Scottie Scheffler’s US Open nightmare raises questions about major planning | US Open

Four hours before the eventual winner, Bryson DeChambeau, went out for the final round of the US Open, Scottie Scheffler stood on the first green of a Pinehurst No 2 course that had scrambled his confidence over three excruciating days, carefully lining up a 20ft chance for birdie.

The world’s No 1 golfer curled a putt with perfect speed and line all the way to the cup, where it defiantly came to rest on the left rim without dropping in. Scheffler stared for a moment in disbelief before stepping forward to tap in for par. It would have been difficult to dream up a better example for how the two-time major champion’s week has gone.

The faint chimes from the nearby Village Chapel that carried across the grounds during Scheffler’s two‑over 72 on Sunday morning – that left him eight over for the championship and 14 shots adrift of DeChambeau’s winning total – might have sounded like a funeral dirge to the Masters champion. He had arrived here as the largest betting favourite entering a major in 15 years, having won for the fifth time in eight starts the previous Sunday at the Memorial. He had already broken the tour’s single-year earnings record with more than $24m (£18.96m) in prize money – nice work if you can get it – and went off on Thursday as the first player to have won five tournaments in a season before the US Open since Tom Watson in 1980.

The 27-year-old left on Sunday outside the top 10 of a leaderboard for the first time in nearly six months, lamenting one missed opportunity after another on the glassy turtleback greens. Surely there is no shame in Scheffler’s scores of 71‑74‑71‑72. But for a player known for an almost dumbfounding consistency – whose bad golf is still pretty good golf – it’s been an eyebrow-raising week. For the first time in a six‑year professional career spanning 120 tournaments, he played four consecutive rounds without breaking par.

It has taken a course built in the first decade of the 19th century to manage what the world’s best golfers, and even the Louisville metropolitan police department, could not achieve: bring Scheffler’s charmed season to a screeching halt. The tour’s leader in birdie average went into the final round on Sunday ranked 73rd of the 74 players left standing in putting, seemingly unable to read the lightning-fast Bermuda greens shaped like inverted saucers that are Pinehurst No 2’s greatest defence. If it came out on Monday they had been seeded with kryptonite, no one would be surprised.

The easygoing Texan operates on such an even keel that it is unlikely his bruising experience here will leave meaningful scars. Not even the pre-dawn arrest last month outside the gates of the US PGA Championship – where he stretched in a jail cell, managed to make his second‑round tee time and finished in a share of eighth place – could interrupt what has been an all-time heater.

But Scheffler did admit after his round here on Saturday he would reconsider his schedule before major championships, suggesting that playing at the Jack Nicklaus‑hosted tournament at Muirfield Village the previous week may have compromised his mental fitness for what is billed as the most difficult test in professional golf.

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Scheffler said: “I think in terms of prep for a week that I know is going to be as tough as this, I’m leaning going forward to maybe not playing the week before. I think going into the major championships, especially the ones we know are going to be really challenging, it may be in my best interest to not play the week before.” All eyes on Royal Troon and the British Open, which starts in a month’s time.


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