Of Martin Rogers
FOX Sports columnist
There is an argument that there is no athlete in the sport currently hotter than Scottie SchefflerSunday’s Masters at Augusta National winner, recently world No. 1, and author of an incredible streak that has earned him four of his last six events.
And yet, with the biggest golf week of the year now in retrospect, comes an odd realization. While Scheffler may have set golf on fire with a track that has netted him more than $9 million since mid-February, he remains largely unknown in the broader esports sphere.
There’s no question that Scheffler is the best current golfer, but he’s nowhere near the most famous, a reality that seems to make him happy. But it does make you think: what exactly makes a player a household name these days? It’s certainly not just wins and birdies.
Scheffler crossed the line on Sunday to win by three shots over Rory McIlroy, but it wasn’t even as close as that margin sounds. With Australia’s Cameron Smith falling behind through the last nine, Scheffler was able to enjoy a stress-free finish to follow up his triumphs in Phoenix, Bay Hill and the WGC matchplay.
It hasn’t been a title hoard run on the PGA Tour since the pomp of Tiger Woods, largely because the overall competition is so intense and the number of variables so great. Scheffler has soared into rare skies, and not just as the 25th player in history to top the rankings.
He is not nearly as well known as Jordan Speith, Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas. Not as recognizable as Rickie Fowler or Bubba Watson.
Scheffler has won more tournaments in two months than either Woods or Phil Mickelson have managed in the last eight years, but he wasn’t included in the 2021 PIP ratings, which put the 10 players moving the sport’s needle the most, several million Dollars paid out based on metrics like Google searches and social media impact.
Sure, his streak of wins hadn’t come until then, but don’t necessarily expect him to climb to the top of the list (with a $10 million bonus) next year.
The morning after the biggest afternoon of Scheffler’s career, his Instagram following had soared to 172,000 but was still eclipsed by most of the tour’s notable names.
You know and love Scheffler in Texas, where he attended the same Highland Park High School as Super Bowl champion Matthew Stafford and World Series winner Clayton Kershaw.
However, if he were walking down a random American high street with, say, John Daly, it would be the long-retired fan favorite that would draw more attention. Even after last weekend, it’s possible that Charlie Woods, Tiger’s teenage son, is more known to the general public than Scheffler.
Some things are understandable. Scheffler played the Ryder Cup last year but was still on the Korn Ferry Tour three years ago. Only those who follow golf weekly were fully prepared for his sudden dominance.
And his performance amid Augusta’s manicured splendor was so brilliant that no one could match him, meaning this wasn’t the kind of intense Masters nail-biter that’s considered one to last.
Some of the notoriety comes from continued consistency over time, but it’s also true that some of the limelight is reserved for those who actively pursue it, and Scheffler isn’t.
He enjoys spending his free time with Mrs. Meredith and goes about his business with a minimum of fuss. He doesn’t use his press conferences to make an appearance and show off his comedic skills. He’s not flashing his net worth despite having already made more this year than Daly has in his entire career.
You won’t find him spitting with opponents like the spicy and often hilarious Brooks Koepka-Bryson DeChambeau.
He’s a family man and proud of it. It would be perfectly fine for him to post some champagne sipping private jet selfies after a run like this, but that’s not going to happen.
He’s just a regular guy doing totally erratic things in his sport against the gnarliest courses and best opponents that golf has to offer. Normal guys need a lot more to get famous. Scheffler doesn’t seem to want that too much.
NFL stars become megastars simply because their sport is so passionately and closely followed year-round. The NBA revolves around late-night social media-worthy moments that can build a player’s story with a single explosive dunk.
In individual sports, it takes different things to make a name for yourself. A fierce rivalry will do – think what the wars between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi did for both players. Heck, during March Madness a pair of 3-pointers and a great mustache made St. Peters’ Doug Edert a star.
Even as Scheffler won everything to cap a childhood dream on Sunday, the nightly news broadcast on some networks topped their golf articles with Woods capping his inspirational return to the sport with a difficult final round of 78.
It’s really okay. Scheffler prefers it that way and admits he’s not really the player everyone is talking about. Perhaps he will step into the spotlight and enjoy it more over time, as tennis ace Rafael Nadal and footballer Lionel Messi have done over the years.
Or not. Not every champion has to be the same. Not every triumph has to feel like a Hollywood epic, and not every superstar has to be a star.
“People may not remember me as a champion years from now,” Scheffler told reporters with a big smile on his face. “And that’s okay.”
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
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