2022 Masters: Scottie Scheffler’s Record Masters Pace

Scottie Scheffler, The Masters, 2022 Masters TournamentMandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports
Scottie Scheffler, The Masters, 2022 Masters TournamentMandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports /

Scottie Scheffler is halfway to some Masters history.

Scheffler’s five-stroke lead, at 8-under, matches the tournament record for a 36-hole advantage. Four other players in Masters history have hit the tournament’s halfway mark with a five-stroke lead: Herman Keiser in 1946, Jack Nicklaus in 1975, Ray Floyd in 1976, and Jordan Spieth in 2015. All four went on to win.

But that’s only part of the story. The bigger story could end up being Scottie Scheffler’s dominance of the Masters’ field.

At 136, Scheffler is playing nine strokes better than the 145.02 average of the 52 players who made Friday’s cut. That works out to 3.58 standard deviations superior to how the field has handled Augusta National on a couple of cold, wet, windy days.

If he can keep up that level of dominance, Scottie Scheffler will not only guarantee himself a Major victory, he’ll do so with, statistically, the most dominant performance in Masters history.

Scottie Scheffler could turn in the most dominant Masters performance of all time

In the 86 previous iterations of the championship, only four players have completed 72 holes with a score that measured 3 or more standard deviations better than the four-round field average. Those four are:

  1. Jack Nicklaus, 1965, -3.48
  2. Ray Floyd, 1976, -3.33
  3. Tiger Woods, 1997, -3.20
  4. Arnold Palmer, 1964, -3.00

Ben Hogan won three Masters, but even at his most dominant (1953) he only reached -2.60 standard deviations. Sam Snead peaked at -2.26 in the 1952 Masters, Nick Faldo at -2.50 in 1996, and Phil Mickelson at -2.41 in 2010.

Were he to maintain his level of dominance over the final 36 holes, Scheffler’s -3.58 would vault him right to the top of the list of most dominant Masters performances, ahead of Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods, Floyd, and all the tournament’s other great champions.

None of them ever spread-eagled a field by as much as 3.5 standard deviations.

For purposes of inter-era comparison, the standard deviation is a far more accurate tool than the raw score or margin of victory because it automatically normalizes for the kinds of changes — in equipment, course setup, weather — that befuddle more widely recognized measurements.

For instance, Dustin Johnson set the tournament scoring record in 2020, playing 72 holes in 20-under 266. He was nine-under through 36 holes.

But Johnson, and for that matter, the entire field played a much easier Augusta National that November week. The four-round field average in 2020 was 284.3, about six strokes easier than the same layout is on a pace to play by Monday night.

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It showed in the fact that all Johnson’s 36-hole total of nine-under got him was a five-way tie for first place with Cameron Smith, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, and Abraham Ancer.  Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, C.T. Pan, Patrick Reed, and Hideki Matsuyama were just one behind those five.

Johnson would eventually pull away to defeat Smith and Im by five. His score worked out to 2.92 standard deviations better than the field, the fifth-most dominant in tournament history.

There are, of course, no guarantees that  Scottie Scheffler will find his weekend as pleasantly dominant as his Thursday and Friday. History tells us that Masters pressure can be funny that way.

When Spieth built that five-stroke lead halfway home in 2015, his dominance rating worked out to -3.87, an even better pace than Scheffler’s. But Spieth played the final two rounds in a safe 70-70 and won by four, dropping that rating to -2.79. It’s still the seventh-best in Masters history.

In 1976, Floyd, too, finished at 70-70 for a four-round score of 271, eight better than runner-up Ben Crenshaw. In 1975, Nicklaus shot a Saturday 73 and lost his lead to Tom Weiskopf, then closed with a 68 to edge Weiskopf by one. That brought him in at 2.55 standard deviations ahead of the field, the 13th best showing in Masters history.

In 1946, Keiser shot 71-74 on the weekend, just good enough to hold off Ben Hogan. That worked out to 2.14 standard deviations better than that year’s field, an unremarkable level of dominance for any tournament champion.

When Nicklaus set the dominance record at -2.48 in 1965, he actually hit the halfway point in a three-way tie with Palmer and Gary Player, all of them at six-under 138. That put each at a dominance level of -2.49. On the weekend, though, Nicklaus shot 64-69 to beat Palmer and Player by eight.

Jack’s Saturday 64 in 1965 was one of the extraordinary rounds in major championship history. The field average that day was 73.06, nine strokes worse than him. Only 13 of the day’s 49 starters broke par.

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Only the weekend will tell whether Scottie Scheffler continues to fly at his own historic level or returns to the Masters pack. History says he’ll have a tough time reprising his level of dominance over the final 36 holes.

He is, however, on a record pace, if not in terms of a raw score or margin, then in terms of pure dominance over the field.