There is a segment of the general population that takes sports and sports stars way too seriously.

Some of us — names withheld in the interest of self-revelation — elevate sports stars too high and denigrate them too low over the bounce of a ball, the hitch in a step, or a momentary lapse in otherwise supernatural hand/eye coordination. 

It is not a new phenomenon. Professional sports stars have been larger than life since the time of the gladiators, where men who once started out property were able to not only gain their freedom via acts of life-or-death athleticism, but become idolized in Roman society.

Some things change. We no longer require our sporting entertainment to conclude when a thumbs down really means a thumbs down. Other things remain constant. Sports stars can and do become billionaires. Young people hang on every word they say, and camp out outside of storefronts waiting for the chance to purchase the latest footwear attached to a specific athlete.

In golf, no one epitomizes this zenith of stardom more than Tiger Woods. At the height of his career, he was untouchable. There were no known devices that could fully calibrate his ability. He was a child prodigy who grew into a strong and new athletic archetype of modern golfers. In his prime, he could hit a driver farther and with more accuracy than any of his contemporaries, and he used his putter the way a brain surgeon uses a scalpel.

One thing Tiger Woods could not compete with was time. As great as one might be at golf, playing with a fused back, a fused ankle, and approaching 50 is a recipe for what happened to Woods at this year’s Masters golf tournament. He may have made the cut — which, considering his physical problems, is a feat in and of itself — but he ended the tournament in last place.

The man who finished first at this year’s Masters and who was fitted for its iconic green jacket for the second time in his young career is not like Tiger Woods or many other golfers at all.

Tiger Woods lived, breathed, and ate golf. Scottie Scheffler does not. He shares Woods’ innate ability for the game, but watching him as I did during the final round of one of the most important professional golf tournaments in the world, it was obvious he was different. He seemed distracted because he was. The reason was clear, and if you asked him, as people have, he would tell you what makes him different from Tiger Woods and many other professional athletes: Golf is not the No. 1 priority in his life.

Actually, golf is not his No. 2 or No. 3 priority in life. This is almost sacrilege in American sports fanaticism. What makes Scheffler’s heresy worse is what his No. 1 priority is: his relationship with his Lord and Savior. 

Every time I see Scheffler on television speaking about his faith, I can almost hear the collective air leaking out of the press corps on the other side of the camera. They want to talk about birdies and bogies and killer instincts and how much winning a golf tournament means to the champion.

Scheffler wants to give honor and glory to God through his Son Jesus first. Before golf, but just after Jesus, Scheffler’s love for his wife takes precedence, followed by his family. During this year’s Masters, Scottie had another priority waiting, which was probably why he looked distracted as he played.

Scheffler’s wife was home in Texas, ready to go into labor at any moment with the couple’s first child. Scheffler told reporters before the tournament began that if or when his wife did go into labor, he would leave the tournament, no matter where he stood and no matter what day of the tournament it was. He said something to the effect that he would leave in “mid-swing” if his baby was on the way. His unborn child cooperated and waited, and the rest is Masters history.

In his after-tournament press conference, Scheffler continued to deflect questions about golf with simple wisdom. “I’ve been given a gift with this talent and I use it for God’s glory.” That quote made me think of earlier in the week at Augusta seeing Tiger Woods spending some special bonding time with his own son. He may still want another major championship, but it looks like maybe his priorities are reconfiguring as well.