Issues That We Love About Golf, Case File No. 844: It provides us surprises. Terrific surprises. Seeing Justin Thomas emerge as a serious winner and PGA Tour Participant of the Yr in 2016-17 was about as delicate as an oncoming freight practice. Thomas has been profitable tournaments since he wasn’t as tall as his wedge. We knew it was coming.
However Xander Schauffele, your newly minted PGA Tour Rookie of the Yr? A really good shock.
He was simply one other struggling card-toting PGA Tour rookie when June arrived, a graduate of the Net.com Tour Finals hoping to seek out a way simply to maintain that PGA Tour card in his palms. Schauffele, 23, had missed seven cuts in his previous 12 begins, was 132th in FedEx Cup factors and sat at No. 336 on the planet. (He’d slip to 352 earlier than the U.S. Open.) Fortunately, on this recreation, small advances can generate huge sparks.
Schauffele’s second got here in a U.S. Open Sectional playoff in Memphis, Tenn., the place he went 36 holes (sixty four-seventy one) after which additional time to outlive a 5-for-two-spots playoff to advance to Erin Hills. Within the first spherical of his first main championship, he went bogey-free in sixty six; making an attempt to shake him off the leaderboard was like making an attempt to get gum off your shoe. On Sunday, on the most important stage he’d ever skilled, he pounded a drive down Erin Hills’ par-5 closing gap and confronted 290 yards to the entrance edge, 311 to the opening.
“He flagged a three-wooden,” stated his caddie and buddy, Austin Kaiser, Schauffele’s teammate at San Diego State. “It was the purest three-wooden I’ve ever seen.”
Schauffele two-putted for his birdie, shot sixty nine and tied for fifth. He was on his approach. When Schauffele teed it up at Vacationers the subsequent week, he was drained bodily, however mentally he was a brand new participant. Two begins later, he gained at Greenbrier. When he gained once more, this time the Tour Championship at East Lake, he’d risen to No. 32 on the planet.
What had he taken away from the U.S. Open?
“Simply to have the ability to be cool and calm (at Erin Hills), and type of simply not mess up, actually,” he stated. “I used to be enjoying rather well, and often I’ll choke or one thing. So to hold in there and tie for fifth, it proved to me that I might type of hang around with the large boys.”
The added byproduct that might show so worthwhile was the additional octane in his confidence.
“My dad all the time jokes that your confidence is a bit plant, and it takes perpetually to develop and just some seconds to stomp out,” he stated. “In order that’s sort of the way it labored. That plant grew fairly quick on the U.S. Open. It virtually become a tree, truly.”
Schauffele laughs at that thought, as a result of he’s something however boastful. The truth that two massive victories in three months have elevated him right into a extra outstanding position within the Tour’s extremely touted Class of 2011 appears to humor him greater than something. Oh, Schauffele is assured he’ll win extra, however he sees a variety of daylight between him and the likes of classmates Jordan Spieth and Thomas.
“That’s bizarre firm to be related to,” he says. “They set the bar excessive, and I’m excited to chase them within the years to return.”
Schauffele, whose father, Stefan, has been his instructor since he began the sport 10 years in the past, considers driving and placing to be the strengths of his recreation. He’s lengthy (at 5-ft-10, he ranked sixteenth in Tour driving distance at 306.eight yards) and hits his share of greens. Across the greens, although, he is aware of there’s a excessive ceiling for enchancment. With a number of brief photographs, he readily admits he merely doesn’t really feel very snug.
What if he might keep his strengths in 2017-18 and simply enhance the brief recreation marginally?
“I feel some actually loopy issues can occur to me,” Schauffele stated.
He shot a sixty five Thursday within the opening spherical of the CIMB Basic in Kuala Lumpur, a shot behind chief Cameron Smith.
Already some loopy issues are occurring. Loopy good issues. There aren’t many 23-yr-olds even attending to the Tour Championship, not to mention profitable it. Schauffele left Saturday on an formidable run by way of Asia – he’ll make event begins in Malaysia, South Korea and China, fly residence to California for every week, then head to Japan for the Dunlop Phoenix.
“I do know lots of people are saying, ‘Take a break, take a break,’ ” he stated, “however I’m 23, turning 24 (on Oct. 25). I’m hungry. I need to journey and play different locations.”
Ah, uninhibited youth.
(Word: This column seems within the Oct. 9, 2017 challenge of Golfweek.)