Masters 2024: Scottie Scheffler’s win at Augusta and Ludvig Aberg’s runner-up to be cherished

Home » Masters 2024: Scottie Scheffler’s win at Augusta and Ludvig Aberg’s runner-up to be cherished

Assessing Scottie Scheffler’s imperious Masters success, it was worth recalling the season of 2009 when Tiger Woods seemed destined to sweep all before him at the majors, only to emerge empty handed from all four of the biggest tournaments.

Back then Woods was an undisputed world number one. Before the Masters he won at Bay Hill, before the US Open he triumphed at Memorial, he added the AT&T National title in the build up to The Open and won at Firestone before the US PGA Championship.

Each time he arrived at that year’s majors he came in as red-hot favourite but faltered – he even missed the cut at the Turnberry Open. In the build up that week, I remember being asked on air whether we should bet on the field or Tiger?

I chose Woods and soon after earned admonishment from former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher – then the most seasoned voice on our BBC 5Live commentary team – for my naivety.

“Always take the field in golf, if you’re given the choice,” he advised.

This sport, like few others, is so incredibly unpredictable. The influence of the weather, the time of day, the variables of topography and talent conspire to confound all too regularly. We should view Scheffler’s latest achievement in this context.

To win any tournament you have to beat a large number of opponents. In this case it was 88 rivals to land the title at the 88th Masters. At the remaining majors the will be trying to beat 155 others each time.

To win a tennis grand slam – and this does not diminish such a feat – a champion must win seven matches. More often than not the better player prevails, which is why it is easier to predict who will be there at the sharp end of a grand slam.

Last week at Augusta, Scottie Scheffler confirmed himself as the best golfer on the planet, adding a second Green Jacket to his victories already this year at Bay Hill and the Players Championship. In fact, he has only been beaten by one player since March, when he finished runner-up at the Houston Open.

Those March wins, coming on the toughest setup on the PGA Tour in Orlando and then against the US circuit’s strongest field at Sawgrass, stoked Augusta expectation.

So at the Masters, where Woods’ 2005 triumph was the most recent success for the man carrying the shortest odds at the start of the week, Scheffler defied the burden of expectation to produce one of the great Augusta National performances.

It was a vintage tournament, won by a golfer, on current form, who seems of a very rare vintage himself.

Scheffler, with his notably distinctive footwork, powered drive after drive with length and accuracy and proved ruthless in slamming the door shut on the final day.

But only after wee wobbles had left it ajar to those vying for glory. Oddly, his trademark greens in regulation stats were outside the top 20 despite leading by one going into the final round.

I remember late in the day on the windswept Friday standing behind the 14th green as he conjured the deftest of chips to get up and down from another missed green. “Man, you are so damned good at golf,” yelled a patron as Scheffler’s ball improbably nestled next to the cup.

So damned right.

Scheffler did this sort of thing time and again to set the platform for his win. And then, when the time came, he rammed his foot on the gas to power out of sight.

Scheffler’s Sunday approach to the treacherous ninth green for birdie was inch perfect, so too the delightful wedge to the 14th that effectively sealed the title. In between he birdied 10 and negotiated Amen Corner without disaster, just as you are supposed to do.

“It’s not just the fact that he won it, it is the way that he won it,” 5 Live summariser Trish Johnson told me. “He gave everybody a chance and each of them tried but every time he was tested he came up trumps.

“There’s something very special about Scottie Scheffler and I’m not sure I realised how special before this week.”

Johnson, the reigning US Seniors Open champion and veteran of eight Solheim Cups, is a hugely respected observer of the game. She points to Scheffler’s faith and sense of perspective as factors that set him apart.

“He is so cool and the fact is, he doesn’t think golf is the most important thing in his life,” Johnson observed.

“Technically he is unusual. And if you watch his swing without slowing it down you wonder how he has hit so many shots with that swing.

“But when you slow it down and see that impact position his right foot position is kind of irrelevant to what happens in the rest of the swing. Technically he is therefore very sound even though it looks a bit bizarre in full motion.

“But I think his major plus is his mind. As he says, golf is not the most important thing. Of course it is massively important but he plays as if it is not.

“The last day of the Masters was something quite special because he was in a bit of trouble and then he went into another gear. You get some players that the others just see and think oh no I can’t beat him, like Tiger in his prime.”

Johnson believes Scheffler has now built such a formidable reputation, his name appearing on future leaderboards will strike fear among rivals.

“They know he doesn’t back off ,” said the 58-year-old Englishwoman. “And then you get that aura about someone and you see their name at the top of the leaderboard and you think, ah, here we go again.”

Scheffler deserves all the plaudits flying his direction. Traditionally this has been his time of year and it will be interesting to see whether he continues this dominance at the year’s remaining three majors, especially with impending fatherhood.

Regardless, this was a Masters to relish and remember. And not just for the champion.

We do not always recall who came second, but rather like Seve Ballesteros’ runner up finish at the 1976 Open to Johnny Miller, we will not forget Ludvig Aberg’s challenge last Sunday.

Who knows what might have been had he not gone into the water at the 11th? Maybe the 24-year-old might have made life a lot more uncomfortable for the champion down the stretch.

Regardless, he is by a distance, Europe’s most exciting young talent. “I think he is very special,” Johnson commented. “There is something about him.

“He is charismatic, plays quickly; he’s unusual, he’s smiley and he’s the type of player you want to root for.

“When I watch golf I want someone to entertain me and he’s got absolutely everything. If he carries on this trajectory, he’s going to be a superstar.”

In Scheffler, the game already has one. Even in a sport as unpredictable as the game of golf, he is undoubtedly the man to beat at the moment.

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