Golf

After posting 26 under over final 51 holes in Byron Nelson, scorching Xander Schauffele heads to PGA Championship looking for first major


TULSA, Okla. – Xander Schauffele was seething.

Last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch outside of Dallas was feeling like another empty tournament for the world No. 10 and gold medalist from the Tokyo Summer Games. His year to date already had been below his lofty standards aside from teaming with Patrick Cantlay to win the Zurich Classic and after going bogey-double bogey on the second and third holes of the second round, he was 3 over in the tournament that was a birdie fest.

“Some terrible things. Not going to lie,” Schauffele said this week about what he was thinking heading to the fourth tee that day. “It’s so weird when you’re playing so poorly, or scoring so poorly, I should say. Scoring really poorly, kind of frees you up. I had nothing to lose.

“So I pretty much had that nothing-to-lose mindset for quite some time throughout that tournament. And I was just chasing.”

That’s when Schauffele lit a fire under himself. One could make a case for quite a few players as being the hottest coming into Southern Hills Country Club for the 104th PGA Championship. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who has won four tournaments since February, including the Masters. Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, who has gone W-2 his last two starts. Last week’s winner, K.H. Lee, who shot 26 under.

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But is anyone scalding hot like Schauffele? In his final 51 holes of the Byron Nelson, he was 26 under – he made 24 birdies and an eagle without a bogey to finish in a tie for third. Repeat. Twenty-six under over 51 holes.

“Big for me. The Zurich tournament with Patrick was really nice, sort of half the stress. I was playing well at the time, and getting that win was important but if you look before Zurich, how my year was going, very kind of stale, for me, in my feelings and how my team sort of view how I’m supposed to play,” Schauffele said. “So it was nice to kind of put that aside, and Friday, I had that stale feeling for a little bit and then kind of woke up and made a lot of birdies.”

Was it his best stretch of golf as a pro?

“You tell me,” he said.

OK, we will. In terms of three consecutive rounds, Schauffele’s 193 total in rounds 2-4 (he shot 67-65-61) was one better than his previous best.

“It was kind of a cherry on top to finish with a 61 last week,” he said. “But whenever you’re playing bad and can kind of get back in position and shoot a good score, it’s always a really good thing for the player in terms of confidence.”

Schauffele’s last of four PGA Tour titles came in the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. While he’s finished in the top 10 in nine of 19 majors, he has yet to capture his first.

“I haven’t had the best of years up to this point, for the most part, I’d say, in terms of consistency,” he said. “So I think me just getting back to sort of my process and being patient and not really trying to do too much. Just sort of when I do really well in majors and I’m not worried throughout the week. I kind of have that feeling now. I think mentally I’m in a good spot.”
Which will play well at Southern Hills, which will not allow a birdie fest.

“It’s tough. It’s going to be really hard. I think PGA Championships for the most part, people feel like you can kind of shoot lower in them than most majors. But I think this year is going to be a different story,” he said. “Southern Hills is no joke. You know, it’s going to take a lot of patience and a lot of good quality shots just to kind of shoot around par.

“You just have to play smart. They are going to be long rounds, not just because they are hitting over other greens and waiting, stuff like that. It’s going to be long just because you have to really think. You have to be smart. It’s going to be a mental battle and you really have to stay patient.”



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