AUGUSTA, Ga. — Scottie Scheffler woke up Sunday morning feeling overwhelmed.

His neck was bothering him for the first time all week. His wife, Meredith, was back in Dallas, staying at her aunt’s house. His tee time was still hours away, and he was feeling restless. It was a different sensation than it was two years ago, when he and Meredith cried before he went to the course. Their lives were changing so fast, and he wasn’t sure if he was ready for it.

This time, he was worried he wanted it too much.

“I was sitting around with my buddies,” Sheffler said. “I told them ‘I wish I didn’t want to win as badly as I do. I think it would make the mornings easier. But I love winning. I hate losing. I really do. And when you're here in the biggest moments, when I'm sitting there with the lead on Sunday, I really, really want to win badly.”

He was grateful his friends were there. A mixture of college pals and people he’d met since getting married, Scheffler invited them to stay at his rental house after his best friend, Sam Burns, missed the cut. The idea of being alone unnerved him. Meredith usually made him breakfast, usually picked out his outfits, and now the simple act of making eggs with toast felt strange.

His friends encouraged him to feel grounded in his faith. Whatever happened on Sunday, they reassured him, was not going to define him.

“My buddies told me this morning, my victory was secure on the cross,” Scheffler said. “And that's a pretty special feeling to know that I'm secure for forever and it doesn't matter if I win this tournament or lose this tournament. My identity is secure for forever.”

How do you beat a guy like Scheffler? He’s not only the most talented player in the game — maybe the most complete golfer since Tiger Woods — he has also learned how to channel the kind of tranquility that comes with contentment, to use it as superpower to dominate.

Years from now, when I think back on the 2024 Masters, there are so many scenes that will linger in my brain. It may not have had a riveting finish, but it came at what feels like an huge inflection point for the future of the game. I wanted to jot down everything I heard, or saw, that I thought might resonate beyond this week. In the end, I kept returning to Scheffler’s serenity.

He is now a two-time Masters champion, seemingly at the peak of his powers.

But also, that might be underselling it.

What if this is just the beginning?

• • •

On Tuesday, the Champions Dinner dinner was winding down.

The Ensalada de Txangurro (Basque crab salad and potatoes) and the Chuleton a la Parrilla (Basque ribeye steak with lettuce and peppers) picked out by Jon Rahm as a nod to his homeland had been consumed. The stories about Seve Ballesteros, told by the older generation of champions to the younger one, had been exhausted. 

It had been a jovial night, for the most part. Nick Faldo later shared that Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner, was “dead quiet” for the second straight year, barely speaking at all.

As the plates were being cleared, Tom Watson asked Fred Ridley, the Chairman of Augusta National, if he could say a few words.

“Please do,” Ridley replied.

Watson looked around the room. He saw several generations of men, some of them at odds over the future of professional golf, having a great time. The drama over the PGA Tour and LIV had faded, temporarily, into the background. He wanted everyone to remember that feeling, and carry it forward.

"Ain't it good to be together again?” Watson asked.

Silence washed over the room. No one really knew what to say.

“There was kind of an appall from the joviality,” Watson said.

Ray Floyd, the 1976 Masters champion, got up from his seat.

Soon, others followed.

It was an unofficial sign that the dinner was over. Watson wasn’t sure if his message had resonated, but he was hopeful.

“I hope that the players themselves took that to say, you know, we have to do something,” Watson said. “We all know it's a difficult situation for professional golf right now. The players really kind of have control I think in a sense. What do they want to do? We'll see where it goes. We don't have the information or the answers. I don't think the PGA TOUR or the LIV Tour really have an answer right now.”

• • •

Scott Sheffler felt sheepish about doing it, but he couldn’t resist saying hello.

He joked that he hoped it was okay to bother ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt because, after all, they shared the same first name.

“I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your work,” said Scheffler.

“Please. What an honor it is to meet you,” Van Pelt said.

Scheffler then introduced himself to a small group of reporters soaking up the sunshine.

This is what happens on Monday under the big oak tree in front of the Augusta National clubhouse. People from various walks of life cross paths, handshakes are exchanged, and strangers make connections. Scheffler admitted his morning had been a little stressful because his son, Scottie — the No. 1 player in the world — had shown up at the course and forgotten to bring his golf shoes.

“He asked me if I could run to the Nike truck and grab a pair,” Scheffler said. “I had to laugh. I ran to his car and I couldn't figure out how to get it out of park. I spent like 10 minutes trying to figure it out. Finally Nick Faldo walks over and he says ‘Oh you have to hold down this button on the blinker.’ You Americans are so lost.’ I’m like ‘The blinker? Nick, the car I drive came out in like 2012.”

Everyone in the circle chuckled.

"What a joy it’s been," I said, "to watch your son play golf the last few years."

Scott Scheffler smiled then gave a dismissive wave.

“I’m just happy he’s a good person,” he said. “All that other stuff, that never mattered to me. I’m just so proud that he treats people the right way. That he treats people with kindness.”

Something about the loving way Scott Scheffler talked about his boy moved me, so I asked his son about it the following day.

What kind of dad was he?

“You know, my dad — the way I was raised — my dad stayed home with us,” Scottie Scheffler said. “My mom worked. And my dad never really looked at me as a golfer. He never pushed me to become a good golfer. That was never what he wanted for me. My parents pushed more education and being kind to people. So I think playing junior golf, I think sometimes you see a lot of parents who really want their kid to become really, really good at something, and they think that's what's going to bring them joy. But becoming a really good golfer may bring you a little bit of momentary joy, but it doesn't sustain it for very long. Winning a tournament makes me happy for about five minutes, and then you go do a bunch of other things that are a little bit more difficult than winning the tournament.”

Scheffler, whose wife Meredith is 9 months pregnant, said he and his family put together a plan for the week in case she went into labor. A friend got permission from the club to carry a cell phone, and if the baby decided it was time to be born, Meredith was going to call her husband. A private jet would whisk him away, even if he was on the back nine and leading the tournament.

A reporter couldn’t resist asking: What if you’re winning and there are only a few holes left? Do you think she’ll call you in that scenario?

“She better call,” Scheffer said.

He was smiling, but he was also dead serious.

• • •

When the pairings sheet gets passed out at Augusta National, there are three columns of players listed under "Honorary Non-Competing Invitees who are present." It includes a slew of notable golfers, none of whom have won a Green Jacket. Most of the names you would recognize: Curtis Strange, Paul Azinger, Darren Clarke, John Daly, and Jim Furyk.

Greg Norman was not listed among them, but that did not stop him from buying tickets to multiple days of the 2024 Masters. He tried to go through the club for a ticket, his son later revealed on social media, but the club would not give him one, so he decided to buy one on the secondary market. Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters winner and an occasional critic of LIV Golf, couldn’t resist zinging him on social media.

“13 @livgolf_league players in the field for @themasters and none of them could get @sharkgregnorman a ticket? Greg had to buy one? Next year if you need one Shark let me know,” Couples wrote on Instagram.

“So glad we beat you in 2008 at Skills,” Greg Norman Jr. fired back, referencing the parent-and-child ADT Skills Challenge event, now known as the PNC.

It was impossible to miss Norman stalking the grounds in his vintage straw hat. He even wore a pair of black FootJoys as if, any minute, he might be ready to play. A reporter from the Washington Post tracked him down and convinced him to consent to a brief interview.

“Walking around here today, there’s not one person who said to me, ‘Why did you do LIV?’ ” Norman told the Post. “There’s been hundreds of people, even security guys, stopping me, saying, ‘Hey, what you’re doing is fantastic.’ To me, that tells you that what we have and the platform fits within the ecosystem, and it’s good for the game of golf.”

Norman said he was there to support LIV players, but he also made it a point to follow Rory McIlroy’s group for some of his practice round. On the fifth tee, Norman waited for the group to come through, and stood as close to the rope line as possible, making a less-than-subtle effort to be seen by McIlroy.

McIlroy gave him nothing. If he saw Norman, he didn’t acknowledge it.

Later that day, Norman was standing near the putting green. As McIlroy’s group made the turn, LIV’s CEO tried yet again to get in McIlroy’s eyeline. He shuffled toward the rope line, getting as close to McIlroy as he could, and broke into a sizable grin.

McIlroy didn’t flinch, or even look his way. He just kept walking toward the 10th tee.

• • •

Viktor Hovland was grinding.

It was Wednesday night, every other player had already left, and he was still on the range. He’d already played in the Par 3 contest that morning, and even made a hole-in-one, but nothing about his swing felt right.

Hovland had been hitting balls for two hours, slowly working his way through his bag, and now he was entering a third. A small group of fans sat watching him from the bleachers. The only sound you could hear was Hovland’s intermittent lashes at the ball. After each one, he’d say a few words to coach Dana Dalquist, who was standing to his right, trying to explain what he wanted Hovland's hip or elbow to do.

“The problem's been when — and I kind have been dealing with this recently — it's like you're trying to work on something, but it doesn't necessarily feel exactly right, and then that's when you kind of have to go back to the drawing board to keep figuring out until things start to click,” Hovland said. “I feel like I'm in that situation now.”

His caddie, Shay Knight, picked up Hovland’s launch monitor, and took it inside the clubhouse, looking for an outlet to recharge it. They’d been at the range so long, the battery had run down.

At 6 p.m.,a security guard announced that the course was closed. People needed to head toward the exit. Hovland got another bag of golf balls. Knight threw down another handful of tees. Several times, Hovland had to pause to let maintenance workers pass through.

He was still taking swings an hour later when Augusta National turned the floodlights on at the driving range. It was getting too dark to see the ball in the air without them.

• • •

Jon Rahm was asked, early in the week, where he stored his Green Jacket throughout the year.

“I kept it in my closet in a spot where I would walk by it every single day, and obviously inevitably every once in a while you put it on and take it off and put it back there,” he said.

But had he considered what it might feel like if he had to give it back?

Every Masters champion is allowed to take their jacket outside the club for one year. They have to return it once there is a new Masters champion. The only way to take it home again is to defend your title. Rahm admitted the thought had crossed his mind.

“I think if I were not to win this year, I'm going to regret not wearing it more often and just taking it everywhere for just – for whatever, just because you have it,” Rahm said. “It is a weird feeling, right? Essentially, it's the only trophy you can't really keep at home.”

His title defense did not go the way he’d hoped. On Thursday, he shot a mediocre 73 on a day when the course was gettable, and got into an animated discussion with rules official Stephen Cox at Amen Corner when Cox questioned his group’s pace of play. Rahm removed his hat and began motioning toward the 13th fairway at the group ahead, steam nearly coming out of his ears.

He fared even worse on Friday, shooting a 76 that left him 11 shots behind Bryson DeChambeau.

It was unsettling to watch the game’s fiercest competitor spend the week stuck seemingly in neutral. None of his rounds came in under par. When it was time to put the Green Jacket on Scheffler, Rahm was polite and gracious, but he also looked miserable.

Spanish-speaking reporters asked him after the final round if he felt like some of his peers had treated him differently this week because of his decision to join LIV Golf.

"Some did. I expected it,” Rahm said in Spanish, which was translated to English by reporter Matías Torge of Handicap 54.

“And then, there was someone else who I expected to be a little tougher... and one of them hugged me. I think that, among all the relationships I have, it has been everything what I expected. My friends are still my friends. And then someone, with whom I was very cordial and had a positive relationship (in quotes), has not even looked at me. If someone changes their opinion of me, it is more their problem than mine. I am not worried".

• • •

Tiger Woods looked miserable.

He’d refused to concede, when pressed for an answer, that he'd become a ceremonial golfer. If everything went right — and that was a big if — he believed he could still win the Masters. And for two days, it didn’t seem entirely crazy. When he shot a 72 on Friday, it meant he’d made the cut for the 24th straight year, the longest streak in tournament history.

“It means I have a chance going into the weekend,” Woods said, with a hint of defiance. “I'm here. I have a chance to win the golf tournament.”

Saturday, however, was a different story. His body looked stiff, his gait seemed labored. When he hit a shot from the pine straw into the ninth green, he winced in obvious pain, trudging up the hill and limping after his ball. If he was a boxer, the referee would have stopped the fight.

I watched him for a few holes, no longer sure what to think. Woods was on his way to shooting an 82, the worst score of his career in a major championship. I was thinking of leaving, peeling off to find another player, but then I saw something that made me stick around.

Tiger Woods’ 15-year-old son, Charlie.

I didn’t want to talk to him. I made sure to give him his space. But every few shots, I’d glance over from a distance and watch him studying his father. I wondered what it must feel like to watch your dad grind in pain like this.

Earlier in the week, I’d asked Woods if he’d been back to Augusta National with his son since he brought him for the first time two years ago. If I was a promising junior golfer, and my father had five green jackets, I’d wonder why we didn’t go to Augusta every other weekend.

But Woods admitted it had been awhile since they’d played here together. He’d offered, but Charlie had wanted to stay home doing teenage things.

“I would like to, obviously, play a little bit more up here with him and to share the experiences,” Woods said. “Especially now that he's gotten a little bit longer so he hits it past me. I think that the days of playing from the members tees are over. He's got to come back there with us.”

The next morning, Woods was back on the driving range, trying to piece together a swing he could play with for his final round. His son stood next to him, acting as his swing coach, trying to diagnose some of what was wrong.

They looked happy together.

• • •

Scottie Scheffler was in control of the tournament.

He’d just parred the 12th hole. He had just seen Max Homa make a double bogey in front of him, and now he was standing a few yards right of the 13th fairway with a three-stroke lead. It was decision time.

“Should we go for it?” Scheffler asked his caddie Ted Scott.

“Absolutely,” Scott said.

“Yeah,” Scheffler said. “Why don’t we just do what we do?”

Before the drama could really even build, Scheffler sent a 4-iron whistling through the air.

It landed on the top shelf of the 13th green and stayed there. A two-putt birdie effectively slammed the door on the tournament.

Just to twist the knife a little further, Scheffler made birdies at 14 and 16 to run up the score.

“He’s the best ballstriker in the world, and he hit an unbelievable 4-iron to a small target,” Scott said. “But those targets seem big when you’re caddying for Scottie Scheffler.”

After Scheffler made his final putt on 18, he walked toward the clubhouse to sign his scorecard, a wave of applause following him on his route. When he got close, he spotted Phil Kenyon, his putting coach, and threw his arms around him. Then he deadlifted Kenyon into the air.

For all the jokes the last few months about how McIlroy’s suggestion that Scheffler's switch to a mallet is what turned his game around, it’s actually Kenyon who deserves the lion’s share of the credit. He changed Scheffler’s set up, his posture and his routine. He made him feel like an athlete again. The mallet was but one small part of it.

“I think I was just overthinking things,” Scheffler said. “It’s nice to just put the ball down and use my eyes and see that ball go into the hole. It’s a good place to be.”

After he signed his card, he FaceTimed with Meredith, and immediately started thinking about how quickly he could get home to her.

After Rahm slipped the jacket on his shoulders, Scheffler gave a short speech, thanking his wife, his coaches, his parents. He even thanked his sisters for attending so many golf tournaments over the years.

When the ceremony ended, his sister Molly hugged him and tugged on his sleeve.

“Is that a new jacket?” she asked.

“No, it’s the same one,” Scheffler said. “I only get one. But it still fits.”

• • •

Kevin Van Valkenburg is the Editorial Director of No Laying Up

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