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Houston Open Golf 2024 Preview: Scottie Scheffler Eyes Third Consecutive PGA Tour Win

World no. 1 Scottie Scheffler is coming off wins at Bay Hill and The Players Championship, and he will try to become the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three starts in a row

Marta Lavandier
Photo: Marta Lavandier

Peter Malnati is a PGA Tour winner again and now gets to tee it up with big names at the Houston Open. In his group for the opening two rounds is Scottie Scheffler, the world's No. 1 player who is going for this third consecutive victory. (More Sports News)

But a big part of Malnati is representing the little guy, the career grinders who care just as much about competing without seeing golf through the prism of money.

And there is a lot of it in the game right now, brought on by the disruption of Saudi money funding LIV Golf, and the PGA Tour's response by creating $20 million signature events for the elite in the game.

Malnati struck a chord with so many for his emotions when he won the Valspar Championship, only his second PGA Tour title and first in more than nine years. He said it was for his family and those who supported him, but also for tournaments that aren't signature events in a new era that can leave them “wondering where they fit and if they matter.”

He elevated those thoughts Wednesday, saying fans are sick of talking about money. Malnati recalled watching Michael Jordan's clutch moments with the Chicago Bulls, or Tiger Woods winning the majors in record fashion.

“I didn't care one iota what Jordan's contract was. I didn't care one iota what the winner's check at that U.S. Open was,” Malnati said. "And I think people are sick of that. I think people are just sick of the narrative in golf being about contracts on LIV, purses on the tour, guaranteed comp on the tour. I think people are so sick of that.

“I just feel like no kid when they were watching Jordan dreamed of having his salary. They didn't care about that," he said. “They dreamed of being in that moment, hitting that shot. I think that's what our fans care about, too. And that's what they want to see.”

His comments came one day after Chris DiMarco, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour who has yet to win on the 50-and-old PGA Tour Champions circuit, laughed when he said on the “Subpar Podcast” that “we're kind of hoping that LIV buys the Champions Tour.”

“Let's play for a little real money out here. I mean, this is kind of a joke when we're averaging $2 million (purses)," DiMarco said. "There were like seven guys last week from TPC (The Players Championship) that made more money than our purses.”

For Malnati, it was a career-changer in many ways. In his 10th year on the PGA Tour, he has never advanced beyond the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs. He has played in only three majors — never on the weekend — and the victory got him into the Masters for the first time.

He also is exempt through 2026, a big deal for a guy who seems to struggle each year keeping his full PGA Tour card. His career earnings are now just over $9.9 million, a bit more than half of what Viktor Hovland got last year from winning the FedEx Cup. Scheffler already has made more than Malnati's career earnings in just three months this year.

For now, it's back to work for Malnati. The Houston Open starts Thursday at Memorial Park, held for the first time since the fall of 2022 because it moved to a new date in the spring leading up to the Masters. The course is different with lusher, green grass instead of the Bermuda grass typical of Texas in the late summer and fall.

Scheffler is coming off wins at Bay Hill and The Players Championship, and he will try to become the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three starts in a row. He said he was worn out from winning back-to-back weeks on strong courses against strong fields. Scheffler is not one to look much further than the next shot, and a chance for three straight wins was not front of mind.

“When you show up at a tournament being No. 1, I don't start at 1 under, I don't start at 2 under, I start at even,” Scheffler said. “You've got to approach every week the same. You've got to put in the same amount of work, you've got to show up prepared.”