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Schauffele: Major win

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Schauffele: Major win

When Xander Schauffele carded a record-equalling 62 in the opening round of the 106th US PGA Championship, the jokes soon followed.

“Schauffele staking his claim for 2nd place” read a typical post on social media, one of many variations on a theme which took aim at Schauffele’s reputation for failing to convert leads into victories.

Three days later it was Schauffele who had the last laugh as he secured his first major title with a wire-to-wire victory at Valhalla in a record total of 21 under par.

The manner of the win was the perfect response to his critics, Schauffele holding his nerve to birdie the 72nd hole to avoid a play-off with former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who had birdied the same hole minutes earlier to pile on the pressure.

It came just seven days after Schauffele had given critics of his inability to close out tournaments even more ammunition as he failed to convert a 54-hole lead in the Wells Fargo Championship.

“All those close calls for me, even last week, that sort of feeling, it gets to you at some point,” Schauffele admitted.

“It just makes this even sweeter. I know it’s a major, but just winning in general this is as sweet as it gets for me.”

Asked how he had been affected by the narrative of his near misses, Schauffele added: “Definitely a chip on the shoulder there.

“You guys are asking the questions, probing, and I have to sit here and answer it. It’s a lot easier to answer it with this thing [Wanamaker Trophy] sitting next to me now, obviously.

“It’s just fuel, fuel to my fire. It always has been growing up, and it certainly was leading up to this.”

Schauffele had been without a win since a golden three-week period in 2022, when he tasted victory in the Travelers Championship in the United States, the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland and the Genesis Scottish Open.

Tied with Collin Morikawa after 54 holes at Valhalla, Schauffele looked to have one hand on the Wanamaker Trophy when he reached the turn with a two-shot lead, only to bogey the par-five 10th as Viktor Hovland birdied the 12th two groups ahead.

“Someone like me that hasn’t won in two years has pretty much tried everything, to be completely honest,” Schauffele said.

“You try not to look at the leaderboards until the back nine, you try not to look at them early, you try not to look at them at all. Today I looked at them. I looked at them all day.

“I really wanted to feel everything. I wanted to address everything that I was feeling in the moment.”

Hovland’s birdie on the 13th gave the Ryder Cup star the outright lead, an unwelcome development which Schauffele discovered as he faced a birdie putt on the 11th.

“I thought I had the lead, so I when looked up at the leaderboard I was like, oof, Viktor was at 19 (under), so I was back into chasing mode and I knew that putt was really big in the tournament,” Schauffele said.

With that putt successfully converted, Schauffele also made a birdie on the 12th and another on the 18th – set up by a superb second shot from an awkward stance in a fairway bunker – to seal a dramatic win.

It lifted the 30-year-old from San Diego to a career-high second in the world rankings and should ensure he will be able to defend his Olympic title in Paris.

“That’s just a cherry on top,” Schauffele said. “That was my goal, obviously, to qualify. The US team is a strong one. It’s a hard one to qualify for.

“I imagine this win probably secures me into qualifying for the Olympics. That’s a whole different ball game, winning that one, but I’ll definitely be able to pull some confidence from this thing.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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