Xander Schauffele Working Overtime to Reach the Winner's Circle
26 Mar,2024 Credit : Jared C. Tilden - Getty Images

By Tim Liotta


Xander Schauffele Working Overtime to Reach the Winner's Circle

Xander Schauffele finds himself in a fascinating predicament. So close to the top of the game for so long, so close to the top of so many leaderboards, that his challenge now is how to keep things trickling in the right direction. And not letting the near misses from becoming negatives. 

In fiendishly small ways, Schauffele heads into the Masters on the upswing, which is not a bad thing for a player who has been ranked in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings since July, 2022. Schauffele fired a final-round 65 to finish T5 at Valspar on Sunday, one week after coming up a shot short of Scottie Scheffler at The Players Championship. 

"I just stay true to myself. I'm pretty aware of the path that I've been on my entire career," Schauffele said prior to Valspar. "It's been a slower path, I would say. Sounds kind of weird, but just always consider myself sort of a slower learner, even when I was in college, I wasn't some world beater shooting 60 and playing in TOUR events when I

was 16 or 17 or 18 years old even. 

"I qualified for my first U.S. Open my rookie year (on PGA Tour). Didn't even do that. There's tons of guys who have qualified for U.S. Opens when they were 16. I always, that ate me up when I was a kid and it made me grind and push even harder, sort of have that chip on my shoulder. I just sort of look back on that, and I've had success, but to me I feel like the best is in front of me, and the only way it's not going to be in front of me is if I let all these things get to my head and not play my game."

Schauffele raised a few eyebrows at The Players Championship after Saturday's third round by putting in a workman-like range session with swing coach Chris Como, putting in some hard work on his swing, which he hadn't been happy with that afternoon. Prior to Valspar he was asked about trusting the changes he's working on while coming down the stretch in a big tournament like The Players.  


"I thought I actually hit some better shots Sunday (at The Players) than Saturday, even though I shot 2-under and didn't shoot 7-under. The wind was a little bit trickier on Sunday later in that afternoon, and I kind of missed some of those important putts that I've made in the past when I've won a tournament," Schauffele said prior to Valspar. 

"So I did everything pretty solid that week (at The Players). I think everyone that played pretty well. You just got snipped by Scottie in the end and he's been pretty good doing that as of late. 

"Yeah, I would say the trust factor. It's a slow trickle. You definitely - I mean, I had some sort of F-it moments where wind was in, into my face, and in practice, I hit a bad shot or the day prior I hit a bad shot and really just have to trust what I'm working on and knowing that if I make a good pass at the ball, it will have a good result. A few moments there where I was able to build on some confidence just even moving forward."

That progress continued to coelesce late Sunday in Schauffele's final round at Valspar with Schauffele making an eagle on 11, then three consecutive birdies before his tournament culminated a with a birdie on the 72nd hole that wrapped up a 5-under-par 30 on the back nine. 

"I felt like I was making really good swings," Schauffele said afterwards. "Even compared to last week, I feel like I made better swings this week at times, especially on some of those really tough holes like 16 and a few holes on the front nine as well that kind of get your attention. So, overall pretty happy with where things are at."

Schauffele's Valspar finish was also a product of an attitude adjustment he was forced to make dealing with the pace of play.

"It felt like a really slow day and we were waiting," he said Sunday. "I think we waited on 15 of our holes today, so I was getting a little testy, a little impatient, and I told (his caddy) Austin (Kaiser), I'm going to start trying. 

"Like, I need to try to focus more. Not that I wasn't trying, I just needed to try and focus more and lock in because it felt like there were such big breaks between shots, it was hard to get into any flow. So I think once I kind of locked in and kind of accepted what was happening, I started to hit better shots."

For the season, Schauffele ranks second on the PGA Tour behind Scottie Scheffler in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, but he ranks 20th in Strokes Gained: Approach, this after ranking 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach for the 2022-23 season. He had dropped to 40th in the category after finishing T25 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. 

"I feel like I've been playing really good golf," Schauffele said Sunday. "I just haven't really put anything together. I putted really poorly yesterday and I putted okay today. I don't think I putted great. I started to hit some quality iron shots finally."

Xander Schauffele's Major Championship Record

To the untrained eye, it is almost impossible to see the difference Schauffele has been seeking, but its that difference that carried Schauffele to No. 6 in the World after back-to-back victories at the Travelers and the Genesis Scottish Open in 2022. 

"I like how the club's moving a little bit more," said Schauffele prior to Valspar. "Chris has helped me a lot in that department, helped me understand sort of what my swing can do and how to sort of move the club a little bit better and more efficiently. That part's been sort of enjoyable. 

"There's still times where I don't trust it, if I get into sort of a weird wind or into the wind and things of that nature, I sort of revert back to old. So that's something I'm still working on, hitting balls this morning on the range was nice, when it was blowing about 30 into a freezing wind, that was a nice wake up call for myself that I still need to do a lot of work."

Schauffele began working with Como after recently re-locating to Florida. He first connected with Como almost 15 years earlier when a friend began working with the veteran swing coach. 

"So he would go see Chris in Dallas, and I would FaceTime my buddy and Chris would be there," said Schauffele, "and so it became kind of - I've just known of him and known him for quite some time. I've always liked Chris, and he's in West Palm, and I just moved over there, so it was a pretty easy meet-up. I think things have been going pretty well."

Question: "Is there anything he's keying in on your swing, or what is the advice that you're kind of getting from him?"

"It's a trickle. I think he's learning that I can be a bit - I wouldn't call myself a head case, but a little too technical at times," Schauffele said. "So it's on a bit of a trickle in terms of information. But we're sort of still working through how he wants to feed me information.

"But for the most part, kind of looked at my swing since I've been on Tour from 2017 up until now and sort of how it's changed and sort of what he liked then and what he likes now and vice versa. So, I think he sort of understands my release pattern and just kind of wants to unlock that potential."

From the outside looking in, reporters wondered about Schauffele's relationship with his father who has served as Xander's swing coach his entire career. 

"I mean, Chris and my dad spoke. They have also known each other for a bit of time," Schauffele said. "From a similar approach, I guess, of just trying to not do anything that doesn't feel natural to me or force the club or have a feel that isn't sort of sound in my game. They're sort of similar in that sense.

"I ask a lot of questions, and that may lead to too much information at times, and like I said before, I think Chris is just trying to put me on a slow feeder at the moment."

Question: "From a human level, was it hard to shift full-time away from your dad?

"I still talk to my dad all the time," Schauffele said. "It's not like I don't. My dad, from a very young age, my dad told me, he's like, happy that I can be your coach, but there

might be a time where in order for you to take it to the next level you may need to go see someone else. So he said those words to me when I was a kid, and he'll still say them


"So having his trust and his loyalty there, there's not much of a burden on my plate, fortunately for me.

When he arrived at the Valspar Championship, Schauffele was asked about the emotional rollercoaster a Sunday battling Scheffler and Wyndham Clark down the stretch can be. 

"I would say as I get a little bit older -- I think I'm always pretty tough on myself, but you kind of put it to rest to a certain extent. I would say I was more anxious sort of Sunday morning, and then you have all this adrenaline going and you feel like you're in the hunt and you feel like you have a really good chance to win and then you get this

sort of really deflating flush. It's like this cortisol punch and then a complete downer after, even when you win, from what I remember a few years back. You're really amped up and you have all this emotion and adrenaline and then even after a win, you really have this sort of like calming flush, whether it's a gut punch or a celebration.

"So I wouldn't say I was too hard on myself. I accepted it, it was overall pretty pleased with how I was able to play. Not being able to play super well since they moved The Players tournament, so just another close call under my belt for now."

Schauffele has played 35 events since his last victory, with 12 top-5 finishes and a streak of 43 consecutive cuts made. He finished T18 or better in each of the major championships in 2023, and has a streak of T20 finishes at his last seven majors.

"I play to win and I don't play to make cuts, so it makes it easier to make the cut when you're playing to win, I think, when you're up sort of near the top of the leaderboard often," he said prior to The Players. 

The near-miss at The Players was a tough pill to swallow for Schauffele, who said he did not have his "A" that Sunday.

"These suck," he said. "When I went to bed last night, it's not exactly how I envisioned walking off the 18th green. I'll lick my wounds and right back to it next week."

Question: "Feeling positive even in a close call?"

"A ton of positives. I haven't cracked an egg since they moved this tournament to this time of year," he said. "To hang in there with the best of them

 is good for me to know. I came in second -- lost by a lot (4 strokes) though to Webb (Simpson in 2018), I believe, when it was firm and fast. That second felt different. 

"This one sucks a little bit more, but just another close call."

One of Schauffele's favorite topics to discuss is something he's coined as Strokes Gained: Attitude, and he was asked about it prior to Valspar.

"I would say it's pretty decent," he said. "The strokes gained expectations, if you want to throw another one in there, that's something that needs to be managed. You want the world for yourself and expect it from putting work in. But I would say my attitude's been pretty solid."

In the media conference prior to Valspar, Schauffele was asked about his final preps for 2024's first major championship, The Masters Tournament, scheduled to begin April 11. 

"I'm going to take two weeks off going into Augusta. I don't have some secret formula of what works. I've talked to plenty of major champions of how they have done it and some say that they have -- multiple guys that have won multiple majors say they have done it differently.

Reporter: "That means nobody knows."

"I mean, I think you kind of stick to what makes you feel comfortable. I'm going to be pretty comfortable. I'll be around my team and getting geared up

and rest. After a week like last week it does take a lot more out of you. Even today, I'm laid back and relaxed, but I still feel a little more tired than a normal Tuesday. So

just trying to regroup and make sure I'm ready to fire for Thursday."