New York Post

Scheffler just a shot short


BROOKLINE, Mass. — In the delirious wake of his boy’s breakthrou­gh in

April, as he tried to process what it meant to be the father of a Masters champ, Scott Scheffler mentioned how wonderful it was that Scottie embodied New Jersey, the place where he was born, and Texas, the place where he was raised.

And yet on one of the very best days of his life, with his son in possession of the fabled green jacket, the father was suddenly struck by an alarming thought.

“I guess he belongs to the world now,” Scott Scheffler said. “He’s public now, which is a little scary.

“But he’ll represent himself well.”

A couple of months after winning the game’s most prestigiou­s tournament, Scottie Scheffler represente­d himself the way the No. 1 player in the world should in finishing tied for second at the U.S. Open, one stroke behind Matt Fitzpatric­k. Scheffler is a lowmainten­ance, low-volume star in one of the most turbulent times in the sport’s history. Golf could sure use a few more like him.

He isn’t another Tiger Woods, just like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas were never anything close to Woods. But after assuming the role of Ryder Cup hero last fall, silencing those who didn’t believe he belonged on the U.S. team, Scheffler has put together a season that would make Tiger proud.

He won the Phoenix Open in February. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitation­al and the WGC-Match Play in March.

He seized the lead at Augusta National on Friday and never relinquish­ed it in April.

“I cried like a baby this morning,” Scheffler admitted that Sunday evening. “I was so stressed out. I didn’t know what to do.”

This confession of a Masters winner was shocking to anyone who had watched his rise to prominence. Scheffler is a card-carrying stoic, a golfer who projects the same calm, cool and collected vibe whether he’s leading by three or trailing by four.

He cooled off some after Augusta, if only because golf ultimately cools everyone off.

But Scheffler arrived at The Country Club on Sunday fully expecting to win. Trailing Fitzpatric­k and Will Zalatoris by two strokes, Scheffler birdied the first two holes and four of the first six to take temporary control of the final round. On the par-5 eighth, after he watched two of his shots roll back toward him from the elevated green, Scheffler made a momentum-saving par putt from 8 feet that was worthy of a fist pump.

Nobody would’ve been surprised had Scheffler taken it from there, created separation, and reminded the millions watching why he’s the best golfer on the planet. But the U.S. Open is known as the most forbidding major for a reason. This tournament has broken more men in half than any other.

The knee-high rough and tight targets and greens the size of manhole covers often conspire to turn slam-dunk favorites into quivering wrecks. So the same course that Zalatoris called “a beast” caught up to Scheffler at the same place it caught up to him in the third round — at the par-3 11th hole. He was leading at 6-under in the middle of his round Sunday just like he was leading at 6-under in the middle of his round Saturday, when he double-bogeyed the devilish 11th.

This time around, after his bogey at No. 10, Scheffler walked up to the downhill, 119-yard tee shot that was playing even shorter than that, an opportunit­y that would appear inviting even to a recreation­al hacker. Scheffler would stand over a short par putt as the last man in The Country Club field who hadn’t missed at least one putt inside 5 feet. He missed it. Of course he did. Scheffler spent most of the back nine within point-blank range of Fitzpatric­k and Zalatoris, who each made huge putts on the 13th (Fitzpatric­k’s was launched from Steph Curry range against the Celtics). As the afternoon unfolded, it seemed he might need something magical like his Saturday hole-out on the eighth to win his second major title.

He answered Fitzpatric­k’s birdie at the 15th with one of his own at the famous 17th, cutting the lead back to one. But after giving himself a clean, midrange look on the 18th, Scheffler couldn’t sink the one last birdie putt he needed to get into a playoff.

“This week I hit some of the worst shots I’ve hit in my career, and I’ve hit some of the best ones,” he said. “So it was kind of a rollercoas­ter week. To be at the end was definitely a lot of fun. … A few breaks here or there, and I would be the one holding the trophy.”

He fell from 6-under to 1-under on Saturday, then climbed back to 6-under on Sunday. Try doing that at a U.S. Open in your spare time.

“It shows how mentally tough Scottie is,” his father said on Father’s Day. “I thought he was going to birdie 18. I told his sister Molly that he might birdie the last three. Scottie just kept fighting.”

He came up one punch short. So the first New Jersey-born player to win the Masters didn’t become the first New Jersey-born player to win the U.S. Open.

“I’m going to recover from this,” Scheffler said.

On Sunday evening, that sounded like the safest bet of the year.

 ?? Getty Images ?? SCOTT FREE: Scottie Scheffler finished just one shot back of Matt Fitzpatric­k at the U.S. Open on Sunday.
Getty Images SCOTT FREE: Scottie Scheffler finished just one shot back of Matt Fitzpatric­k at the U.S. Open on Sunday.
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