AUGUSTA, GA. - As the defending Masters champion, Jon Rahm chose the menu for Tuesday night's champions dinner. He offered entrees of ribeye and turbot at a time when golf is failing to feed the beast.

The NFL became the most popular sport in the history of North America by turning a sport with a four-month regular season into a 12-month obsession for its fans. Golf too often these days offers nothing more than another Rahm favorite ― tapas.

That will change beginning Thursday, as most of the world's best golfers play in the first round of the 2024 Masters. Even ignoring the split between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, golf has not held a major championship in the United States since mid-June of 2023.

Weather Delay: Updated Masters Tee Times

The move of the PGA Championship from August to May has compressed the major golf schedule. Combine that with weakened fields for most non-major PGA Tour events, caused by the defection of players to LIV, and perhaps it's misleading to say that golf is offering tapas. For most of the year, golf fans are getting crumbs.

That's why this year's Masters feels even more momentous than usual. Of the 13 LIV players in the field, seven are former Masters champions. With the rivalry between LIV and the PGA Tour diminished by ongoing negotiations between the tours, this week should be all about golf, and the most famous golf course in the United States, and perhaps the world's best player.

No one becomes the top-ranked player in the world without being a great ball-striker, but Scottie Scheffler is unique even among those who reach the top of this profession.

Perhaps not since Ben Hogan has a player been so great from tee to green and so iffy with putter in hand.

Scheffler leads the PGA Tour in scoring average, birdie average, shots gained over the field, shots gained on approach shots and greens in regulation. He hits the ball long and high, enabling him to land even long irons softly on fast greens. He's an excellent chipper, pitcher and bunker player.

His rank in shots gained putting: 97th.

Scheffler has won two of his past three tournaments. His worst finish in eight tournaments this year is tied for 17th. He has seven top-10 finishes.

If he putts well, he wins. If he doesn't putt well, he comes close. The only other variable that could affect him this week: Meredith, his wife, is thought to be three weeks from delivering the couple's first child. Scheffler said he will leave if doctors indicate that she could deliver this weekend.

Scheffler's performance on those greens might prove defining; how he gets to the greens is fascinating.

In modern golf, players can use computers to study and refine their mechanics. They can seek biomechanical perfection.

Scheffler made it to No. 1 with a swing no one would teach a child.

On his typical full swing, his back foot slides toward the target. On some swings, especially when he's trying to hit a creative shot, both of his feet move, making him look like a Minnesotan trying to navigate ice on a steep driveway.

What looks like a flaw is an indicator of a long, free-flowing swing. Unlike so many modern players who thrust up from the ground and torque their torsos while trying to generate maximum power, Scheffler allows the swinging of the club to pull his feet wherever they might go.

"When I first came out on tour, I think my footwork was kind of how I was known to people," he said. "A lot of people maybe viewed it as not that good of a trait in my golf swing. I think some people may have said that it would be hard for me to be consistent, hard for me to play under pressure with that much action going on in my swing."

One of the oddities of golf can be a curse for Scheffler — that 330-yard drives count the same as 3-foot putts.

Maybe he should try sliding his feet around the next time he needs to make a knee-knocker.