THE PLAYERS Championship - Round Three
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PGA Tour players who take one track toward winning golf tournaments are difficult to beat. Those who can win in multiple ways have long careers, compile plenty of wins and contend for multiple major championships.

And then there is Scottie Scheffler, who seems to be able to win professional golf tournaments in any conceivable manner.

Scheffler on Sunday became the first golfer to successfully defend at The Players Championship while winning his second straight PGA Tour event. He shot a 64 for the ages, moving to 20 under and topping Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman and Xander Schauffele by a single stroke shot each. 

Scheffler has made $8.5 million over the last two weeks and $9 million at this tournament alone over the last two seasons. He has dominated the last fortnight.

If a golfer played every round at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational and this week's Players Championship to field average, he would be -2 after two weeks and 144 holes. 

Scheffler was 35 under.

He flushed everything he looked at Sunday, finishing first in the field in strokes gained tee to green for the fourth time in five fully measured events this year. He holed out from 82 yards for eagle on the front nine. He gave himself six birdie looks from 12 feet and closer on the back nine. I watched them all, and I don't think he missed a single shot as he thundered home.

Last week, the talk was that Scheffler found a putter; that progress continued this week. He looked less stiff and more athletic on both short and long putts. This week, though, was about the ball-striking. For the second Players in a row, he finished outside the top 30 in putting. For the second Players in a row, tournament officials handed him a trophy. 

That is terrifying.

Even more terrifying is that Scheffler inadvertently disclosed yet another way he can win big-time tournament golf this week at TPC Sawgrass. The skills are obvious; we already knew about them. You evaluate them on statistically, if you desire. Scheffler is historically good, probably the best striker of the golf ball for a sustained period of time since Tiger Woods.

But great ball-striking is not the lone trait that won him this golf tournament. Paths to victory are often more obsequious than that, less linear than the numbers make them seem. 

On Friday morning, Scheffler nearly had to withdraw from The Players. His neck locked up, and he suddenly struggled to even turn his head to read putts. It was, as he recounted, "quite painful." He had the type of crick in his neck that, if you have never experienced it, makes it feel like you'll never be able to look to the side again without moving your entire body. 

Scheffler received treatment while sitting in a lawn chair behind the 14th hole. 

This guy went on to win the event!

THE PLAYERS Championship - Round Two
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Scheffler clearly didn't have his best stuff on Friday or Saturday. His driving distance dropped, and so did his ball speed. His footwork went from "he dances all over the place" to "he might be performing interpretive ballet." He was clearly protecting himself from the pain his injury was causing.

But Scheffler fought onward, shooting his 25th consecutive round under par on Friday and his 26th on Saturday. That put him at least within striking distance of the lead going into the final round Sunday. 

And while he finished first in the field again in both ball-striking and strokes gained from tee to green, Scheffler won this tournament with something he has not yet had needed to utilize: guts. He won because he's tough and competitive and values being tough and competitive more than whatever the data says about his approach play. He stayed disciplined and kept the noise around him down even as he dialed up his hitting once again.

Scheffler won because he's gritty.

It's an annoying word that gets tossed around so ubiquitously that it barely means much anymore. It's often used to describe players with little skill performing beyond their perceived capabilities. Often that's just luck, though.

This from Scheffler was actual grit, something he dug around and found. Something that allowed him to play to the level he's been playing at for most of the last two years.

"I'm a pretty competitive guy, and I didn't want to give up in the tournament," Scheffler said Sunday. "I did what I could to hang around until my neck got better. Today, it felt really good."

"[Thinking I could win was] probably why I kept playing," he added. "I had gotten off to a good start. ... I played really good golf on Thursday. I made an early birdie. I think I was 2 under through 4 on Friday, so I was right in the thick of the tournament. All of a sudden, I get that pinch in my neck, and I gutted it out around there, getting it around in a few under par, keeping myself in the tournament. Same thing Saturday."

This was Scheffler's ninth win in his last 51 starts worldwide, most of them monsters. He's made nearly $50 million in those 51 tournaments alone with 22 top 3s in that time.

You can't do any of that if you don't have the gifts. But to have this in the arsenal, too? The doggedness to figure out how to not just stave off a withdrawal but keep oneself in contention while feeling terrible -- knowing it would be easy to pack up the $4 million you won last week and head home?

That is an embarrassment of riches.

It reminded me of a strange comparison I've been thinking about regarding Scheffler. His demeanor and disposition remind of Roger Federer. Scheffler doesn't share Federer's beauty nor his eloquence, but beneath all the stoicism, it's sometimes the guys who hardly say a word during competition that have the most going on.

"I take it as a big compliment [that I was considered effortless]," Federer said recently about his career. "When I was playing, I was struggling a little bit more with it because I feel like then they would not see the fighter and the winner I hopefully was. Because if you're not a fighter, if you cannot put in effort -- you cannot achieve what I achieved with just being effortless. When you've worked unbelievably hard, only then can you make it look effortless. So, I always struggled -- especially early on -- with the thought, 'Well, do they not see the passion and fight and everything I put into it?'"

That sounds a lot like Scheffler. In fact, Scheffler said something similar in his press conference last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

"I would like to be remembered as a competitor. I would like to be remembered as someone that always gave it his best and just kept a good attitude. I feel like that's my goal always going into an event is being tough, being competitive and going out and competing, having a good attitude and being committed to my shots."

This is a problem for everybody else on the PGA Tour and in major championship fields.

Not only has Scheffler proven he can win off the tee and with his approach play. Not only does he execute some of the best course management in the world -- like he did in his win at The Players last year. Not only has he seemingly turned his putting around to match what was already one of the great short games in the world. 

But now everybody else knows -- if they weren't aware before -- that Scheffler is going to take them to the mat, even if ill or injured. He's not about to lean on his extraordinary gifts and simply his clear mind. He's going to be a bigger dog than the rest of the field, too.

Scheffler is the greatest in the world by a wide margin, yet he might be even better than we realized.