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Scottie Scheffler’s comparisons with Tiger Woods in his heyday run truer with every passing day

McIlroy’s tied-22nd finish in Augusta was another week where great expectations fell flat

The slipping on of a green jacket on the lawn beside the 18th green at Augusta National has over time become a ceremony symbolising greatness. As Jon Rahm did the honours to the 88th winner of the Masters, there hung in the air a suspicion that it won’t be the last time such an act will fall on Scottie Scheffler’s shoulders.

Scheffler has evolved from a player who didn’t know how to get over the line to one who can’t stop winning, and the comparisons with Tiger Woods – and his dominance of yesteryear – run truer with each passing day and, it would appear, are confirmed by his world number one status.

With his win on Sunday, Scheffler’s lead at the top of the official world rankings over Rory McIlroy stretched to a margin never seen since Wood’s heyday. Scheffler on 13.9912 to McIlroy’s 7.6539 has established the highest gap at the top for anyone other than Woods....and world ranking guru @VC606 (Nosferatu) has estimated McIlroy would need to win three Majors plus other events and for Scheffler to take a break for the margin to be closed.

For Scheffler – who is currently in the field for this week’s RBC Heritage Classic – the most important upcoming matter is the pending birth of his first child, with his wife Meredith late in the third trimester of her pregnancy, before any thoughts of adding other Major titles to his ever-impressive CV: next month’s US PGA is at Valhalla, the US Open is at Pinehurst, and The Open is at Royal Troon.


Given the dominant manner of Scheffler’s win at Augusta – a final round and back nine that showcased his shot-making, course strategy and mental fortitude – along with his wins in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players, there is even the sense that a calendar-year Grand Slam is a viable thought. Just like the old Tiger days.

“My priorities will change here very soon. My son or daughter will now be the main priority, along with my wife, so golf will now be probably fourth in line. But I still love competing. I don’t plan on taking my eye off the ball anytime soon, that’s for sure,” said Scheffler.

In contrast the man in the world number two position in the world rankings is headed into that summer of Majors with less certain footing. McIlroy’s tied-22nd place finish in Augusta was yet another week where great expectations fell flat. There can be no sugar-coating. McIlroy underdelivered again, and it seems like a long time – and indeed it is – since he last won a Major, when he captured the Wannamaker Trophy in the gathering gloom of Valhalla in 2014.

A return to a favoured hunting ground would usually provide some hope, but McIlroy’s form on the PGA Tour this season – reflected in the fact that he currently lies in 41st place on the FedEx Cup standings – has been underwhelming.

McIlroy may be the official world number two but he is not playing like that, to the extent that a young gun like Ludvig Aberg – strikingly similar to the young McIlroy who first burst on the world scene – is the one seen as a likely rival to Scheffler going forward.

Of course, it would be foolish to write off McIlroy. At your peril, so to speak. He is a player who possesses all the skills, his work ethic can’t be questioned and he has shown mental toughness in the past in getting the job done. It’s just now all of the attributes appear alien to the others.

After he finished his round on Sunday, Shane Lowry had half-jokingly wondered if McIlroy would still be his partner in the two-man team event that is the Zurich Classic. It would appear that he will be for McIlroy has stuck to his plan to keep playing a busy schedule of events with the aim of running into form to take him on to the summer of Majors and the Olympics.

The difference between McIlroy and Scheffler right now is that one is playing with complete and utter control of his game. The one in control is not McIlroy. And the Northern Irishman referenced how the American is playing with “not a lot of clutter”.

As McIlroy put it: “The game feels pretty easy when you’re in stretches like this. That’s the hard thing whenever you’re not quite in form. You are searching and you are thinking about it so much, but then when you are in form you don’t think about it at all. So it’s trying to find that balance.”

At present one has it. The other doesn’t. One and two but a world apart.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times