Xander Schauffele: "I had to earn it, incredible"

"I knew I had to make birdies, so I knew I needed some aggression today"

by Andrea Gussoni
Xander Schauffele: "I had to earn it, incredible"
© Getty Images Sport - Michael Reaves / Staff

Xander Schauffele made Sunday at Valhalla a day where golf regained its fun on a course that has a knack for drama. His winning birdie-4 on the 18th hole (72nd hole of the tournament), where Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy also secured thrilling victories on the final day in decades past, one in a playoff and the other by a narrow margin, set the record for the lowest score in a major, in this case, the PGA Championship.

Xander Schauffele, statements

He edged out Bryson DeChambeau by one stroke after DeChambeau also finished the day with a birdie on the 18th hole to briefly tie for the lead. The victory ended a two-year winless streak for Schauffele, the Olympic gold medalist in 2021, who rises to second place in the world rankings.

Just in the past nine weeks, he held the Saturday lead in two tournaments only to see Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy snatch away the final victory. This time, DeChambeau attempted to do the same but fell short. The fact that the runner-up was part of LIV Golf, which has revolutionized golf and, dare I say, the sport, and has left his future uncertain, felt like an afterthought given the entertaining show he and Schauffele put on.

"I knew I had to make birdies, so I knew I needed some aggression today," said Schauffele, a nod to the fact that a record total of 15 players entered the final round with double-digit scores under par. He finished with -21 to break the record for the lowest score in a major, previously shared by Brooks Koepka (2018 PGA) and Henrik Stenson (2016 British Open).

On the 18th hole, his drive stopped just outside a fairway bunker, and Schauffele had to adopt an awkward stance to hit a ball above his feet, almost waist-high. "I got there and I just started laughing," he said. "I told myself, 'If you want to be a major champion, these are the kinds of situations you have to deal with'" After hitting his third shot to within two meters of the flag, Schauffele watched the putt drop, tapped the ball, and with suspense it dropped into the hole after making a half 'tie'

Schauffele raised his hands to the sky while DeChambeau was on the practice green, watching the big TV screen warming up for a potential playoff. Seconds later, he congratulated the winner. "I gave it my all," DeChambeau said.

"I pushed as hard as I could, and I knew my 'B' game would be enough. It's clear that someone else played better than me," added Bryson. In a month, Schauffele will face the U.S. Open after shedding the unofficial title of 'Best player never to have won a Grand Slam'

When asked if he was bothered by being called this, Schauffele tried to turn it around. "Obviously, it's annoying to be asked about it all the time. I'd rather answer questions with the Wanamaker by my side than after losing, but I really don't care.

I believed it too. Deep down, it was a compliment. I also knew I was very good and through perseverance, I was sure I would eventually get there. The drop and the stone. Really, both that phrase and the previous defeats I've suffered have been fuel for me.

They help me enjoy this victory much more now," he explained. Relief, exhaustion, and pride. No one knows better than him how difficult it is to win a Grand Slam. Very few are more aware than him of the effort it takes to sink the decisive putt.

That's why, on the 18th, happiness flooded over him. "I stayed very patient. I constantly looked at the leaderboard. I wanted to be aware of everything. I wanted to know exactly where I stood. I wanted to face my feelings, whatever was going through my head," asserted the champion.

As for the 18th hole, Schauffele couldn't have chosen a better way to win. Satisfaction multiplied a thousandfold when he won his first major by sinking the decisive putt on the last hole. "I knew I had to make birdie on the last hole looking at the leaderboard.

I had to make the birdie no matter what. I told myself that nobody was going to give it to me, that I had to earn it, that I had to prove to myself that it was my moment and I could do it. I admit it was a somewhat shaky birdie, but it was incredible," highlighted the now world No.

2. Xander had to make a difficult decision to get here. Stefan Schauffele, his father and lifelong coach, stepped aside, and they sought someone else to guide them in this ambitious goal. The chosen one was Chris Como, ironically the coach alongside whom Bryson DeChambeau revolutionized golf a few years ago and with whom he no longer works.

"Chris has helped me a lot. He has provided me with a couple of technical details that make me more comfortable over the ball. I hit better shots and have more resources than before. My father thought he was the right person, and we bet on him.

My father, like every father, just wanted the best for me, and the truth is that we hit the nail on the head," Schauffele said this Sunday with the Wanamaker Trophy under his arm. Lastly, Xander explained that his father hasn't even been at the PGA Championship.

"He's in Hawaii enjoying himself. We've talked all week, and he's sent me very positive messages, but he's more on the sidelines. I was able to talk to him just before going down to the green on the 18th hole to pick up the trophy.

He was crying. It was very emotional. He seems like an ogre, but he's actually very emotional," he said. Among those messages from his father to his phone, there was one on Saturday night, the last one before going out to play.

"It said: 'a constant drop is able to break a stone' He sent it to me in German, and I had to translate it. I think it's a proverb that defines me quite well. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very stubborn, very constant. It's key to success," he concluded.

Xander Schauffele