Xander Schauffele: How His Entire Career Changed By Two Shots?

Xander Schauffele: How His Entire Career Changed By Two Shots

Over his career, Xander Schauffele may have made hundreds of thousands or maybe tens of thousands of shots. Naturally, then, the most significant one he encountered was one that you hardly ever get to practice.

For his whole career, Schauffele has finished second. While he did earn a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, he was still a member of the exclusive group of golfers known as the “best never to win a major.” He so close, so very near, that missing the cut can often be worse than finishing in second place in the Masters and the Open, and third place at the U.S. Open. If you forfeit the weekend, hope will not kill you.

For that reason, he knew exactly what had to be done when he stood in the sand of a bunker on 18, his ball on the fringe at shin height. While Schauffele was still standing on the tee, Bryson DeChambeau had wrapped up his PGA Championship with a decisive birdie at 18 to get to -20.

Xander Schauffele would be forced to play in an unpredictable three-hole playoff if he made a par on the hole. He would make it with a birdie and win his first major. He would let go of another significant title, a bogey.

He studied the shot, telling himself that someone out there was making him earn this right now. These are the kinds of obstacles you have to overcome in order to become a major champion.

Leaning 36 yards toward the hole, he inhaled deeply, re-gripped, and slashed the ball 219 yards, right short of the green. Creating an up-and-down for a big title then became the task.

Xander Schauffele had one chip remaining as he faced a six-foot, two-inch putt that could either make or break his life. The questions were already loud and clear.

Once more, Schauffele inhaled deeply, clenched and released his grip, and pounded the ball in the direction of the hole. It hit the goal every time, and then, for the most excruciating moment, it lipped along the cup’s edge before landing.

“I simply heard everyone yelling and felt relieved as I glanced up to the sky, not really remembering when it lipped in.”

Schauffele later recalled.

That was the end of that. PGA Championship assured. Achieved the lowest score to par (minus-21) in a major. a monkey tossed into the sun on its back.

One centimeter has the amazing power to alter the course of an entire career. Who knows how the 2024 PGA Championship will turn out if that putt fails to drop and it goes to a three-hole playoff? When Schauffele makes his first (and only) bogey of the day on hole 10, what happens to his story if he doesn’t calm himself and birdie two holes right away?

Schauffele is fortunate to have moved past everything. A date at the PGA Championship for as long as he wants to claim it, he will always be remembered as a major winner. Though he was quick to point out, not to the same extent as one of his colleagues, his career has taken a step higher.

“It’s this enormous mountain that we are all ascending. Scottie Scheffler is right at the summit of the mountain. Even if I prevailed today, in the grand scheme of things, I still don’t really resemble Scottie Scheffler. There on the mountain, up on that cliff, I grabbed one good hook, and I’m not done climbing. Perhaps I should appreciate this while sipping a beer on that hillside above us, but pursuing someone who is that far ahead of you is not that difficult.”

Xander Schauffele

DeChambeau was among the first to welcome Schauffele as he left the green. He watched the tournament unfold from the practice range, staying warm following the thrilling birdie at 18 to tie.

After finishing a few holes ahead of Schauffele, DeChambeau signed his scorecard and went to the Valhalla range to be ready for any potential playoff scenarios. (Maybe he recalled the example of Kenny Perry, who led in the clubhouse but lost a playoff game because he chose to sit in the broadcast booth instead of going to the range.)

Watch: Bryson DeChambeau Press Conference | 2024 PGA Championship Round 4

To his left, a large screen displayed the tournament, while DeChambeau hammered shots into the Kentucky twilight. As Xander Schauffele climbed the 18th hole, he continued to swing, even hitting a ball while Schauffele was approaching his last putt.

DeChambeau grimaced briefly as the putt spun around the cup and went in, then sprinted up the steep hill to reach Schauffele in the post-round crowd. After giving Schauffele a hug, he and Justin Thomas moved aside to allow him to really appreciate the moment that changed his life.

DeChambeau will be building on these two fundamental pieces moving forward. He started by shooting a -20 in a major. That would have been sufficient to win every single major that was played prior to this one, or at the very least force a playoff. Aside from that, he was the undisputed fan favorite on Sunday, maybe as a result of his recent commitment to producing celebration-worthy content for his following base.

It’s all Schauffele for now, but later on, DeChambeau might be the story. Schauffele smiled throughout as he posed with one PGA of America official after another outside the opening nine holes as the sun began to set. Moreover, why not? He had fulfilled a long-held dream. even if Sunday night’s claim required traveling to the 72nd hole.

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