Learning from WM Phoenix Open Champion Scottie Scheffler
By Abby Parsons, PGA
Scottie Scheffler during the final round of the 2023 WM Phoenix Open. (Getty Images)
It’s quite difficult to describe the atmosphere of the WM Phoenix Open. Major championships and the Ryder Cup have their own magic, but this event feels like it’s in a league of its own and, believe it or not, you can sense it in the players, too.
I followed a handful of groups once the tournament started at TPC Scottsdale, and with a stacked field, it was hard to predict who would be at the top of the leaderboard each day. Watching tour players live gives you an opportunity to learn a lot about how they operate when the pressure is at its peak. As a coach, I try to always take away a few pointers I can share with my own players.
The first group I saw included Scottie Scheffler, who defended his title on Feb. 12 at the WM Phoenix Open and rose to World No. 1. I watched Scheffler on the driving range for a while early this week, and it did not look like a normal range session right before an event — he was truly grinding. With a massive training aid stuck to the ground and constant lookbacks at his TrackMan numbers, you would think Scheffler was going into the event not knowing what his swing is doing.
I was wrong.
On his final hole of Round 2, Scheffler drove it into the fairway, knocked his second shot close, and made the birdie putt. He made golf look so easy, and so simple. He is one of those players that I find hard to read, but once he took his hat off to shake hands after his round, I saw a heavy sigh of relief: relieved he was playing well, and relieved that he was done for the day.
After Scheffler finished up, I bounced back and forth between the Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau group and the Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, and Hideki Matsuyama group. With five of these six players sitting in the top 20, they were two good groups to watch.
I noticed a lot of similarities between Spieth and Schauffele. They backed away from shots more than once, took extra time reading putts, and walked anxiously from shot to shot. They wanted to not only play well, but win, too.
Finau and Matsuyama, meanwhile, acted cool and controlled. Finau missed a few greens during the time I was following him, but he managed to scramble his way to a good round — which I think we will continue to see in the final round.
I also had a chance to watch another pair of PGA Champions, Collin Morikawa Rory McIlroy. I watched Morikawa practice earlier in the week, but in the tournament round, he looked like he was just waiting for something to click. And that happens with the best players in the world. Morikawa didn’t make the cut, but his game is primed to have a big season in 2023.
And you can spot the Rory strut from hundreds of yards away. He bounced back after an opening-round 73, and is eyeing a move up the leaderboard in the final round at TPC Scottsdale.
Just observing some of the best players in the world, either from your couch or from five feet away, will help you see what makes them great. Pre-shot routines, self-belief, planning when to go for a flag and when to not — they’re all qualities you can transfer to your own game today.