By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Sports Reporter
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – Scottie Scheffler has never been here before. Never been on a Sunday lead course in a major championship. Been close a few times, but never in the spotlight as a favorite before the final round.
It’s intimidating anywhere.
At Augusta National, even more.
Luckily for him, someone will be with Scheffler every step of the way, someone who’s done a few laps around the pressure cooker that’s one last lap with a Masters win on the line. He’s hired Ted Scott, who has caddy in Bubba Watson’s two Masters wins on a trial basis five months ago. It paid huge and quick dividends, and they’ll look for their fourth win in six starts together on Sunday.
“Teddy has been a great addition to the team,” Scheffler said. “I have great faith in him. He works really hard. I respect him as a person. When we’re there I have great faith in him. It’s really nice to have someone in whom I have so much confidence with me.
Watson had to rally to win his first Masters in 2012, having started the final round in fourth position. In 2014 he held the lead heading into the final round and held it together on the way to another green jacket. He and Scott were inseparable for 15 years, before deciding to go their separate ways last season. Scheffler heard Scott was available and called him. Scheffler was then hovering around the mid-20s in the world rankings. He is now world No. 1 and in a position to win the Masters.
“It’s going to give him confidence,” Watson said of Scheffler having Scott with him on Sunday. “Knowing he’s got a guy on the bag who’s won here, who’s got notes… he’s going to have mental notes that he knows (from what) he lived with me. So yeah, that doesn’t will give nothing but confidence and joy in knowing that he has all the information.
Cameron Smith is Scheffler’s closest pursuer, starting three hits Sunday after going 68-4 under in Round 3. In Augusta, three hits is nothing. And Smith has experience as a fighter, after he and Sungjae Im – who sits third, five strokes back – were closest to Dustin Johnson at the end of the pandemic-delayed Masters in November 2020.
Scheffler has won three of his last five starts en route to the No. 1 ranking. Smith is coming off a victory at The Players Championship last month and is No. 6 in the world. It may not have the level of spice of Tiger Woods versus Phil Mickelson, but a Scheffler-Smith pairing in the final round of a major – given the form the two are currently in – is probably pretty close to the best match golf purists could have gotten.
“It just means I can do it, I guess, when I’m up against the best guys in the world,” Smith said. “It’s a good feeling to have. It’s won. It is not given to you. I’m going to have to go (Sunday) and play some really good golf again. Hope everything falls into place. I can’t control what someone else will do.
Most players think so.
But a good caddy like Scott has a say in what someone else is going to do – that is, the player whose bag he is carrying. He’ll wear the standard Masters white caddy jumpsuit on Sunday while also serving as coach, confidant, psychologist, therapist and whatever Scheffler needs for the four-plus hours the final round will take.
“Someone who stays as balanced as Teddy, he doesn’t really react to much,” Scheffler said. “It’s really good to have it 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. These four players, Scheffler, Smith and Im are the only under par going into the final round.
A year ago, on Masters Sunday, Hideki Matsuyama’s caddy ended up stealing a bit of the spotlight. Shota Hayafuji was on Matsuyama’s bag for the victory, and when he brought the pin back to the 18th hole after the Masters final putt, he removed his cap and bowed to the course. It instantly became a Master moment.
There is a caddy who will have the opportunity to do his own Masters moment on Sunday. Scheffler wouldn’t appreciate anything more than if Scott was the one on that stage.
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