Professional golf suddenly has two dominant forces

    Scottie Scheffler won his first PGA Tour event in the Phoenix Open two years ago and now he has 10 tour titles, two of them at the Masters.

    Not only is he the No.1 player in the world, he has double the average points of the next player, Rory McIlroy.

    That hasn’t happened since Tiger Woods doubled the world ranking lead over Phil Mickelson toward the end of 2009.

    Nelly Korda went through 2023 without winning on the LPGA Tour and ended the year at No.5 in the women’s world ranking.

    Now the World No.1 has a record-equalling five straight victories and is close to having double the points average of No.2 Lilia Vu, who won two majors last year.

    It all seems to have happened so quickly, except that it really hasn’t.

    Korda possesses all the traits of a star.

    She has the athletic genes – an older sister (Jessica) on the LPGA Tour, a younger brother (Sebastian) who is No.26 in the world in tennis, a father (Petr) who won his lone grand slam event in tennis at the 1998 Australian Open.

    Her swing is so pure that even the late Mickey Wright, regarded as the greatest LPGA player, took notice in a 2017 interview with another publication. That was a year before Korda won the first of her 13 LPGA titles.

    Korda first rose to No. 1 when she captured the Women’s PGA Championship in 2021, and then won the Olympic gold medal. What she lost was momentum – surgery for a blood clot in her left arm that cost her four months in 2022, and then a back injury in the late spring of 2023 that cost her a month.

    She exudes a cool demeanour, ruthless at times, and her quiet toughness is a good fit with swing coach Jamie Mulligan. He says Korda has “shooter’s adrenaline,” a basketball reference.

    “If the mind is quiet, even if your heart is going, you can get yourself in the right spot,” Mulligan said.

    Nobody can get close to Scottie Scheffler in the men’s game. PHOTO: Getty Images.

    Now she is fully fit and listening to her body. Korda won before a home crowd in Bradenton, Florida, skipped the entire Asia swing, returned after seven weeks off and won four in a row.

    “I think there’s a key in the simplicity that I have when I play,” Korda said. “I honestly just take it a shot at a time, and we pick a game plan when we get to the golf course and we work and we stay in our own little bubble. It’s been working so far.”

    That’s how Scheffler makes it look.

    He picks a target. He swings the club. It goes where he’s looking.

    No one is better from tee to green, which can make his putting seem worse than it really is. He got into some bad habits last year that made the putter look like a piece of Kryptonite at the end of a shaft. That has been sorted out. And that’s frightening for the rest of golf.

    Korda and Scheffler will disappear now for a few weeks.

    Korda withdrew from this week’s JM Eagle L.A Championship on Monday and is not expected back until May 9 for the Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey.

    Scheffler said he will not be back until the PGA Championship on May 16-19. His wife, Meredith, is expecting to give birth to their first child by the end of the month.

    Scheffler is approaching a full year at World No.1, a rarity in men’s golf. Dustin Johnson (64 weeks) and McIlroy (54 weeks) are the only ones to have done that post-Woods. After that first victory, it took Scheffler only 50 tournaments to get the next nine.

    This form didn’t just show up overnight. It just seems that way because of his putting funk.

    “I was No.1 in the world for a long time last year,” Scheffler said.

    “But I was never answering questions like, ‘Hey, you’ve been playing so great.’ It was more like, ‘Hey, you’ve been playing great, BUT you’ve been doing this one thing really, really bad.'”

    He laughed, because laughter comes easily to Scheffler. So does winning.

    – Doug Ferguson

    © Golf Australia. All rights reserved.

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