have only grown more complicated at the Tour has shifted to the Signature Events model. But as one of golf’s most marketable stars, Scheffler’s needs are just as important as any of the above. After all, the value of the Tour’s Signature Events model is tied inherently to the name value of the stars in the field … and at the trophy celebrations.

“I’d say more of its mental but I think there’s definitely a physical aspect to it,” Scheffler said of his fatigue on Sunday. “Today I made more of a conscious effort to make sure I got kind of my legs going in the swing. Maybe it’s something to work on in the offseason.”

Scheffler is just the latest golfer to ask hard questions about what that calendar means for his ability to peak during the biggest weeks of the season — particularly as he looks to combat his history of fading down the stretch of the golf season. Some of that can be attributed to legitimate struggles, like the putting woes that carried him through last summer, but maybe some of it can be attributed to plain old tiredness.

“I feel like I’ve played a lot of my best golf a bit early in the season,” he said Sunday. “So that’s maybe something to look at: whether you need to get more mental rest as the year goes on, or maybe you need to have better physical endurance. I’m not really sure which one it is.”

Scheffler would be the first to agree that golf is more fun when he’s in the mix late on Sunday. Unfortunately, that didn’t include late on Sunday at the 2024 U.S. Open. The good news is that leaves ample time for a Father’s Day celebration.

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