Scheffler hooks up with putting coach to get on track for Ryder Cup
GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Scottie Scheffler is the No. 1 player in the world and played the best golf of anyone this year, at least until he got onto the green. His putting was becoming a liability, and Scheffler wasted no time after the PGA Tour postseason getting it fixed.
He sent a text the Sunday night after the Tour Championship to Phil Kenyon in England, regarded as among the best teachers when it comes to putting.
Kenyon agreed to come to Dallas a few days later, and they went to work.
“It was something I was thinking about towards the end of the year, and Phil was a guy that I had watched. He teaches a lot of really good putters, and he didn’t seem like a method guy. So he was the first phone call that I wanted to make,” Scheffler said.
Scheffler has had only Randy Smith as an instructor, and Smith thought it was a good idea to bring in someone like Kenyon who specializes in putting. Scheffler said Smith attended their sessions so he could be a set of eyes when Kenyon is not there.
“I had a feeling what I was doing wrong,” Scheffler said. “It was just I was trying to fix it in the complete wrong way.”
The short version of the problem is that the toe of the putter kept rising as he stroked the golf ball, causing him to hit a little on the heel. To keep the putter low, he would lower his hands. But that actually caused the toe to rise even higher.
“So as the year went on, my hands are getting lower and lower, and the problem is getting worse and worse,” Scheffler said. “It was something I couldn’t figure out, and it was preventing me from hitting as many putts on line as I should have.”
Scheffler's consistency was astonishing this year. He won twice, including The Players Championship, and had a stretch of 16 consecutive tournaments against strong fields when he didn't finish outside the top 12. He had chances in the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, all without making many putts.
After his work with Kenyon, Scheffler said he is more consistent hitting the starting line on his putts. He's seeing the golf ball roll properly, more than it did a month ago.
“And it's exciting. It's good for me to have a little direction,” he said.
Exciting for Europe? Maybe not. Among players Kenyon works with is Tommy Fleetwood of England. So the English coach is splitting time between Team Europe and Team USA.
Kenyon also was working with Gary Woodland when he nearly won the 2018 PGA Championship and went on to capture the U.S. Open a year later. He has many clients from all over the world.
“I would never wish poorly on anybody, and I’m glad that Phil has the opportunity to work with someone like Scottie and help him along in his career,” Fleetwood said, before smiling to add, “Hopefully, his putting takes another week to really get hot.”
And if Scheffler gets back to putting the way he did when he won the Masters a year ago during his steady rise to No. 1 in the world?
“When he came to Dallas, I was joking with him,” Scheffler said. “I told him his stuff is going to work so well he’s not going to be welcome back at his home club when he gets home after the Ryder Cup.”
The European press is still fascinated with the lifestyle of British Open champion Brian Harman, who regaled them with tales at Royal Liverpool about his love of hunting, his new tractor for his 1,000-acre property in Georgia and living off the land.
He was asked Wednesday about his impressions of Rome.
“I'm a big flora fauna guy, so I think they call them the Scot pine, the pines that have the canopy, they’re beautiful,” Harman said. “I think there’s a few Linden trees hanging around downtown.”
Not to let a few trees get in the way, he also has been overwhelmed by the history of Rome. The team hotel looks out over the eternal city.
Back to the trees. One writer showed him a phone of an app and Harman knew where he was going. The app is “PictureThis,” which allows users to take a photo of a plant or tree and it identifies what it is.
“I use it at the farm because I’m like, ‘Well, damn, I saw the deer eating that weed or whatever,’ and I take a picture of it. All the herbs, they have the most incredible names. It's great.”
His favorite tree. Again, no hesitation.
“The swamp chestnut tree,” he said. “You guys aren’t familiar with swamp chestnuts? They call them cow oaks, too, because when we used to graze cattle, they would graze them through the swamps and they’d eat these giant acorns, so they call them cow oaks or swamp chestnuts.”
He also has been pretty good at golf this year.
U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark served up what could be interpreted as bulletin board material for Team Europe when he said recently he wouldn't mind playing Rory McIlroy because he's like to think he's better than him.
Clark did finish one shot ahead of McIlroy at Los Angeles Country Club to win the U.S. Open. His point was that players want to prove themselves against the best — McIlroy, Jon Rahm, FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland — and any player should feel they are capable.
So he didn't back away from his comment Wednesday. He just tried to explain it.
“If I don’t think I’m better than every player out here, then what am I doing?” Clark said. “If I’m trying to be the best player in the world, which is what I’m trying to be, I’ve got to believe that. Right now, maybe I’m not. He’s had a way better career than me, that’s obvious. But I also have to have that self-belief that I can beat anyone out here.
“It is kind of funny to me that people took it that way because they kind of saw that I’m better than him and I want to beat him. Well, of course I want to beat him and of course I believe that I can beat him,” he said. “It's interesting how things get taken out of context.”
Then again, it's the Ryder Cup.
The favorite spot among players at the Ryder Cup is their team room, with its food and drinks, plenty of laughter, motivational moments and for the Americans, epic tales of Ping-Pong.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Lanny Wadkins recalls his first Ryder Cup in 1977 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, with the late Dow Finsterwald as the captain.
“Finsterwald had a bar that would have made any Ritz-Carlton envious,” Wadkins said. “Finsty did good. The next team room, I was really looking forward to it.”
That was 1979 at The Greenbrier. The U.S. team was led that year by Billy Casper, a Mormon.
“We had milk and cookies in the team room,” Wadkins said. “We didn’t even have Coca-Cola. Went from one extreme to the other.”
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