I Followed Scheffler And McIlroy On Masters Friday, The Gulf In Class Couldn't Have Been Clearer

While the ten shot difference tells one story, watching them side by side gave me a deeper insight into why Rory is so far off it

I Followed Scheffler And McIlroy On Masters Friday, The Gulf In Class Couldn't Have Been Clearer
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Following world number one Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy yesterday was the clearest evidence I've seen of just how far off it Rory is right now. A 10 shot gap after two rounds should be evidence enough of the gulf between them, but watching them side by side in the exact same conditions showed me the gulf is probably even bigger than the leaderboard suggests. 

Scheffler is in a world of his own right now. He's got the look of a man who is just out to play golf as opposed to thinking about swinging a golf club. Minimal swing thoughts, executing whatever shot is in front of him at any one time. He might be one of the more docile characters on tour and on the course he has the air of a man who's life exists outside of golf. 

Rory on the other hand looks like a man battling voices in his head, a million different swing thoughts and a desperation to play well again. After his 77 yesterday he told the media, 'My golf swing felt horrific for the last six or seven holes.' It looked like it too. It all went wrong on 11, where a double bogey pushed him closer to the cut line and his golf became tight and tetchy. 

Rory produced no birdies yesterday. Over the first two days he hit a miserable 17/36 greens in regulation compared to Scheffler's 23/36, both of whom are behind Max Homa's and Bryson DeChambeau's 26 greens in regulation. Rory's driving stats - just 6/14 fairways found yesterday - was tied for 86th in an 89 man field. When Rory's driver isn't firing, you know his swing really isn't in good shape. 

He bemoaned the pace of play on the 11th in particular. 'It felt like it took an hour to play that hole. It was stop and start, hard to get into a rhythm with the conditions and obviously how slow the play was as well.' It feels like this kinds of external criticisms that only come from a player not swinging it at their best. 

Scottie Scheffler shaking hands with Rory McIlroy at Augusta National

Shaking hands at the end of their first round

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Scheffler - who's biggest error of the day came when he played the 5th-7th holes in two over par - acknowledged the slow pace of play, but emphasized how he refuses to let that bother him.

'I try to relax as much as possible out there, but I feel like I teed off 10 hours ago. It was a long day. And, I mean, that's what happens. When you have greens this fast and this much wind and that much water out there, it's going to take a while to play golf. That's pretty much it.' 

I could see Scheffler visibly switch off while he was waiting. He's got a calm, distant stare and the aura of a man who is in no rush. With all that's going on in his life - his pregnant wife is due to give birth in the next two weeks - how he keeps himself so calm and focused is beyond me. Yes he's got one of the best swings and short games on tour, but watching him stroll around the course led me to believe he's got one of the best attitudes towards the game too. All this is probably quite easy when you're the best players in the world. 

Rory on the other hand looked restless, eager to fire in a close iron shot or a big drive to get something, anything going. Missed greens or putts that slid by were greeted by confused stares and frustrated looks. Every good shot was quickly followed by an indifferent one. 

Scheffler's demeanor never changes, good shot or bad. Bad shots were followed up by sensible ones and the fact he bogeyed the 5th and 7th was incredibly uncharacteristic of a man who has one of the best bogey bounce back percentages on tour. 

One thing I can't deny about both players is how much they both work on their swing. Both were seen hitting balls in the darkness on the range, so there's no gulf between the players' drive and want to get better. 

When I first saw the groups drawn I feared for Rory. A player who has been - and still can be - so good to have to watch the best player in the world run rings around him can't have been easy. Out in a two ball today with Camilo Villegas, I suspected he'll prefer the lower profile company. It's become an ongoing joke that Rory loves a back door top 10 or top five at majors, but that's looking a long way from a possibility this year. 

Dan Parker
Staff Writer

Dan has been with Golf Monthly team since 2021. He graduated with a Masters degree in International Journalism from the University of Sussex and looks after equipment reviews and buying guides, specializing in golf shoe, golf bag, golf cart and apparel reviews. Dan has now tested and reviewed over 30 pairs of golf shoes and is an expert in the field. A left-handed golfer, his handicap index is currently 6.5 and he plays at Fulford Heath Golf Club in the West Midlands. 

Dan's current clubs: 

Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 

Fairway: TaylorMade Stealth 2 15°

Hybrid: Ping G425 

Irons: Cobra King Tec Utility, Ping i230 (5-PW) 

Wedges: Ping Glide Forged Pro

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour X

Ball: Titleist AVX