Scottie Scheffler has held the world No. 1 golf ranking since last May, and his grip on it has only gotten tighter recently.

To a small degree, that’s because one of his chief competitors for the top ranking, Jon Rahm, bolted the PGA Tour for LIV Golf and can only earn ranking points in major championships. But, just as prominently, Scheffler has a grip on his position as the top player in the world because of his freakish consistency.

When Scheffler makes a start, the question is not whether he will contend into the weekend, it’s whether he will contend late into the final round on Sunday.

Going back to last August, the 27-year-old American golfer has played in 11 events, and he hasn’t finished worse than a tie for 17th place. Even then, he finished just eight shots off the winner, within a handful of breaks of being near the top of the leaderboard.

Scheffler also has two wins (Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship) and a tie for second (Houston Open) in his last three starts, so “contention” isn’t even a question.

But as he aims to win his second green jacket at the Masters Tournament this weekend, it’s worth considering there are different versions of Scottie Scheffler.

There is no “bad” Scheffler. Some weeks, there is an unstoppable Scheffler – the tournaments in which he blends his prodigious ball striking with above-average putting. Most weeks, there is merely an excellent Scheffler – the events when he is the best player in the world from tee to green before he loses some of his advantage on the greens.

It’s a good thing Scheffler has a weakness, because if he didn’t, tournaments would have much less drama.

Scheffler is the favorite at Augusta National Golf Club. How big a favorite may depend on how you think of him at this moment.

Do you think Scheffler is the same player he’s been while casually holding the No. 1 ranking? Or do you think the two-time reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is the even-more dominant star of the past few months? Or, for a third path, do you think Scheffler has done something even more terrifying than that – specifically, do you think he has learned to putt?

In any event, Scheffler could win the Masters. But in the third scenario, he would be a heavy favorite over the entire rest of the star-studded field, which includes Rory McIlroy, who sits between Scheffler and Rahm at No. 2 in the world golf rankings. Wyndham Clark and Xander Schauffele are No. 4 and 5, respectively.


Scenario 1: Consistency Means Contention

What if Scheffler plays like his usual world No. 1 self? That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll win. He’ll just find a comfortable place inside the top 20, most likely the top 10, and have a legitimate chance come Sunday morning.

Augusta presents a wide range of holes to test different facets of a player’s game, and Scheffler passes more tests than anyone else.

Our FRACAS projection model provides a deep dive into Scheffler’s elite play. He’s No. 1 in the global FRACAS leaderboard, whose model uses simulations to determine the probability of an average player finishing in each position.

The model pegs Scheffler as the best player in the world on nearly every type of hole. On both easy and difficult par 5s, he figures to gain more strokes than any other player. The same is true for all four of the model’s classifications of par-4 holes: short and long, easy and hard. He’s also fourth-best on long par 3s, but he’s best on short par 3s, and that’s a positive at Augusta because three of the course’s four par 3s play at 180 yards or under, where Scheffler can hunt birdies.

All told, based on Scheffler’s baseline skill shown over the past two years, FRACAS projects he would gain 2.51 strokes on the field per round at Augusta. That would put him in weekend contention.

Last year, Scheffler gained 2.56 strokes per round and finished tied for 10th. In his 2022 Masters victory, he gained 4.89, but the number required to win is a moving target. (Rahm, the defending champion, gained 4.56 when he won for the first time last year.)

Scenario 2: Recent Surge Continues

What if Scheffler dials things up a notch like in the past few months?

If you prefer to think of Scheffler through a narrower scope, he looms even larger against the field. Based on his performance over just the past six months, Scheffler sits about 0.4 strokes per round (or nearly two shots over the course of the tournament) above his baseline projection. FRACAS projects he would gain 2.61 strokes on the field, with similar gains coming from Augusta’s par 3s, 4s and 5s.

In that scenario, Scheffler would beat the field by 10.44 strokes, but that would also probably not win the tournament. In the past five years, the smallest strokes-gained advantage by a Masters champion was Tiger Woods at 12.08 in 2019. But some Masters Tournament fields are tighter than others, and that is exactly the point: If Scheffler merely maintains his current form at Augusta, FRACAS figures he’ll gain enough strokes to easily have been inside the top 10 at any recent Masters.

From there, only a small bit of variance could result in Scheffler donning another green jacket.

Scenario 3: Putter is Like a Lightsaber

What if Scheffler stays hot and drains a bunch of putts?

Well then, the tournament’s probably all over.

The putting, everyone knows, is Scheffler’s shortcoming. This season is similar to the past few as he is second on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off-the-tee per round (0.903), first on approach shots (1.347) and 97th in putting (0.014).

That’s not the same as being a bad putter. In fact, Scheffler doesn’t lose any strokes to the field on average. But he does not typically putt like a Masters winner, and the caliber of competition (including LIV Golf players) at golf’s first major tournament of the year means his usual putting caliber may well cost him strokes. He putted dreadfully at Augusta last year after handling himself well on the green in his 2022 triumph.

But when Scheffler putts even decently, he is an immense threat. And when he putts at an elite level, he’s downright Tiger-like.

We got the best preview of this sort of Scheffler a month ago, when he gained 1.3 strokes per round on the greens in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill before winning by five shots.

Yes, Scheffler is the Masters Favorite

Pretend Scheffler improves his putting performance by about one stroke per round from his current baseline projection. In that event, FRACAS projects Scheffler would gain 3.09 strokes per round, or 12.36 for the tournament. That would be enough to win the Masters in the right year, even if Scheffler did not have an exceptional week by his standards off the tee, on approach or around the green.

And that’s just the thing about Scheffler: It doesn’t take much.

He’s atop our modeled win percentage at 8.76%. If he has a good putting week, Scheffler doesn’t even need to play better than he usually does in the other areas of the game to have a real chance to win.

The challenge for most players, at any event and not just the Masters Tournament, is to get their game peaking at the right time so that they might deliver the performance of a lifetime.

Scottie Scheffler, on the other hand, could win the Masters without even having his best performance of the last two months. The lesson from the data is how little it would take.

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