AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Most Masters champions begin crying the moment they slip on the green jacket. Scottie Scheffler wept shortly after waking up Sunday morning before the final round even started.
Scheffler, who has now won four of his last six golf tournaments and earned $9 million in the last 57 days, won the 2022 Masters by three strokes over Rory McIlroy after shooting a 1-under 71 to finish at 10 under for the week. There were shots that stood out Sunday, of course. He chipped in a ridiculous birdie on No. 3. He birdied No. 9, No. 14 and No. 15 as well. But it was his presence -- his refusal to rush even when the tournament got a little interesting -- and that long, slow Texas amble up and down the fairways of Augusta National that stood out above everything else.
Scheffler is a mega-talent. Coming into 2022 on the heels of a singles win over then-world No. 1 Jon Rahm at the 2021 Ryder Cup, every imaginable statistic pointed toward him winning soon and winning often. But then again, when you're 0 for 70 on the PGA Tour to start your career, you have to actually go out and win.
Scheffler did so in bunches starting in mid-February. He ticked off the Phoenix Open, Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play as part of a torrid run in the march toward this 86th Masters. He seemed perhaps more surprised by how quickly he rose to the No. 1 ranking in the world than even we did.
"I always wanted to be out here, and I never expected it," he said Sunday evening at Augusta National. "I never expected to be sitting where I am now. You know, you don't expect things to come to you in this life. You just do the best that you can and with the hand you're dealt and just go from there.
"I never really thought I was that good at golf, so I just kept practicing and kept working hard, and that's just what I'm going to keep doing."
Actually, Scheffler was always pretty good at golf. You don't win the U.S. Junior Amateur and make the Walker Cup team unless your talent is off the charts.
But there are a lot of juniors who can swing it and never make it to the press center dais on Sunday evening at Augusta. What seemingly sets Scheffler apart is his even-keeled demeanor, which was a struggle in high school and college. It's also why what he described Sunday evening came as such a surprise.
It could have gone wayward early Sunday for Scheffler. He parred the first two holes while always-dangerous Cameron Smith, playing in the final pairing alongside Scheffler, birdied both and pulled to within one stroke of the 36- and 54-hole leader.
Surely Scheffler must have thought briefly about what he told his wife, Meredith, several hours earlier. They fell asleep watching "The Office" on Saturday evening as he tried to quell the stress that comes with holding a Masters lead into Sunday.
In the morning, the pressure overwhelmed him.
"This morning was a totally different story," said Scheffler. "I cried like a baby this morning. I was so stressed out. I didn't know what to do. I was sitting there telling Meredith, 'I don't think I'm ready for this. I'm not ready. I don't feel like I'm ready for this kind of stuff.' And I just felt overwhelmed."
Scheffler's emotions are reminiscent of those described by Shane Lowry in 2019 during the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
"I suppose I woke up this morning not sure if I had what it takes to win a major," said Lowry after winning the Claret Jug.
Scheffler used different words Sunday, but the context was the same.
"I think [I felt that way] because it's the Masters," said Scheffler. "I dreamed of having a chance to play in this golf tournament. I teared up the first time I got my invitation in the mail. We were fortunate enough to play here in college, and I love this place. I love this golf course.
"If you're going to choose a golf tournament to win, this would be the tournament I would want to win. You don't know how many chances you're going to get. And so having a chance, you know, I think I had a five-shot lead on Friday and then a three-shot lead going into today, I don't know if you get better opportunities than that. You don't want to waste them."
Scheffler did not waste his. He chipped in on No. 3 from an impossible spot as Smith made bogey, and at no point the rest of the day did anyone get within two strokes of his lead.
"After that [birdie and pars at Nos. 4 and 5] I kind of just started cruising," added Scheffler.
The Tournament leader chips in on No. 3. #themasters pic.twitter.com/ftP97jAvTr— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 10, 2022
With McIlroy posting a heroic, record-tying 64 ahead of him -- the round of the day and the tournament by three strokes -- Scheffler put on a Masters-winning clinic on the second nine. He leaned on caddie Ted Scott, who won two of these on Bubba Watson's bag, while playing clean, smart golf that belied his age (25) and experience (10 majors played) before this week.
Then Scheffler got to No. 18, hit the green in two and had six putts to win outright. Incredibly, he used four of them as he missed a 7-footer and a 5-footer to win the Masters before finally pouring a 3-footer in the cup.
He said it was the first time all day he let his mind drift away to the reality that he was going to get to come back to this tournament for the rest of his life. It showed.
When he finally made the tournament-clinching putt, Scheffler raised his fists and cheered on the patrons who had roared for him across four straight days and 72 holes.
But he did not cry.
The tears had already been spent that morning at the rental house the Schefflers were sharing with Sam Burns and his wife, Caroline. As Scheffler struggled to face the monumental task of fending off Smith, McIlroy and the rest of the best field in the world -- at a course that has reduced even bigger talents to ashes in its history of Sundays -- he said his wife's words were a balm.
The big Texan who never seems too high or too low on the golf course couldn't even handle the thought of what the day could hold.
That is the magic of Augusta National. You think you have its keys; then, they add another lock. It is mystical. More than the sum of its parts portend that it will be.
Think about it this way: The No. 1 player in the world, who had beaten everybody he looked at for two straight months, was terrified to drive down Magnolia Lane on Sunday afternoon.
Rick Gehman, Kyle Porter and Greg DuCharme react to Scottie Scheffler's dominant victory at the 2022 Masters. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Fear of failure is a uniquely human condition. One might say it's a feature, not a bug. We don't want to let down those who believe in us. We don't want the world to remember us for what we couldn't do.
Fear of success, though, is far more terrifying. When you fear success, what you really fear is either folks looking at you in disbelief ("Wait, that guy?") or the reality of your success not fulfilling your soul.
Scheffler seems to have enough humility to handle the former, but his wife needed to counsel him on the latter.
"My identity isn't a golf score," said Scheffler. "Like Meredith told me this morning, 'If you win this golf tournament today, if you lose this golf tournament by 10 shots, if you never win another golf tournament again ... I'm still going to love you, you're still going to be the same person. Jesus loves you, and nothing changes.' All I'm trying to do is glorify God and that's why I'm here and that's why I'm in position.
"Meredith always prays for peace because that's what I want to feel on the golf course is peace and have fun and just feel his presence. So, that's her prayer every day. That's my prayer, and I really felt that today. I felt at peace."
The self-described high school and college hothead is now one of the most serene players on the PGA Tour. At least on the golf course. His faith clearly affects his identity and insulates him from buying into the lie that a golf tournament is a life or death event.
Questions remain, though. They always will -- about our professions, our parenting and our performance as humans.
Coincidentally, the words of McIlroy from last fall after he won the CJ Cup fit here. "I sort of realized that being me is enough," he said after that win.
For Scheffler, "being me" was enough, with or without a green jacket. Meredith reminded him Sunday morning that life is bigger than golf. But as he smiled in a daze with the afternoon turning to evening and a green jacket sliding around his torso, he also realized that being Scottie Scheffler, the golfer was enough as well. At least for this week.
"I mean, it's Augusta National," said Scheffler. "It's about as cool as it gets. It's so fun to play. I just can't believe that I can come back for a lifetime and get to enjoy this golf course."