Golf-Scheffler keeps eyes on the prize, not Masters leaderboard

By Thomson Reuters Apr 11, 2024 | 8:14 PM

By Frank Pingue

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – For someone who admittedly was not thinking about his score, world number one and tournament favorite Scottie Scheffler went out in difficult conditions and posted one of the best first rounds at the Masters on Thursday.

With tricky winds swirling around an already-challenging layout, Scheffler used a late surge to put the finishing touches on a six-under-par 66 that left him one shot back of overnight leader Bryson DeChambeau.

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about my score out there. I mean, it’s the first day of the tournament,” said Scheffler, who had four birdies during a late five-hole stretch.

“I was just trying to hit good shots and stay patient out there. You cannot force yourself into making birdies around this golf course. It just doesn’t really lend itself to that, especially with the high winds.”

Scheffler was playing nine groups behind DeChambeau and was well aware the fellow American had charged up the leaderboard with his lowest score in 25 career rounds at the Masters.

But Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion who came into the year’s first major as the hottest player on the planet, was far from intimidated by the task at hand.

“I mean, I saw that he shot seven under, and I thought to myself, wow, that’s a really good round of golf, and I kind of put my head down and focused on what I was doing,” said Scheffler, who responded with his first bogey-free trip around Augusta National and lowest score in 17 rounds at the Masters.

Opening round action at the Masters was delayed by 2-1/2 hours due to stormy weather, and while the rain softened the greens, wind gusts made for challenging conditions that got the better of many.

But Scheffler felt the conditions opened the door to an opportunity given he takes pleasure in challenging environments.

“The majors are always very difficult challenges. It excites me. I like playing against the best players,” said Scheffler, who has six top-10 finishes worldwide in 2024, including wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship.

“And these tournaments I think excite me a little bit, and I try to use that energy for some enhanced focus. And, yeah, I think those are fun weeks to be out here playing.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Tom Hogue)