Many people have first tee jitters, but according to Scottie Scheffler, Ryder Cup is next level.
“I would say that the Ryder Cup is the most pressure that I’ve ever felt as a golfer,” Scottie Scheffler said before the FedEx St. Jude Championship. “When I stepped up on the first tee in the first match, I literally could not feel my arms, and I’ve been really nervous before, and I was really nervous at the Masters, but I could still feel my arms.”
As difficult an experience as that first Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits was for him, it provided a springboard for his next season when he won the Masters.
The Ryder Cup experience wasn’t just learning how to play under what he called “extreme pressure.” It was also realizing that the other players on the team had asked for Scottie Scheffler to be one of the picks, and he knew he needed to perform.
Before he won the Masters, Scheffler had already faced what he has called the most intense stress he had ever felt playing golf.
“It wasn’t like I was friends with the captain,” Scheffler added. “I had a lot of guys on that team that believed in me as a player and thought I had the talent to be in that team.”
He said he felt as though he played well enough to show that he deserved to be there. For a rookie outing, he did well, going 2-0-1.
There is something about participating in the Ryder Cup that often vaults players on victorious teams to new heights in the next season. In Scheffler’s case, he won the Masters. As he explained, it’s all about learning to play under serious pressure.
If you go back in Ryder Cup history and look at some of the participants on winning teams, they often had great next seasons, even if they had never had one before.
One that comes to mind is Fred Couples after the 1991 Ryder Cup. The next spring, he won the Masters. But it was not his first Ryder Cup. His first was in 1989 when he was not able to perform as well as he would have liked at The Belfry. He was not the only U.S. player to have that happen.
The U.S. had to win just 7 ½ points out of 12 on Sunday to take the Ryder Cup home. The 18th hole got to many of them on both teams.
Paul Azinger hit into the water and made bogey, but Seve Ballesteros, who ended up in the right rough, did the same. Still, Azinger won his match.
Tom Kite and Chip Beck won their matches.
Payne Stewart, who had won the PGA Championship that year, was playing Jose Maria Olazabal. Azinger put his drive into the water. He donned a rain suit and tried to hit out, not once, not twice, but three times before giving the match to Olazabal.
That year’s British Open champ, Mark Calcavecchia, hit his drive into the water, dropped on the fairway, and hit a second shot into the water.
Fred Couples found the fairway, but he hit his second shot into a greenside bunker. Couples was playing Christy O’Connor Jnr, who had not won in more than 10 years. O’Connor Jnr played the shot of his life and ended up about four feet from the pin. Couples made bogey and the hole went to the Euros.
Ken Green three-putted for bogey, and Jose Maria Canizares, age 42, made his putt for par.
Mark James took out Mark O’Meara before the final holes.
At that point, there were four matches left. Mark McCumber made a par to Gordon Brand Jr.’s bogey. Tom Watson closed out Sam Torrance on the 17th. Nick Faldo hit his drive into the water and handed that match to Lanny Wadkins.
Everything came down to two players. Curtis Strange and Ian Woosnam. Strange had just won his back-to-back U.S. Opens. Nobody was tougher at the time. Woosnam was a couple years away from winning his Masters. To demonstrate the kind of player Strange was then; he birdied his last four holes to win his match and end the Ryder Cup in a tie.
That’s because Europe had won in 1987 at Muirfield Village, and if there’s a tie, the team that has the Cup gets to keep it for another two years.
Ray Floyd, the U.S. team captain, said at least he was not going home with a loss. He was just going home without the cup. Many world-class players on both sides had struggled with the pressure of the moment that day.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Floyd compared it to Sunday at a major championship.
According to Scheffler, it’s worse. At least the first time.
Scottie Scheffler was part of a great U.S. Ryder Cup Team.
Scottie Scheffler was fortunate to be on a great U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2020 ( the actual year was 2021) with loads of talent top to bottom. He was also lucky that his first matches were played in the United States. Foreign soil is difficult for whichever team is the visitor.
So, before he won the Masters, Scottie Scheffler had already faced what he has called the most intense stress he had ever felt playing golf. He said he went home and felt that he could imagine what it would be like the next time he faced it. He knew what it would feel like, what it would feel like to play under those conditions.
“You’re like, okay, this is exactly how I feel under the most extreme pressure I can be under,” he explained.
In essence, Ryder Cup, for him, and for everyone on both sides, is about learning to play through the worst imaginable nerves.
“It’s definitely something that has had an extreme impact on my career, being able to play in that tournament and play well,” Scheffler added.