AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — There are plenty of perks that come from being the reigning Masters champion.
You have a year to don that cherished green jacket wherever you want. You can nab a tee time at Augusta National without any hassles. You get to select the menu for the champions dinner.
And getting to do it all over again?
Well, that’s a truly exclusive club.
Every year, the previous winner is sure to be reminded that only three players have ever won two straight Masters.
What a group it is.
Jack Nicklaus. Nick Faldo. Tiger Woods.
It was no different Tuesday for Scottie Scheffler, the latest player with a chance to join that illustrious trio.
The second question — and several others that followed — focused on what it would mean to go back to back.
“Any time you can get mentioned in the same breath as a Tiger and a Jack and a Nick Faldo is really special,” Scheffler said.
But, he was quick to add, “It’s not a motivating factor for me.”
Scheffler knows it’s tough enough to put together two straight shots that go where you want, so the odds of syncing up four stellar rounds at Augusta National — then four more a year later — are steep indeed.
That said, the 26-year-old Texan is the betting favorite — along with Rory McIlroy, according to FanDuel Sportsbook — as he sets his sights on another green jacket.
With good reason.
Scheffler is ranked No. 1 in the world. He’s already got a pair of victories this year. He’s finished inside the top 12 of his last nine events.
Not since Jordan Spieth in 2016 has a player arrived at the Masters with such heightened expectations of a repeat.
Doing his best to make it feel like any other week — or at least a week before he won the Masters — Scheffler came out early Sunday and got a round in with his sister, Callie, on his bag.
“I tried to get a little bit of the memories and stuff from last year out of the way as early as I could,” he said.
But those memories — and reminders — linger at every turn.
“It’s a bit different, when you see the list of guys when they get in the tournament and how they qualify,” Scheffler said, “and you see ‘Lifetime Exemption’ by your name I think is really cool. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to be coming back to this place for many years.”
Woods, who went back to back in 2001-02, was asked what it takes to accomplish such a rare feat.
Familiarity with the course, and all its idiosyncrasies, was at the top of his list.
“What has allowed some of us to defend the title is understanding how to play it,” Woods said. “Scottie knows how to play this golf course.”
It helps to have a guy like Ted Scott on the bag. He was the caddie for Bubba Watson during his two Masters victories, and he was at Scheffler’s side a year ago.
“I think the teamwork of player and caddie is so important here because there’s so many variables that go on,” Woods said. “The lies, the wind, the gusts, and knowledge of the golf course. There’s so many things that can happen, and talking through each and every shot. We just don’t go out there and say, ‘Yeah, you know, I have 152 yards, just go ahead and hit it.’”
A year ago, Scheffler took command with a second-round 67 that sent him to the weekend with a five-shot lead.
He wavered a bit on a windy Saturday, but bounced back for a 71 that kept his lead at three strokes. The final round was largely a victory lap as Scheffler wasn’t seriously threatened after the first couple of holes.
He won by three shots — a victory that actually was more comfortable than that because he took a double-bogey at the 18th.
Since then, Scheffler said his life hasn’t changed all that much.
He’s still got the same car, a 2012 Yukon X with about 190,000 miles on it. He still lives in the same house with his wife, Meredith.
“I bought a cold tub. That was a pretty big indulgence,” Scheffler said. “Still not running at home, but we bought it.”
He also likes to buy a high-end bottle of tequila after each win, but that’s about as extravagant as it gets.
“I’m sure eventually — maybe — I’ll get a new car,” Scheffler said. “I don’t know. I’m not huge on that kind of stuff.”
Come Sunday evening, he’d love to be in position to add to his tequila collection.
But if Scheffler needs a reminder that previous wins and world rankings don’t mean all that much. look no further than Spieth’s bid for a repeat in 2016. It looked like a lock when the world’s hottest player built a five-shot lead with nine holes to play.
Then, inexplicably, Spieth turned in a collapse for the ages. After two straight bogeys, he dunked two balls in the water at the 12th and took a quadruple-bogey that handed the lead — and the green jacket that should’ve been his — to Danny Willett. Spieth finished three shots back.
Instead of a repeat, it’s seven years on, and he’s still at one green jacket.
Which brings us back to Scheffler, who calls the No. 1 ranking nothing more than “a math algorithm.”
He did concede that “No. 1 is better than being No. 2 in the algorithm,” and he certainly knows it puts the focus squarely on his bid for consecutive titles.
No sooner had he grabbed a chair for his pre-Masters news conference than the moderator, Augusta National member Ron Townsend, reminded him of the significance.
“You know, last year at this time, you were sitting in that same chair, wearing a green jacket for the first time. Do you remember that?” Townsend asked.
“I do recall,” Scheffler said, breaking into a big smile.
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