Bethpage (United States) (AFP) – Ninth-ranked Xander Schauffele, knocking on the door of a major victory for two years, is threatening to break it down at this week’s 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
The 25-year-old American has four US PGA victories in two years on tour and four top-six efforts in eight career major starts, including runner-up showings at last year’s British Open and last month’s Masters.
But in many ways, he’s just a mellow California kid enjoying a dream start to his golf career.
“I have the same happy-go-lucky attitude,” Schauffele said. “I’m not really at a point where I’m walking out here with a huge head thinking I’m the big guy. I still feel like I’ve got to do all my homework and kind of keep my head down.
“If I sort of not get in my own way and do my thing, I think we should have a pretty solid week.”
Schauffele won his first title as a US PGA rookie at the 2017 Greenbrier Classic and two months later became the first rookie to capture the Tour Championship.
This season, Schauffele won the WGC Shanghai event and the Tournament of Champions in January in Hawaii. But fame remains fleeting.
“They will pronounce my name wrong, but besides that, they kind of know who I am,” Schauffele said. “If you’re a top 10 player in the world, someone should know who you are.
“But I really don’t care. Either way, I’m just trying to take care of what I’m trying to do and move on.
“I’ve heard veterans tell me to stay under the radar as long as possible, as long as you can. If I could choose, I’d love to stay under.
“I stay in my lane moreso now than ever and don’t really panic about what I can do out here.”
Schauffele’s mother was originally from Thailand and dad has French and German heritage. Two of Schauffele’s great-grandfathers played top-level European football, one in the Bundesliga for Stuttgart and the other for French and Austrian sides.
– ‘It will wear you out’ –
Schauffele led the Masters with 25 birdies but was one stroke behind triumphant Tiger Woods after 72 holes at Augusta National.
“Hopefully we can sort of trickle off what we did a month back,” Schauffele said. “Playing well there is never a bad thing and it proved that we can win there, which is a comforting feeling when you fall asleep at night.
“But this is a completely different animal out here — Bethpage, the Black course, it’ll wear you out.”
The 7,459-yard layout features deep rough and sloping greens, with accuracy and length vital off tees.
“Par is a great score and if I can hit it in the fairway and hit some greens early, gain a little bit of confidence, I think that would comfort me a little bit,” Schauffele said.
“If you’re sort of sitting around missing fairways wedging out or having long bunker shots, that’s what this course will give you.”