Imagine the fairy tale that could have unfolded this week. Ridgewood native Scottie Scheffler, whose titanic run through the PGA circuit the last three months makes him its top player, wins a major championship right in the Garden State.
Of course, this chapter of the story will not be unfolding as originally planned as the golf hierarchy last year moved this week’s PGA Championship from Trump National in Bedminster to the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
But the concept isn’t far-fetched.
It was plausible that people would have driven nearly one hour to Bedminster from Ridgewood, where he was born, or Montvale, where he spent his first six years, to watch a New Jersey native in a major.
Fans could cheer on a player who hit golf balls in the dark at age five behind Bergen Community College in Paramus, while his father held a flashlight.
Scheffler’s journey eventually took him to Texas of course. His family moved when he was six and Scheffler’s subsequent highlights took place there.
But it all began here.
Knowing that the world’s top player has New Jersey roots may connect many fans with the state’s rich golf heritage.
Scottie Scheffler caught fire
In early February, Scheffler was still searching for his first PGA Tour win.
And then, boom, victories in the Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the World Golf Match tournament and, finally, the fabled Masters.
All in two months, a nearly-impossible feat.
Players don’t win a PGA tournament two weeks in a row. One victory is hard enough, because most fields have approximately 144 players. Winning twice in one year is a major accomplishment. Three equals Cloud Nine.
But Scheffler went four-for-six, rocketing above $10 million in earnings this season and seizing the coveted Green Jacket by winning the Masters.
He’s enroute to becoming the player of the year.
Scheffler stylishly unveiled his new status, throwing out the first ball at a Texas Rangers game while wearing the Green Jacket. He flashed a big smile.
Plus, he reached the plate with a pitch that was high, but it didn’t skip.
From one field of dreams to the next ⛳️⚾️
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 28, 2022
Scheffler’s numbers are impressive, not just in his bank account but at NJ online sportsbooks.
He’s at or near the top of the odds board before every tournament.
Thus, as the golf world idolizes the PGA Championship return of icon Tiger Woods this weekend, the sportsbook establishment gives Scheffler his props.
He is the co- favorite to win the tournament, +1200 at DraftKings Sportsbook, along with Rory McIlroy. Jon Rahm is right there at +1400. Woods, who owned the golf spotlight for several years, is a sentimental +6500.
Tiger is nostalgia, Scheffler is money
Woods will be wagered upon all week, as gamblers seek value for in-game props, scores on ensuing holes and adjusted leaderboards. Scheffler will be a betting magnet throughout the tourney.
“This is going to be a heavily bet tournament and we are already seeing some Rahm money and some Scheffler money,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told PlayNJ.
“Scheffler is on one of those runs that only a few players get on,” Avello added. “Scottie is a tremendous player. He didn’t win in what, his first 60-70 tournaments, and now he is on some roll.
“I’ve seen a couple players do it over the years. There was a time when Jordan Spieth got real hot. There was a time when Brooks Koepka was so hot it looked like he would never lose another tournament. Books were putting up odds about how many majors he would win. Now the guy may have trouble making the cut.
Avello noted that right now, ‘Scottie is in a great groove.’
It’s a groove that involves a big swing, big distance and the propensity to rally from trouble. Scheffler doesn’t hit as many fairways as one might expect from an elite player, but his short game has been second to none.
That bailed him out in the Masters, producing what may be considered the shot of the year.
He was on the verge of squandering a six-shot lead. It was down to one.
Scheffler was in trouble and needed a fairway punch-and-run shot to try and save par on the third hole. The pressure was building. Scheffler was close to melting down amid the glare of a national television audience.
He just wanted to get the next shot close to right the ship. It was close all right. It went in.
The stunning birdie restored a three-shot advantage and Scheffler never looked back
Now he’s living large.
The New Jersey includes major golf heritage
Scheffler’s prowess is putting an exclamation point on New Jersey’s rich golf stature.
The top course in the country, according to most publications, is Pine Valley in Pine Hill.
Then there is Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield. It has hosted the 2016 PGA Championship and seven U.S. Open championships, most recently in 1993.
And it’s scheduled to host the 2029 PGA Championship.
Baltusrol Golf Club also happens to be where legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus won two U.S. Open events.
Then there is the USGA Golf Museum, which is located at Liberty Corner. It is the nation’s oldest sports museum and the world’s leading institution for the collection preservation, interpretation and dissemination of golf history according to the USGA.
Recent additions include the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History in 2008 and the Jack Nicklaus Room in 2015.
New Jersey also sports highly-regarded instructors and celebrity course owners like former Philadelphia Eagles great Ron Jaworski.
So up and down the state, golf is a symbol of prowess and a vibrant part of its economy.
Unfortunately, the Scheffler fairy tale in New Jersey won’t happen this year.
But his surge rekindles a tie between the Garden State and the game.