Rough return to ‘normal’ sends Scheffler down leaderboard at PGA Championship

Scottie Scheffler watches his tee shot on the third hole during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Scottie Scheffler arrived at the golf course Saturday in plenty of time. Once he got there, nothing felt quite right.

A day after he powered through his odyssey to the jailhouse, then back to the course just in time to get to the opening tee box, Scheffler enjoyed a more regular schedule but struggled to keep things together at the PGA Championship.

He shot 2-over 73 in the third round to close at 7 under for the tournament and drop from fourth to a tie for 24th. It snapped a string of 42 straight rounds of par or better for the world’s top player, dating to Saturday at the Tour Championship last year.

“I definitely did not feel like myself today,” he said. “Yesterday happened, I did my best to recover from it and come out and compete. This morning was not my usual routine for a round. At the end of the day, I came out hoping to have a good round but I wasn’t able to get it done, which was frustrating.”

Though he said his arrest and trip to a holding cell the day before left his heart thumping and his head spinning, it didn’t show on the course or the scoreboard; he shot 66 in Round 2. A day later, it was clear he was still adjusting to the stunning events of the previous 36 hours.

He started losing ground even before he stepped onto the course.

Justin Rose and Shane Lowry led the way, shooting 64 and 62 in a group more than an hour ahead of Scheffler’s.

The scoring average at Valhalla was 69.55, the second-lowest for the third round of a PGA in history. In all, 15 players will begin the final round at double-digits under par; the previous record for a major was seven, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

But the reigning Masters champion got left out of the party.

He made two bogeys and a double over his first four holes, finished the front nine in 38 and shot his worst round of the season. Even though he struggled, he still felt the love. Chants of “Scottie, Scottie, Scottie,” were scattered across the course, never louder than when he made a short birdie putt on 18 to close the day.

Before that, it was an ugly mix of missed tee shots, bad lies in the rough and a few struggles with the putter that had more or less gone away during a season in which he has won four times.

“I was battling as hard as I could all day but every time I’d make a birdie, I’d bogey the next hole,” he said. “Way too many mistakes today. Obviously I’m pretty frustrated with the result.”

His struggles started on the par-4 second, where his approach shot landed deep in the rough to the left of the green. It took him two shots to get to the putting surface and he made double bogey.

On No. 4, his tee shot landed left of a fence in a penalty area to the left of the green. After taking a drop, Scheffler chunked the next chip. He made a 10-foot putt to save bogey.

He made two birdies after that, but three-putted from 30 feet on the par-3 eighth, the second putt a push from 3 feet that took a 270-degree spin around the cup and stayed out.

Scheffler’s 73 was better than only five players in the 78-man field. He’ll enter Sunday trailing leaders Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele by eight.

One possible boost for the final 18 holes will be the return of his caddie, Ted Scott, who left town to attend his daughter’s high school reunion, leaving the bag duties to Scheffler’s friend, tour chaplain Brad Payne.

Scott is scheduled to return for the final round, which will start much earlier than Scheffler might have expected on a week where very little has gone to plan.

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