Scottie Scheffler had a phenomenal year, but a balky putter prevented it from being historically great.
The World Number One’s ball-striking this past season on Tour was at a level that hasn’t been seen since Tiger Woods’ prime. Scheffler gained 2.6 strokes on the field in that particular statistic, which was the second-best in the ShotLink era (since 2004), since Woods’ 2.9 in ’06. Not to mention, Scheffler led the Tour this year in strokes gained: off the tee, approach, tee to green and total.
The key difference between Woods’ year and Scheffler’s is the results. In ’06, Woods won eight times, however, Scheffler only won twice this year and hasn’t emerged victorious since The Players Championship in March. That can likely be attributed to his putter, as he ranked 151st in strokes gained: putting out of 184 players.
At the Open Championship, Scheffler said his flatstick struggles was a narrative created by the media. But less than 24 hours after the season-ending Tour Championship, where Scheffler finished T-6, the Texan knew he needed to seek help for his woes on the putting surface.
So he called putting guru Phil Kenyon.
“I’ve watched Phil for a while,” Scheffler said Wednesday ahead of the Ryder Cup. “I’ve never really had an instructor teach me anything really other than (swing coach) Randy [Smith]. It was something I was thinking about kind of towards the end of the year, and Phil was a guy that I had watched, and he teaches a lot of really good putters, and he didn’t seem like a method guy. So he was the first phone call that I wanted to make.”
A few days later, Kenyon met Scheffler in Dallas – and they immediately diagnosed the issue.
“I had a feeling what I was doing wrong,” Scheffler said. “It was something that – my suspensions were kind of answered. It was just trying to fix it in the complete wrong way. To get into the details of it would take a little bit of time, but it’s really very simple.
“The way I moved the putter through the ball, I was kind of fighting the toe rising on the putter as I went through, and so sometimes I’d miss contact a little bit in the heel. In order for me to try to keep my putter head low, the way I would do it is I feel everything in my hands, and what I would do is I would lower my hands. But when I lowered my hands, it actually caused the toe of the putter to go higher and higher. So as the year went on, my hands are getting lower and lower, and the problem is getting worse and worse.
Kenyon, an Englishman, has helped many European players, including Tommy Fleetwood. Scheffler joked that Kenyon’s not going to be welcomed back to his home club after the Ryder Cup – especially if the U.S. wins. And Scheffler already feels he’s turning a corner with his putting, which could be vital in the Americans notching the victory.
“I see the ball rolling end over end a lot more than I did a month ago, and it’s exciting,” Scheffler said. “It’s good for me to have a little bit of direction. I think the second set of eyes with Phil was really, really helpful.
“I feel the benefits already. I’m more comfortable over the ball. Like I said, I have more direction in what I want to do. I feel like at times this year I would try one thing and a few weeks later I’d try another.
“Like even something as simple as lining up the ball, sometimes I would do it and sometimes I wouldn’t, and I wasn’t using the line in the right way. Phil kind of gave me a different perspective on using the line that’s been really helpful.
“It’s just little things like that. I haven’t felt like I’ve made a huge change. I just kind of got my mind right. I feel like we made little changes to where I’m more comfortable over the ball and now I don’t have to think about my stroke. That’s pretty much all it is.”
However, putting help wasn’t the only thing Scheffler needed after last season. The 25-year-old desperately yearned for some downtime, admitting, “I was really worn down at the end of the year. So if this tournament was three weeks ago, I would have felt definitely a lot more tired.”
But now, he’s refreshed – and so is his putting stroke. That could be a lethal tandem in Scheffler helping lead the U.S. Team to its first win on foreign soil in 30 years, after posting a 2-0-1 record as a rookie in the Americans’ 19-9 win in 2021.
“I’m excited, excited to go out there and compete,” he said. “Ryder Cups only happen every two years, and I’m just glad to be a part of this team, and we’re excited to play an away game.”
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