Scottie Scheffler toughed out neck tightness in Players Championship second round

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Only Scottie Scheffler.

Only the world’s most overlooked and understated No. 1 ranked player could quietly power his way through a round during which a neck ailment looked like it might force him to withdraw from the tournament he’s trying to defend, to somehow remain in contention.

Drama ensued during the second round of The Players Championship for Scheffler, who somewhat unwittingly avoids controversy as deftly as Tiger Woods avoids one-on-one interviews.

Scottie Scheffler, seated, gets treatment as he waits to tee off on the 14th hole during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament. AP

Scheffler isn’t usually prone to drama the way Tiger Woods — the most prolific No. 1 ranked player ever — is. Woods, you may remember, withdrew from his own tournament, the Genesis Invitational, during the second round last month at Riviera with the flu and we haven’t seen him since.

Two holes into his round at TPC Sawgrass, Scheffler felt a twinge in his neck and left shoulder that was painful enough for him to summon a medical trainer for help.

And yet he still managed to press on, finish his round and shoot a 3-under-par 69 to get to 8-under, six shots behind leader Wyndham Clark and still in contention entering the weekend.

Scheffler, who entered the day two shots out of the lead after shooting an opening-round 67 on Thursday, began his second round on the back nine Friday and got off to a smooth start with a birdie on No. 10.

Two holes later, though, Scheffler grimaced after a shot on the 12th hole and called for a rules official to ask if he could have a physio come out to tend to him.

Scottie Scheffler of the United States lines up a putt on the 17th green during the second round of The Players Championship on the Stadium Course. Getty Images

A few minutes later, Marnus Marais, a tour physio, showed up and began working on Scheffler’s neck and shoulders between holes. Scheffler sat in a chair behind the 14th tee for several minutes with Marais working on him as his playing partners, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, hit their tee shots.

It seemed so very Scheffler, who has been the most consistent player in the game for more than a year, that he birdied the par-3 13th hole minutes earlier.

After his massage on the 14th tee, Scheffler hit a 275-yard drive into the fairway and parred the hole.

After the 15th hole, Scheffler took a seat in a player relief area and had more massage done on him while Thomas and Fowler teed off on 16. He then proceeded to pipe a 291-yard drive into the fairway — he was the only player in his group to hit the fairway.

Scottie Scheffler of the United States plays a shot on the 18th hole during the second round. Getty Images

He converted that tee shot into a birdie on the par-5.

PGA Tour rules allow a player approximately 15 minutes of treatment during a round or the player must withdraw. So, Marais, after walking the 16th fairway with Scheffler, disappeared after Scheffler hit his second shot and Scheffler carried on the rest of the way without him.

The 27-year-old Scheffler said afterward that he had no hint of the neck issues entering the tournament or entering Friday.

“I hit a shot on my second hole today [No. 11] and I felt a little something in my neck, and then I tried to hit my tee shot on 12 and that’s when I could barely get the club back,’’ Scheffler said afterward. “So, I got some treatment. Maybe it loosened up a tiny bit, but most of the day I was pretty much laboring to get the club somehow away from me.’’

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Instead of heading to the post-round interview area, Scheffler spoke only to a PGA Tour official because he went directly from scoring to the fitness trailer for treatment.

“I did what I could to kind of stay in the tournament today, and hopefully it’ll loosen up and then I’ll be able to make somewhat normal swings tomorrow,’’ he said.

Asked if Clark is too far ahead, Scheffler said, “I did enough I felt like today to keep myself somewhat in the tournament, and so that’s really all I could ask for.

“The way I was getting around the course, the way my neck was feeling, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue playing, so yeah, good fight out there.’’

Good, quiet fight, indeed.

Scheffler entered the week coming off winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, the second time in three years he won that event.

He, too is the defending champion of The Players this week at Sawgrass, where no player in the 49-year history of the tournament has defended the title.

The way he quietly powered through on Friday, though, it would a mistake to discount him from making history over the weekend.

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