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The Ryder Cup, a golden apprenticeship for Scottie Scheffler

Scottie Scheffler will have had to wait until his third season on the PGA Tour before savoring a first title, and then less than a month before tasting victory again. These exploits are not unrelated to his participation in the Ryder Cup last September.

• Read also: Towards an extra day at the Players Championship

• Read also: Very long day at Sawgrass

• Read also: PGA Players Championship: A Lifetime Title

In fact, this first appearance at the age of 25 at the symbolic team tournament gave him a significant dose of confidence. He never thought he would break through the American line-up so quickly.

“It was a springboard in my journey and in my career, assured the one who was part of the team that shattered records in a crushing 19-9 victory over the Europeans at Whistling Straits last fall.

“I had always dreamed of playing this tournament and joining this team. I love playing for my country, ”added the one who also participated in the Walker Cup in 2017. This one, intended for amateurs, uses a similar formula as it opposes the United States to Great Britain and Ireland.

“I knew that several of my teammates wanted me to participate. They had taken me under their wings. It gave me confidence and I believed in myself, ”explained the one who had garnered 2.5 points out of a possible three.

Scheffler had among others beaten the world leader, Jon Rahm, 4 and 3, from the green of the 15and.

“This tournament catapulted me to greater heights, that’s for sure. »

fire sequence

Four months later, he managed to finally break into the winner’s circle of the PGA Tour, flirting on his way to victory three times.

So it was a matter of time before he lifted a trophy.

However, he was not worried by this long-awaited moment that occurred at the Phoenix Open on February 13, thanks in particular to a brilliant third round of 62 (-9) at TPC Scottsdale.

Three weeks later, he donned the iconic Arnold Palmer Invitational red jacket as he performed flawlessly in tough conditions at Bay Hill.

“Expectations came mainly from outside. I don’t add this pressure to myself, because I love competition. When entering a tournament, I especially want to play well. I don’t think of a first. I’m not aiming to take off a weight,” said the man who now ranks fifth in the world.

Two in a row?

As he is going through an excellent streak, a Players victory in the coming days could allow him to dislodge Jon Rahm from his throne at the top of the world rankings. Nothing is impossible, as he has tasted victory in two of his last three outings. And he’s already in the lead pack at Sawgrass, having still not completed his first round. All hopes are therefore allowed.

Especially if he keeps the same game plan. The Stadium Course is famous for creating surprises. On his second visit to Ponte Vedra Beach, Scheffler has no expectations. The last time he had two straight wins was in college, if memory serves.

But he has all the tools in his bag to create sparks, especially since he plays with confidence and without real pressure.

“Golf is a very funny game. I don’t expect much when I arrive in a tournament. But I’m sure a similar scenario (winning two tournaments in a row) can happen.

“For the moment, I prefer to speak of coincidence as I won two tournaments in my three starts. For the rest, I have to play well to win another one. »

Now that he has learned how to win and continues to apply the same recipe, his rivals and fans will have to keep an eye on him constantly. To say that just a month ago, he was still looking to savor a first title. Times are changing rapidly.

The beard or the sticks

In a bad mood at the end of January, Tommy Fleetwood committed the irreparable. He grabbed his razor and shaved off his distinctive beard.

Yes, the irreparable. Because he preferred to spare his sticks from his outburst of “madness”! Dissatisfied with his results, something had to kick in to turn the tide.

“I was in a really bad state of mind. I was in a bad mood. It was the beard that left or I broke my sticks, ”he said in a semi-serious tone.

His facial hair therefore suffered, thus changing his style and the gaze of his young rivals who suddenly no longer found him as “old” as he looked.

Immediate reactions

“I had just turned 31 before a tournament in Abu Dhabi in January and was playing with Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa. Seeing me without my beard, they Googled my age to find out. They thought I was approaching forty. It was hard to take to be honest, said the friendly Englishman.

“When I shaved, I gained 15 years. Everyone noted that I looked much younger without a beard. It’s positive. But my wife Clare prefers me with the beard, so I’ll let it grow again.

“On the other hand, I have to keep my temper and keep smiling, otherwise it will disappear again,” he warned as he recorded two top 20s since this “clear cut”.

It goes without saying that it is easier to discuss such a light topic when an athlete is at the top of the table and the weather does not predict anything good for the next few days. Fleetwood tentatively leads the PGA Tour Players Championship, with the first round still hampered by weather.

For two years, the golfer who evolves more on the European circuit (DP World Tour) has gone from 10and at 49and world rank.

Not easy at 17and

With sustained winds blowing 30 to 50 km/h on Saturday, golfers will be praying for their ball to land dry on the peninsula of 17and pennant.

Gusts exceeding 60 km/h will also sweep the course of the TPC Sawgrass.

The wind coming from the north and northwest will have the effect of pushing the balls towards the green, at the famous 17and, where the undulating 3,900-square-foot green is surrounded by water. Stick selection will not be obvious depending on the wind. Golfers will have no margin for error. Sunday, the mercury which will rise to only 10 degrees Celsius also promises to complicate the task by being accompanied by gusts blowing at 35 km / h from the ocean.

Survival mode

Over the years, veteran golfers have told many horror stories to younger ones about the 17and of the Stadium Course, 137 yards long.

“Tiger (Woods) and Freddy (Couples) have told me about hitting 5-17 iron shotsand on cold, windy days,” said defending champion Justin Thomas. This course is a different animal in such conditions. You have to know how to survive it.

“I’ve never experienced them and it wasn’t my intention to do so either. »

A “sexy” shot

As an indication, depending on the strength of the winds, golfers generally hesitate between a 9 iron and certain types of wedges on this short but formidable par 3.

Bordered by the fleet, it is difficult to execute a “sexy” shot there in the wind, in the cold, with a long iron in hand.

This 17and promises to be a real theater Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

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