BROOKLINE, Mass. – As Scott Scheffler headed toward the 18th tee late Thursday afternoon, he received a bizarre text message from a family friend back home in Dallas.
“Scottie had a great run,” it read. “Tell him we’re proud of him.”
Turns out there was a scoring error on the USGA website that said Scheffler had lost to Matthias Schwab in his Round of 16 match at the U.S. Amateur.
So, seeing this latest comeback in person, Scottie’s father shot back a text: “Well, he’s still on that run because he just birdied 17 and they’re all square on 18 tee.”
By now the USGA should know better than to count out Scottie Scheffler.
With a steady par on the 18th hole, the 17-year-old staged another improbable late rally by winning the last three holes to stun Schwab and reach the quarterfinals at The Country Club.
“I really just haven’t given up hope,” Scheffler said of his 1-up victory, and his week in general.
It was his fourth consecutive come-from-behind match-play victory, dating to last month’s U.S. Junior Amateur, where he was 2 down with nine to play before pulling out a 3-and-2 win over Davis Riley.
Here, Scheffler needed to advance out of a 17-for-15 playoff just to reach match play. Then, once again, he transformed into the comeback kid.
In the opener, he was 2 down with two to play against Stewart Jolly, but birdied 17, parred 18 and won on the 20th hole.
A day later, he was 2 down with five to play against Cal senior Brandon Hagy, one of the best players in college golf, only to flip the script by winning Nos. 14 and 17, then prevailing in 20 holes.
“You can’t ever count him out,” said his 19-year-old sister, Callie, who is on Scheffler’s bag this week. “He’ll go down in the dirt and grind it out. When he gets down, he knows he has to fight back.”
Yes, that stirring comeback was impressive, but it paled to what he accomplishedonly a few hours later, when he ran off wins on the last three holes in his third-round match.
Afterward, a dazed Schwab said, “Scottie just fought a little better than I did at the end.”
Seems that’s a familiar refrain in this format.
Scheffler has played more than 10 match-play tournaments at the AJGA and high school level that prepared him for the vagaries of this event. More important, though, he has learned to better compartmentalize what happens during the course of a round.
“I used to have a temper and that got in my way sometimes,” he said. “I’d get too frustrated, and that’d kind of be the end for me.”
Well, his dad apparently disagrees with that assessment.
Was it a temper issue? Oh, no. That was just a 17-year-old acting his age, figuring out who he is and how to react in certain situations.
“It was just a competitive nature that needed to be harnessed,” Scott Scheffler said. “When he wasn’t achieving what he wanted to, he was young and let his emotions get a little away from him, and it hurt him for a long time. But he was a young kid, and he still is.
“At the Junior Am he showed a different young man. He mentally just put it all inside, and I think he realized that if he could be good to himself, some real amazing things can happen.”
Amazing things indeed, such as becoming only the second reigning U.S. Junior winner since 1986 to reach the quarterfinals of the Amateur. In the quarterfinals, he will square off against Brady Watt of Australia, who is No. 9 in the R&A’s World Amateur Rankings.
Whatever happens Friday, it’s already been a revelatory few weeks for Scheffler, who has given a verbal commitment to Texas for fall 2014.
For years he has been the best player in his class – “I have about 100 trophies in the house to show you,” his father said – but Scheffler never won a national tournament before his triumph at the U.S. Junior. Even now it doesn’t take long before someone mentions that he still hasn’t won an AJGA event.
When his father asked recently if he would trade 100 AJGA wins for that shiny silver trophy, Scottie smiled and replied, “Not in a million years.”
“Something’s changed in the last three weeks,” Scott Scheffler said, “and he’s just maturing. He’s got that fire under him, and he has started believing in himself.”
After his latest seemingly insurmountable comeback, the kid’s belief has never been stronger.