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Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Rising Fortunes of Xander Schauffele

SportsThe Rising Fortunes of Xander Schauffele

In less than a decade as a professional golfer, Xander Schauffele, 30, has accomplished a great deal.

He was a member of the United States Ryder Cup squads in 2021 and 2023.

He won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Japan in 2021.

And two months ago, he captured his first major, the P.G.A. Championship by a stroke over Bryson DeChambeau.

Schauffele, who will represent the United States again at the Olympics in Paris this year, has won eight tour events, including the Genesis Scottish Open in 2022.

With the Scottish Open beginning Thursday at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Schauffele reflected on his victory two years ago and his fondness for links golf.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed:

What stands out about 2022?

It was really awesome for my game to travel and to be able to win back-to-back [he’d prevailed two weeks before at the Travelers Championship] was really cool.

Had you played a lot of links courses before then?

Probably more than the average kid growing up in San Diego, but compared to someone who grew up in the U.K. or abroad, no. Not much at all. I always enjoyed playing links golf.

What do you enjoy about it?

Everything, to be honest. I’m not afraid of the wind. Par is a really good score sometimes, and the fans are awesome. They know what a good golf shot looks like.

What’s special about the Renaissance Club?

It’s a unique links. [Those who run the club] have done a really nice job maintaining the property. It’s a pretty hard golf course, as well. There’s a really nice mixture of holes, some that you kind of take advantage of, some that you’re playing back on. From the first time I played it until now, to make it harder, they put a few pot bunkers in the fairways, in some not so savory spots. You feel like you have to thread it down the fairway or play it way back.

How has your life changed since the P.G.A.?

I don’t think my life has changed a whole lot. Career-wise it’s very validating and satisfying to knock that one off.

Do you now feel like you’re a different player?

I think it’s given me more confidence, no doubt. I always believed I could win, but now having a major, it makes me really want to get another one. It’s almost like a drug, in a sense. You want to get that feeling. But I don’t feel like a changed player. I don’t do anything different. I look back at what got me to that point and take note of that and not let my expectations go through the roof.

Did you have doubts before the P.G.A. about winning a major?

Doubt always creeps in. When you haven’t done something, there’s always a small percentage of, “Can I do this?” But I’m fortunate to have a really good support system around me. A lot of people were texting me after all my close calls: “You’re going to get this done.”

Did you receive any texts or calls that blew you away?

I got a text from Tiger that was awesome, a text from M.J. [Michael Jordan] that was really cool. Along the lines of incredible job, nice work, just congratulating me. Steph Curry sent me a nice note. I haven’t the opportunity to meet him yet. I know he’s super big into golf.

Are you pumped about the Olympics?

I’m fired up, a really good U.S. team. We’re already talking about how we’re going to prepare.

Have you played the course in France before?

I have not, so that will be on the top of my list to get comfortable for that one.

What’s appealing about the gold medal vs. winning the P.G.A.?

I try to appreciate them differently. I don’t put them up against each other. Golf is such a game of losers, so when you do have a chance to win, you just cherish it, and if you can share it with the people you love, that’s as cool as it gets. They mean different things, but they’re both incredible things to have.

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