Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

PGA Championship: Xander Schauffele sets record … again

By admin Jun2,2024

LOUISVILLE — Tiger Woods walked into the interview tent beyond the 18th green at Valhalla Golf Club, expecting to discuss his first round at the PGA Championship, when he stopped suddenly. Xander Schauffele was still talking, going over the specifics of his own record-setting round, and Woods backed away to let him speak.

When you match an all-time majors record, even the GOATs give you room to say your piece.

“It’s a great start to a big tournament, one I’m obviously always going to take,” Schauffele said after his round. “It’s just Thursday. That’s about it.”

Well, there was a little more to it than that. Schauffele finished Thursday with a 9-under 62, only the fourth 62 in major championship history and the lowest score in PGA Championship history. Even more impressive: Schauffele already owns one of those prior three 62s, carded last year at the U.S. Open. (The other two belong to Rickie Fowler, also at last year’s U.S. Open, and Branden Grace at the 2017 Open Championship. Perhaps ominously, none of the prior three went on to win.)

The 62 also put him atop the leaderboard — obviously — three strokes clear of the field.

“Xander, he’s such a complete player,” Thursday playing partner Justin Thomas said. “He’s playing really, really great golf right now. So you feel like he’s one of those guys every time he tees it up right now, he’s going to be in contention.”

Every magnificent Schauffele statistic — and there are many — comes with an asterisk, a neon-glowing “Yeah, but … ” Schauffele is an Olympic gold medalist. He’s ranked third in the world, and he’s carded eight top-10 finishes in 12 events this season. He’s clearly capable of throwing darts at majors. Since 2017, he has 12 top-10 finishes in majors and only three missed cuts.

Yeah, but … he hasn’t closed the deal on a single one of those majors yet. He’s posted runner-up finishes in the Masters and the Open Championship, a T3 in the U.S. Open, and a T10 in the PGA Championship … but a close finish in a major only gets you a yellow block on your Wikipedia stats page.

Xander Schauffele smiles after the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Matt York)Xander Schauffele smiles after the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Xander Schauffele set a course record on Thursday afternoon to kick off the PGA Championship. (AP/Matt York)

Schaufele took advantage of phenomenally benign conditions on Thursday, teeing off early and almost instantly leaping out ahead of the field. Starting on No. 10, he birdied his second and fourth holes to leap into the lead, and then added another seven birdies across the rest of the round on top of that.

“When you’re playing with one of the easiest 9-unders you’ve ever seen,” Thomas said with a laugh, “it makes you feel like you’re shooting a million.”

Schauffele tees off Friday afternoon at the earliest; inclement weather rolling into Louisville could delay the second round. Either way, Schauffele knows that there’s still a long way to go.

“The top feels far away, and I feel like I have a lot of work to do,” Schauffele said. “But just slowly chipping away at it.”

A record-setting round is a solid way to start.


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