Masters champ Scheffler joins Spieth as Nelson hometown star
McKINNEY, Texas (AP) — Jordan Spieth remembers coming to his hometown Byron Nelson a few weeks after winning the Masters for his first major seven years ago.
Now the three-time major champion will get to watch Scottie Scheffler do the same thing Thursday in their first-round pairing at TPC Craig Ranch, the second-year home of the Nelson.
“I’ve come here and played this tournament after winning the Masters and kind of maybe that year what that extra was like,” Spieth said. “I’m kind of interested to almost be a little bit of a bystander in that situation and watch kind of the extra craziness surrounding Scottie’s return here home after winning.”
The top-ranked player and winner of four of his last six individual events capped by the Masters, Scheffler is now the co-headliner with Spieth. Both grew up in Dallas and starred at the University of Texas.
Scheffler said he and Spieth, who contended as a 16-year-old high schooler in his first pro event at the 2010 Nelson, talked recently about the possibility of playing together near home as fellow major winners for the first time.
“It should be a pretty fun environment for both of us,” Scheffler said. “Jordan’s an easy guy for me to play golf with and he’s fun to watch as well. Hopefully, we’ll draw a little bit of a crowd and make some birdies for them.”
There’s one difference from Spieth’s experience in 2015. The PGA Championship was at the end of the summer then. Now it’s the next event, at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Four days in the Texas heat, humidity and wind, just a couple of hundred miles south of a similar climate in Tulsa, should help Scheffler, Spieth and the rest of the 10 players among the world’s top 30 in the Nelson field.
While the forecast suggests players won’t have to worry much about the heat in Tulsa, temperatures for the Nelson are expected in the 90s all four days. But rain isn’t, a year after it plagued Craig Ranch’s debut, won by South Korea’s K.H. Lee.
The par-72 Craig Ranch layout, designed by Tom Weiskopf, won’t be nearly the test of Southern Hills in a week. Still, world No. 8 Justin Thomas has his mind on prepping — along with winning.
“If it’s easy then it doesn’t get you ready for hard, but then if it’s too tough then you beat yourself up and you’re exhausted going into next week,” Thomas said. “So I would like to say this is kind of a perfect balance and a good mixture.”
Spieth reminded reporters that he and Scheffler played together at the Nelson last year, when Spieth tied for ninth for his best finish in a tournament he badly wants to win after such a remarkable debut as a teenager.
Scheffler finished 47th, and was still just another name in the field nine months later — until the victory at Phoenix that sparked a remarkable eight-week run.
Both former Longhorns won the last time they played individually — Scheffler at the Masters (he and Ryan Palmer tied for 18th in the team event at New Orleans) and Spieth at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head.
“We played together last year and to be honest I don’t think he’s any different as a player,” Spieth said. “You guys just maybe look at him in a different lens than you did at this tournament last year. I’m used to playing with him weekly here in town and so it will just be a good time.”
It’s the fourth Nelson for Scheffler, who played three different courses his first three times. The Nelson moved from its longtime home at the TPC Four Seasons in Irving, west of Dallas, to Trinity Forest in southern Dallas for just two events starting in 2018, and now to the northern suburb of McKinney.
Like Spieth, Scheffler played the Four Seasons as a high schooler, and made the cut in his debut.
“I got a lot of good memories playing this event,” Scheffler said, “and I’m looking forward to this week.”
Ditto for one of his playing partners.