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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Analysis: Scottie Scheffler comparisons with Tiger Woods is a tribute to both

    Scottie Scheffler holds the trophy after winning the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Sunday, April 14, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

    Augusta, Ga. — Just think if Scottie Scheffler had not misread that 5-foot birdie putt that kept him out of a playoff at the Houston Open.

    Imagine him slipping his arms into that size 44 long Masters green jacket as a winner of his last four tournaments. The comparisons with Tiger Woods might be greater.

    Even now, some restraint is required.

    For starters, no one brought up the possibility of a Grand Slam in Scheffler's news conference Sunday evening at Augusta National. It was like that for Woods, and Jack Nicklaus before him, whenever they won the Masters (at least when they were in their 20s and 30s).

    The BetMGM Sportsbook already has Scheffler listed at +450 for the PGA Championship, with Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy next at +1200. Scheffler has the same odds for the U.S. Open, slightly higher (+600) for the British Open at Royal Troon. That's not unusual for a guy who has been No. 1 in the world for the last 11 months.

    But as great as Scheffler has been playing, he still has much to prove.

    Consider this — the previous two Masters champions, Rahm in 2023 and Scheffler in 2022, didn't win again the rest of the year after they won the Masters.

    Scheffler has 10 victories worldwide, all but one of them coming in February, March and April. The exception is the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas last December, which is easy to overlook because of the 20-man field. It gets world ranking points but doesn't count as official on any tour in the world.

    The comparisons with Woods stem from various metrics.

    The Official World Golf Ranking formula has changed over the years, but it's safe to say the gap between Scheffler and the rest of golf is the greatest since Woods in his prime. The average points gap between Scheffler and McIlroy at No. 2 is the roughly the same as McIlroy and Rasmus Hojgaard at No. 83.

    Scheffler has not had a round over par since Aug. 26, the third round of the Tour Championship. Each tournament brings him closer to the astounding mark of Woods' 52 consecutive rounds at par or better from May 2000 to the end of January 2001. That streak included three majors and nine victories.

    But mostly it's the control from tee to green. Their swings look nothing alike, only the outcome of the shots. As much as Woods was renowned for his power and his putting, his iron play was unmatched. That's where Scheffler rises above the field.

    And so it's easy to put them in the same conversation. Scheffler joined Woods as the only players to win The Players Championship and the Masters in the same year. Only three players younger than Scheffler (27) have won two Masters — Woods, Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros.

    Is he the next Woods? That would be miles off, and that only applies to the golf.

    The Masters was Scheffler's 109th start since he began his rookie season on the PGA Tour. His nine victories include two Masters and The Players Championship back to back. The other five wins were against some of the strongest fields.

    Through 109 starts from when Woods turned pro, he won 31 times, including seven majors and the career Grand Slam.

    For now, it's not a fair fight.

    And there's little chance Scheffler or anyone can match the worldwide appeal of Woods, a dynamic player and personality who brought a new audience to the sport and was personally responsible for a spike in TV ratings and prize money. He made everyone rich.

    What Scheffler brings to golf is a dominant player that has been missing because of the depth of talent and defections to the Saudi riches of LIV Golf.

    Dominance is measured by wins, by majors, by the world ranking and by the questions posed to other players. During the early stages of Tigermania, no player could get out of an interview without being asked about Woods.

    And so it was Tuesday morning for British Open champion Brian Harman. One reporter said that from the outside looking in, it felt as though the gap between Scheffler and everyone else had widened.

    “Feels that way from the inside looking out, too,” Harman replied.

    “And I'm sure the guys felt the same way when Tiger was winning every tournament he set foot on," he said. "It feels like right now that if Scottie shows up with anything above a ‘B’ game, he's probably going to be right there."

    Scheffler made it look easy on the tough course of Bay Hill when he won by five. And then he rallied from five shots behind at The Players — with a neck so sore he contemplating withdrawing in the second round — and won with a closing a 64, the lowest final round at the TPC Sawgrass by the winner.

    And with all the expectations on him, and the best odds since — you guessed it, Woods — he pulled away with seven birdies in the final round at the Masters to win by four.

    Since the world ranking began in 1986, only four players were No. 1 in the world and won the Masters — Ian Woosnam and Fred Couples, Woods and Scheffler. The latter two are the only players to have done it twice.

    Scheffler and Woods, once again mentioned in the same context.

    Scheffler has earned that. It doesn't make him equal to Woods, not even close. But simply being mentioned in the same conversation is a tribute to both of them.

    Tiger Woods hits from the bunker on the 15th hole during final round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Sunday, April 14, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

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