How failure fuelled Schauffele to historic major breakthrough

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How failure fuelled Schauffele to historic major breakthrough

Xander Schauffele admitted he used criticism over his winning mentality as fuel to end his run of near-misses and claim a maiden major win, in record-breaking fashion, at the PGA Championship.

Schauffele produced a brilliant up-and-down birdie on the final hole to earn a one-shot victory over Bryson DeChambeau at Valhalla, where he finished on 21 under to complete a wire-to-wire win and register the lowest score in relation to par in major championship history.

The Olympic gold medallist becomes the fifth consecutive American men’s major champion and jumps him above Rory McIlroy to second in the latest world rankings, with the win also silencing those who questioned his ability to close out tournaments.

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Xander Schauffele claimed a maiden major with a birdie on the final hole of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club

Schauffele had 12 previous major top-10s without winning and had turned just two of his eight 54-hole leads or co-leads on the PGA Tour into victory before Sunday, where he claimed an eighth PGA Tour title and first since July 2022.

Speaking about how he used negativity around his previous near-misses, Schauffele said. “Definitely a chip on the shoulder there. It just is what it is at the end of the day. You guys are asking the questions, probing, and I have to sit here and answer it.

Image: Xander Schauffele carded a six-under 65 on the final day in Kentucky

“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 overhauled by Scottie Scheffler in the final round of The Players in March and came second in a final-round battle with McIlroy at the Wells Fargo Championship the week before the PGA Championship, although he always felt a win was close.

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Highlights of the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow

“It [Quail Hollow] was some of the best ball-striking I’ve had in quite some time, shaping it right to left, left to right,” Schauffele said. “I knew that at this course [Valhalla], you had to do those things. It calmed me a little bit knowing I’m coming into a major in good form.

“All those close calls for me, even last week, that sort of feeling, it gets to you at some point. It just makes this even sweeter. I know it’s a major, but just winning in general is as sweet as it gets for me.”

A record-breaking week for Schauffele

Schauffele ripped up the record books throughout a low-scoring week in Kentucky, equalling the lowest round in men’s major history by carding the first 62 at a PGA Championship on the opening day.

The fast start made him the first player to card multiple major 62s in their career, following on from posting the same score during the opening round of the US Open the previous year, with a three-under 68 on Friday then equalling the lowest 36-hole total in a men’s major.

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Xander Schauffele became the first player in PGA Championship history to card a round of 62 with a sensational performance on day one at Valhalla

A birdie-birdie finish to a third-round 68 ensured Schauffele retained a share of the lead, on a day where Shane Lowry matched his 62 from the opening day, before more records were broken during a dramatic final round.

DeChambeau had set the clubhouse target after a stunning final-round 64, equalling the lowest score in relation to par in men’s major history, only for Schauffele to set a new major championship scoring record by ending the week on 21 under.

“I told Austin [Kaiser, caddie] when we turned, if I could get to 22 [under], I think someone is going to have to beat me,” Schauffele said. “I really did not want to go into a play-off with Bryson. Going up 18 with his length, it’s not something that I was going to have a whole lot of fun with!

“Just had to take what the course was going to give me. Just getting to 21 just had to be done, and for it to be a part of history is obviously pretty cool.”

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Bryson DeChambeau shot a seven-under-par 64 during the final round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla

Where had Schauffele won before?

Schauffele claimed his maiden PGA Tour title at the 2017 Greenbrier Classic ahead of securing the season-ending Tour Championship later that year, then ended a 13-month winless run by beating Tony Finau in a play-off to win the 2018 WGC-HSBC Champions.

He won the Sentry Tournament of Champions the following January but wouldn’t win again on the PGA Tour until partnering Patrick Cantlay to victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April 2022, although he featured in winning Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams during that winless stretch and claimed gold in the Tokyo Olympics.

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Nick Dougherty is in the Audi Performance Zone to take a look at Xander Schauffele’s putting routine and demonstrates how each component helps him achieve a successful putt

A three-week period in 2022 saw Schauffele taste victory in the Travelers Championship in the United States, win a star-studded JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland and register a one-shot success at the Genesis Scottish Open, although he hadn’t won again since until his major triumph.

“I’ve become very patient not knocking off any wins in the last couple years,” Schauffele explained. “The people closest to me know how stubborn I can be. Winning is a result. This is awesome. It’s super sweet. But when I break it down, I’m really proud of how I handled certain moments on the course today, different from the past.”

Can Schauffele catch Scheffler?

Schauffele is expected to take two weeks off before returning at The Memorial Tournament from June 6-9, the latest of the PGA Tour’s Signature Events, before being among the favourites when the US Open heads to Pinehurst the following week.

Xander Schauffele holds the Wanamaker trophy after winning the PGA Championship at Valhalla

Image: Xander Schauffele means the PGA Championship has been won by Americans for nine consecutive years

The 30-year-old has finished no worse than 14th in all seven previous US Open appearances, with Schauffele also having appearances at the Travelers Championship and Genesis Scottish Open – where he has won before – ahead of The Open at Royal Troon in July.

The potential for a big summer continues when he returns defend his Olympic title in Paris, four years on from his victory in Tokyo, with Schauffele determined to build on his major breakthrough and challenge Scheffler at the top of the men’s game.

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Brandel Chamblee and Paul McGinley shared praise for Scottie Scheffler for his ability to bounce back from adversity after coming out of jail hours before he teed off on day two of the PGA Championship

“All of us are climbing this massive mountain,” Schauffele explained. “At the top of the mountain is Scottie Scheffler. I won this, but I’m still not that close to Scottie Scheffler in the big scheme of things.

“I got one good hook up there in the mountain up on that cliff, and I’m still climbing. I might have a beer up there on that side of the hill there and enjoy this, but it’s not that hard to chase when someone is so far ahead of you.”

Watch Xander Schauffele in PGA Tour action throughout the year live on Sky Sports. Stream the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, majors and more with NOW.

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