The Master of the Masters

Followers of all sports appreciate dominance.

The reason they do is that they know they are watching the high standard being set for others to topple, and relish seeing great performances above and beyond the norm.

We saw it at the Masters this past week when Scottie Scheffler emerged as golf’s dominant figure with a brilliant, unbreakable showing, to capture his second Masters in three years and continue his amazing run as the sports’ #1 ranked performer for 80 weeks and still going.

In the season’s first major, where only eight players finished under-par, Scheffler trailed by one shot after the opening round and took charge the rest of the way. He has not been over-par in what seems like forever, and refused to crack ever so slightly in the final round where his challengers ultimately fell apart.

Scheffler is the best out there since Tiger Woods.

It’s a tremendous boost for the sport which has been seeking someone for all the others to be measured against.

Now there is someone.

And this year, the Masters was no walk in the park, not that it ever is.

Gusting winds up to 40mph drove the participants crazy in the first two rounds.

Even defending champion Jon Rahm couldn’t hold back when he declared that the competition should have been halted due to the conditions.

Rahm finished tied for 45th, nine shots off the lead.

That was still better than the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Victor Hovland, and Justin Thomas, who failed to make the cut to the final weekend.

None of those mentioned were under par after any round.

Neither was Tiger Woods who made the cut for a record 24th time, but had his worst showing ever in the Masters, and finished 60th and last, 16 over-par.

It was difficult watching Tiger walk the course, knowing he was in constant pain from his injuries and surgeries.

The fact that he completed the four grueling rounds should be applauded, but the big question now is, where does he go from here?

Rory McIlroy did manage to score under par for two of the four rounds but for all his ability and predictions of success, he was never a factor and wound up tied for 22d at four over.

As golfing fans are aware, the the confusing relationship between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Tour is still affecting the golfing world.

Those who took the huge money gains the LIV offered still cannot play in the weekly PGA Tour schedule, but they are permitted to compete in the four major championships.

The two tours have merged but nobody knows quite what that means.

What is apparent to me, is that the sport’s headliners who left the PGA and jumped to the new Tour, such as Brooks Koepka, who, like Rahm placed tied for 45th, Johnson, and the others, may not be battle-tested enough to face the challenges of Augusta and the other major championship courses.

That wasn’t the case for one of those who ran, Bryson DeChambeau, who played well, taking the first round lead and hanging in until the last day when he slipped to two-under and a tie for 6th, his best showing in awhile.

The problem with LIV golf is that they play 54-hole tournaments, on country club golf courses, in team play competition, rarely with the intense atmosphere that’s necessary on the regular Tour and, of course, the majors.

I don’t know any golf follower who watches the LIV matches, wherever they are shown on television.

It is a Tour without an identity featuring a handful of prominent names who are cashing in big-time.

I felt the effect in viewing the Masters, and as I noted the names of those chasing Scheffler on the final day, something was off in this great sport.

Thank goodness for Scottie Scheffler, who was so much a giant in the fabulous setting in Augusta, that the behind-the-scenes story that is hurting professional golf was hardly noticed.

On the final Sunday, the champion rose to the occasion countless times.

His remarkable string started on the 8th when his third shot from 103 yards went beyond the pin before rolling down and nearly into the cup.

That birdie was the first of six until the  17th hole.

Looking back, that shot on 8 was the turning point on the final day.

It hasn’t been a piece of cake for Scheffler. Adversity is always a part of a golfer’s life, and for the 27-year old from New Jersey, it is no different.

Despite his lengthy and lofty status, Scheffler has had his slumps. In his case, a long one. He went nearly a year from last March to this March without a victory. His difficulty was the putter.

He did everything extremely well, but his putter let him down.

It didn’t stop him from contending, but it prevented him from winning.

He worked at it, and he solved his one problem.

He wasn’t impeccable on the green, but good enough to declare his game as complete.

In golf, it is one thing about a player’s skill and success on the course.

But there is also the man, his character, demeanor, and how he conducts himself in full view of the world against the trials that invariably come up.

Scottie Scheffler is man of Faith, and not reluctant to talk about it.

It is the cornerstone of how he handles himself in competition, not to mention his life. He will soon become a father for the first time.

The steady, unwavering manner in which he goes about his profession is noticeable and heartening.

The 2024 Masters winner is a champion in more ways than one.