Written by DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer
Augusta, GA – Start by winning Scotty Scheffler four times in two months.
His PGA Tour earnings in his past six tournaments — dating back to his first win at the Phoenix Open on February 13 — have been $8,872,200.
With the cash increased and the Tour Championship no longer offering official prize money, Scheffler has made more in two months than he would have won a PGA Tour financial title in four of the past eight seasons.
Golf hasn’t seen an extension that strong since Jason Day racked up four wins in six events, including the PGA Championship, in the summer of 2015. And he wasn’t even the best player that year: Jordan Spieth’s five wins that year included two majors and a FedEx Cup.
As amazing as what Scheffler did, it’s too early to think of him as the next dominant player in golf because no one seems to know how long that will last.
If anything, it’s an example of golf parity.
It’s also a reminder of Tiger Woods’ influence, and those ripples extend further the longer he plays.
“I played Tiger irons. He wore his shoes. He wore his shirt this week,” Scheffler said. “He is a golf needle. He has completely changed the PGA Tour since he came along 25 years ago. And his YouTube videos are an inspiration to me.”
One of Scheffler’s particular highlights was Woods’ first Masters win in 1997, a watershed moment in golf. Woods led by nine in the final round and never lost focus even as the lead advanced to a record 12 shot.
That’s something I reminded myself of today,” Scheffler said on Sunday. “I tried to keep my head down and keep doing what I was doing because I didn’t want to break my concentration.”
That only changed when he was five shots ahead on the 18th green. He was hit by fours.
“Thank you, Tiger,” Schaeffler said with a laugh.
The effect has been there since Woods returned to world number one for the last time in the spring of 2013 and remained at the top until his first five back surgeries.
Patrick Reed at the end of 2014 recalled how he grew up studying Woods, particularly his focus. “You can see it just by looking at him in the eyes. If looks can kill you, he will literally kill you. He was very focused and bent on playing well.”
A year later, Spieth and Day finished in 2015 1-2 in the world after their five winning seasons, with Rory McIlroy right behind. It seemed like the beginning of the new “Big Three”.
It wasn’t, and Spieth said the same as he preached patience and perspective. “In order to create an era, you need roughly a decade like this,” he said at the time.
Speth and Day became the third and fourth player to reach number one after Woods began the back surgery series. Six other players have followed suit since then: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, John Ram and now Schaeffler.
The list almost included – and probably should have, if only for a while – Colin Morikawa, who already has two majors out of six wins around the world as he approaches his third anniversary of turning pro.
Ram looked back at the past seven years and raised so many names that he was afraid to leave someone off the list (he lost one, and it’s easy to do without notes). He referred to it as “an excellent example of the tiger effect”.
Most players who make it to the top of golf are about the same age, from Scheffler (25) to McIlroy (32).
“We all grew up watching Tiger. We all grew up wanting to be him, and we all grew up with a dream of becoming major champions,” Ram said. “With the advancement in golf, in all of us looking at ourselves as athletes, you can see the difference. Everyone can reach a new level.”
At the moment, it is difficult to catch a Scheffler. Before long, it will be more difficult for Scheffler to hold out than anyone else behind him.
His win in the play a few weeks ago extended a streak that better illustrates depth and parity in golf. Not since Woods in 2009 has he started the overall player at number one and held the rankings every week until the end of the year.
“He’s just the next guy to come in, he’s getting hotter, and there you go,” Ram said. “It’s a nice part of the golden age of golf we’re living in right now. You might not get the one guy who’s going to dominate for a long time. You’re going to get five, six or maybe 10 players who can do their part.”
This is what makes it so difficult to rule golf these days. And why is Schaeffler’s race, who is now crowned the Masters champion, so impressive.