As the two-time defending champion of the WM Phoenix Open, Scottie Scheffler has a chance to do something only one golfer has done before in the long and illustrious history of this tournament: three-peat.
Arnold Palmer did it from 1961-63 when the event was played at Phoenix Country Club. Since the tournament moved to TPC Scottsdale in 1987, only Hideki Matsuyama (2016-17) had won back-to-back Phoenix Opens before Scheffler’s current run.
But it was Scheffler’s failure to earn his first PGA Tour title at the 2021 WM Phoenix Open, a year before his winning ways began, that may have been the turning point in his career. That’s when Scheffler realized he needed to take his fitness to the next level.
Scheffler played in the final group in 2021 and closed in 1-under 70 but got passed by Brooks Koepka’s 65 and settled for a T-7 finish.
“We found out he didn’t have the cardiovascular endurance,” said Troy Van Biezen, a chiropractor whose stable of players won 12 majors and more than 100 tournaments while under his care. “He had some fatigue on the back nine. I worked with Tiger when he won the 2019 Masters and he told me I want to be as physically, emotionally and mentally strong when I tee off on Thursday as when I’m going down the back nine on Sunday. That always stuck in my head.”
So, after falling short at TPC Scottsdale, Van Biezen sat down with Scheffler and constructed a new exercise regime built around stability, mobility and flexibility but that also included everything from nutrition to hydration and recovery, taxing the body with sled pushes and finishing sessions with burners or hits.
“I told him, ‘I’m going to beat the crap out of you,’ ” Van Biezen recalled. “We’re going to do a lot of high intensity aerobic work, build up your aerobic capacity and your endurance.’ Let’s make sure we control the controllables.”
Scheffler made endurance training a point of emphasis that off-season so he’d never feel gassed again. Not only did he return to the Valley of the Sun and notched his maiden Tour title in a playoff over then-reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay in 2022, but he went on to have a remarkable year, winning the Masters among five victories and being named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
He reached No. 1 in the world and followed…