Golf

Comforts of home helping Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler contend entering Moving Day

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson

MCKINNEY, Texas — It isn’t typically difficult to locate Jordan Spieth’s pairing while he’s roaming the grounds of TPC Craig Ranch. The largest army of patrons visible on the course often surrounds the Dallas native, who is no stranger to being the biggest draw in front of a hometown crowd at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

That was mostly the case again this year as the course baked in the Texas heat, though Spieth wasn’t the lone hometown headliner during the first leg of the PGA Tour’s Dallas-Fort Worth swing.

Enter Scottie Scheffler, who following his meteoric rise to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, is now rivaling Spieth’s claim as the face of professional golf among Dallas natives.

Four months ago, Scheffler was still seeking his first win on the PGA Tour. Now, he’s the defending Masters champion, an achievement in April that marked his fourth victory across a dominant stretch of golf.

So, it was neither a coincidence nor surprise when the two local stars — both with healthy momentum on Tour — were grouped together in the opening two rounds alongside defending tournament champion K.H. Lee.

Of course, the sight of Spieth and Scheffler in the same pairing carried far more weight now than it did 12 months ago when they were also side-by-side at this tournament. While already friends off the course, times are different now given Scheffler’s brush with stardom.

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“We were talking about it a few weeks ago. We figured we would get paired together at this event, so we’re glad that we did,” Scheffler said Wednesday. “… Jordan’s an easy guy for me to play golf with, and he’s fun to watch as well, so it should be a good time and hopefully we’ll draw a little bit of a crowd and make some birdies for them.”

Small talk was frequent between the two during the opening 36 holes; they sometimes even shared a chuckle. Oh, and those birdies came, too. Spieth and Scheffler each posted 67s in the opening round before firing 65 and 68, respectively, to enter the weekend in contention.

“Thursday, [Scheffler] started well, like we didn’t really — we had a couple stretches together where we were both playing well, but it seemed like we best-balled 59 both days,” Spieth said Friday. ” Like, I was a little off when he was making four in a row; I was making three in a row when he was off.”

Never mind the identical Thursday scores, the Dallas connection or that Spieth and Scheffler both once played the Byron Nelson in high school before both went on to star at the University of Texas. While Scheffler’s three prior starts at Craig Ranch were all still meaningful as homecomings, the energy is simply elevated when you enter a hometown tournament as one of the sport’s top faces.

It’s something Spieth has experienced first-hand.

“I’ve come here and played this tournament after winning the Masters [in 2015] and [remember] maybe that year what that extra [energy] was like,” Spieth recalled earlier in the week. “I’m kind of interested to almost be a little bit of a bystander in that situation and watch the extra craziness surrounding Scottie’s return here home after winning [the Masters] two tournaments ago for him.”

No amount of craziness he has faced to this point has fazed Scheffler this season, and there’s no signs of that stopping as he finds himself entering the weekend at 9 under, six back of the lead. This despite his second round, at times, looking like it might put his ability to hang around for the weekend in danger.

Scheffler carded a triple bogey on the par-4 13th after an errant drive led to extensive tree trouble. He followed with a three-putt, which briefly sunk him below the projected cutline. Two holes later, Scheffler embarked on a streak of three consecutive birdies to return to par before firing a 3-under 33 on his second nine.

If anything, playing some 28 miles north of his native Highland Park has a calming effect on Scheffler. In the hours he’s not at Craig Ranch, it’s a welcomed sense of normalcy this week for the top-ranked golfer on the planet.

“We definitely have some friends and family [in attendance],” Scheffler said. “We got a few people staying at our house this week, which is fun. So, it’s going to be a great week, it’s been a good week so far.”

The grind of life on the PGA Tour has only further deepened Scheffler’s appreciation for the simple extravagances of sleeping in one’s own bed. Given how important rest is from round to round as a tournament grinds on, it’s a luxury he doesn’t take for granted.

“Having some events close to home — and especially one where I can stay in my own bed — is such an advantage,” Scheffler said. “I don’t really feel like I’m traveling and playing this week. It’s good to be at home. I love Texas. I love Dallas. And to have an event here is really special.”

The focus now shifts to the weekend before the golfing world heads north across the Red River for the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

Unlike Spieth, who is just three shots back of the lead at 12 under seeking his first win at the Byron Nelson, Scheffler will be required to make a formidable surge if he intends to walk away with his fifth career PGA Tour victory.

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