AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler has never been here before. Never gone to any course with the lead on Sunday in a major championship. Been close a few times, but never in the spotlight as the favorite heading into the final round.
It’s daunting, anywhere.
At Augusta National, even more so.
Luckily for him, someone will be with Scheffler every step of the way, someone who has taken a few rides around the pressure cooker that is a final round with a Masters win at stake. He hired Ted Scott, who caddied in both of Bubba Watson’s Masters wins, on a test basis five months ago. It has paid huge and fast dividends, and they’ll try for their fourth win in the span of six starts together on Sunday.
“Teddy’s been a great addition to the team,” Scheffler said. “I have a lot of faith in him. He works really hard. I respect him as a person. When we’re out there I have a lot of faith in him. It’s really nice just having someone I can trust so much out there with me.”
Watson had to rally to win his first Masters in 2012, after starting the final round in fourth. In 2014, he held the lead coming into the final round and held it together on the way to another green jacket. He and Scott were peanut butter-and-jelly level of inseparable for 15 years, before deciding to part ways last season. Scheffler heard Scott was available and gave him a call. Scheffler was hovering around the mid-20s in the world rankings then. He’s No. 1 in the world now and in position to win the Masters.
“It’s going to give him confidence,” Watson said of Scheffler having Scott with him on Sunday. “Knowing that he’s got a guy on the bag that’s won around here, that has notes … he’s going to have mental notes that he knows (from what) he’s been through with me. So, yeah, it’s going to give him nothing but confidence and joy knowing that he has all the information.”
Cameron Smith is Scheffler’s closest pursuer, starting Sunday three shots back after a 4-under round of 68 in Round 3. At Augusta, three shots is nothing. And Smith has experience in being a chaser, after he and Sungjae Im — who is in third, five shots back — were the ones closest to Dustin Johnson at the end of the pandemic-delayed Masters in November 2020.
Scheffler has won three of his last five starts on the way to the No. 1 ranking. Smith is coming off a win at The Players Championship last month and is No. 6 in the world. It might not have Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson level of pizzazz to it, but a Scheffler-Smith pairing in the final round of a major — given the form both are in right now — is probably pretty close to the best matchup that golf purists could have gotten.
“It just means I can get it done I guess when I’m up against the best guys in the world,” Smith said. “It’s a good feeling to have. It’s earned. It’s not given to you. I’m going to have to go out there (Sunday) and play really good golf again. Hopefully everything just falls into place. I can’t control what anyone else is going to do.”
Most players think that way.
But a good caddie like Scott does have a say in what someone else is going to do — that being the player whose bag he is carrying. He’ll wear the standard-issue Masters white caddie jumpsuit on Sunday while also serving as coach, confidant, psychologist, therapist and whatever else Scheffler needs for those four-plus hours that the final round will take.
“Someone that stays as pretty level-headed as Teddy, he doesn’t really react to much,” Scheffler said. “It’s definitely nice having him out there on the bag.”
Shane Lowry and Charl Schwartzel will start Sunday tied for fourth, seven shots off the pace at 2 under. Justin Thomas and Corey Conners are tied for sixth, both 1 under. Those four players, Scheffler, Smith and Im are the only ones under par going into the final round.
A year ago on Masters Sunday, Hideki Matsuyama’s caddie wound up stealing a bit of the show. Shota Hayafuji was on Matsuyama’s bag for that win, and when he returned the pin to the 18th hole after the final putt of the Masters was made, he removed his cap and bowed to the course. It instantly became a Masters moment.
There’s a caddie who will get to make a Masters moment of his own on Sunday. Scheffler would enjoy nothing more than if Scott is the one on that stage.
More AP Masters coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/the-masters