Not that long ago, Xander Schauffele (ZAN-der SHAW-flee) was an All-American at San Diego State with a solid golf game and an oft-mispronounced name. Today, this 24-year-old rookie played with the poise of a PGA TOUR veteran for an impressive come-from-behind victory in the 2017 Greenbrier Classic. This not only earned Schauffele his first PGA TOUR win, but a spot in the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, the 2018 PLAYERS Championship, the 2018 Masters, and the 2017 PGA Championship, among others.
Not bad for four days’ work.
Schauffele, a California native, started playing golf at the age of nine, coached by his father, who was in the PGA – Aloha section. His dad is still his swing coach today.
After earning his Social Sciences degree from San Diego State University in 2015, Schauffele turned pro that same year. He went through Web.com, Q school straight away, and joined the PGA TOUR in 2016-2017. His win at Greenbrier catapults him to an enviable “Number 27” in the FedExCup standings.
Yet, Schauffele approaches his first TOUR win, and his rise in the FedExCup standings, with the same grace with which he closed out the day.
“It’s slowly sinking in. Everyone that knows me knows I’m a late bloomer, so to jump in the Top 30 (of the FedEx Cup standings) in this fashion is something special to me,” Schauffele said. “Just to know that my team and I are doing the right things is great. Hopefully, we can just stay on the same track.”
According to Schauffele, his finish at the 2017 U.S. Open prepared him to keep his composure as he moved into contention today.
“The U.S. Open was a huge moment in my career. It was one of the biggest stages and for me to be calm and collected throughout the week, and just kind of hang on and come in tied for fifth, was huge for me mentally,” Schauffele said. “So, it kind of gave me the confidence and allowed me to play and win this week.”
This is not to say that, the closer he got to the top of the Greenbrier leaderboard, the less nervous he got. Quite the contrary. Great golfer, yes. But, like the rest of us, he’s only human.
“I felt very nervous late in the round. I just tried to go back to the basics; close my eyes and take some deep breaths,” Schauffele said. “The tournament was so kind to put a giant leaderboard in front of the 17 green. I was trying not to look at it. But, I saw it. I saw that I was T-1 and so, yeah, I knew exactly what I was going into on the last hole.”
Not an easy one to birdie. But, Schauffele knew what had to be done.
“It was a 57 front, 162 pin. There was a little bit of altitude, so my caddie and I, we looked at a pitching wedge and nine iron,” he said. “Under the gun, you never want to swing something soft, so we grabbed a pitching wedge real quick.”
It stuck. And, with a three-foot birdie putt, Schauffele took the title. He becomes the third rookie to win the event, with a $1.3 million payday.
At the U.S. Open, Schauffele had told a reporter that, although he was signing autographs, people didn’t really recognize him, or know who he was.
No worries about that now, Xander. We think we’ll be hearing your name for a long time to come—and hopefully pronouncing it correctly.