Scottie Scheffler watches his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the PGA Championship in August. Scheffler, a fourth-place finisher at the PGA, seeks his first tour win this weekend at the Sanderson Farms Championship. [Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press]

Golf

COVID-19-free Scottie Scheffler searching for first PGA tour win

Posted September 30th, 2020

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JACKSON, Miss. – Watching the U.S. Open on television gave Scottie Scheffler, well, a sick feeling. The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year withdrew from the national championship after testing positive for coronavirus on the Sunday before Bryson DeChambeau bludgeoned the field by six strokes.

“Not a break I necessarily wanted, but I felt all right, so it’s good to be back out here feeling healthy again,” Scheffler said ahead of the Sanderson Farms Championship.

With a clean bill of health, Scheffler, who was asymptomatic, is set to launch his 2020-21 PGA Tour season this week as the second highest-ranked player in the field (World No. 30, and behind only Sung-Jae Im). The former Texas star was the first player on the PGA Tour to test positive after a run of six weeks without a positive case. Scheffler failed a required in-home test in Dallas before traveling to New York for the championship at Winged Foot.

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“I felt all right, and only one person I knew was also infected, and so we kept our circle pretty small, and it paid off for us,” he said. “It definitely stunk sitting at home all week watching the U.S. Open, especially the way I was playing leading into it. I felt like I had a good chance of winning. It stunk, but it’s the world we live in. I felt OK, so very blessed to have felt good through all of it and came out on the other side recovered, so all good.”

Scheffler would have entered the U.S. Open as a dark-horse contender – he was being given odds of 40-to-1 – considering his run of good form. He threatened at the PGA Championship, eventually finishing tied for fourth, and followed it up with an impressive performance in the three FedEx Cup Playoff events: tied for fourth at the Northern Trust, tied for second at the BMW Championship and had the second-lowest 72-hole aggregate score at the Tour Championship. What was it like missing a major he thought he could win?

“It kind of bummed me out watching everybody on TV,” he said.

Scheffler’s roller coaster of highs and lows also included writing his name into the record books for shooting 59 in the second round of The Northern Trust, the FedEx Cup playoff opener. All told, Scheffler posted seven top-10 finishes last season while banking more than $5 million – $2,833,448 in official earnings and a FedEx Cup bonus of $2.5 million. Not too shabby for a Texas grad who missed the deadline to register for the 2018 Mackenzie Tour Q-School by 10 minutes. Scheffler’s consistency last season was rewarded with being named the Tour’s rookie of the year. Scheffler was quarantined at home when he was informed of the honor.

“If you had told me that was going to be my results going in, I would have been pleased,” he said of his rookie campaign. “I would have liked to have had a win last year, but I feel like that’s coming on the horizon, and my game feels like it’s in a good spot for sure.”

Rookie of the Year followed up being named Player of the Year the previous season on the Korn Ferry Tour. All that’s missing for Scheffler is that elusive first victory. Scheffler is competing at the Sanderson Farms Championship for the third time, and has finished tied for 45th and tied for 19th the past two years at a Country Club of Jackson course he called “a hidden gem on Tour,” and where a first-time champion has been crowned in all six times the tournament has been held here.

“I feel my game is still in a good spot,” he said. “I think there’s still a few areas that are a little rusty just from having not played tournament golf in the last three weeks. A little different feeling coming into this week. I’m not as in rhythm as I usually am, but hopefully I’ll pick back up soon.”

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