Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Schauffele excited to defend Olympic gold as Memorial looms

By admin Jun14,2024


American Xander Schauffele, posing with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning his first major title at last month's PGA Championship, returns to competition at this week's PGA Memorial tournament (Christian Petersen)

American Xander Schauffele, posing with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning his first major title at last month’s PGA Championship, returns to competition at this week’s PGA Memorial tournament (Christian Petersen)

Xander Schauffele, coming off his first major triumph at last month’s PGA Championship, sees his game at a high level as he prepares to defend his Olympic title in Paris.

Schauffele returns to competition in Thursday’s first round of the PGA Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village, the final PGA Tour tuneup for next week’s US Open at Pinehurst.

World number two Schauffele sank a clutch birdie putt on the final hole to edge fellow American Bryson DeChambeau last month at Valhalla by one stroke and snap a two-year win drought.

While Schauffele isn’t getting a swollen ego over the triumph, he does see that his game has reached a level comparable to world number one Scottie Scheffler, who won the Masters in April, and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, ranked third in the world.

“Winning a tournament is just truly a result,” he said. “What separates guys out here are the ability for them to hit certain shots. When you look at someone like Scottie or Rory or you just run through all the top players, when they’re playing at a really high level, they separate themselves from the field.

“I feel like I’ve entered a little bit more of that space just playing. I feel like my game has definitely become a little bit more elite.

“It doesn’t really change how I feel about myself or anything like that. I think the quality of shots you’re able to hit is what determines that.”

The major win ensured Schauffele will be on the US squad to compete for gold in France later this summer, in what figures to be a much-different atmosphere compared to the pandemic-guarded situation in Tokyo three years ago.

“It was an unbelievable experience and I think we might feel more of it this year, just with people being available to attend without it being Covid,” Schauffele said on Tuesday.

“I think it’s shaping up nice and people are wanting to compete in it and it’s going to be a great tournament.”

It will always have special meaning for Schauffele because his triumph in Japan made real a family dream of his German-born father Stefan after Xander’s grandfathers had been stars in athletics and football.

“It’s so different with my dad and the way he brought me up and the advice he was giving me and where that came from, with him wanting to be an Olympian himself,” Schauffele said.

“It feels like it’s different than other people competing in the Olympics just because I was sort of raised this advice from a person who wanted to be an Olympian, and his dad’s dad and things of that nature.”

– No jet lag before Paris –

Golf’s global schedule will help prepare Schauffele for the Olympic challenge. He plans to play the Scottish Open in July the week before the Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland.

“I’ll apply some of the experience on overseas golf. Fortunately, I’ll be over there for The Open Championship, so the time change won’t be too drastic,” Schauffele said.

“A lot of guys play the Scottish to prepare for The Open Championship just to get on the same zone. So I’ll be over there for a few weeks already.

“I’m going to stay over, not too sure exactly where I’ll place myself, but somewhere where I can sort of decompress a little bit after a major championship, but also get ready for an Olympics.

“That’s a lot of big tournaments there so I feel like being sharp for it shouldn’t be too difficult coming off a major shortly before that.”

The year’s last major showdown will be on the Scottish course on July 18-21 while the Olympic men’s showdown will be August 1-4 at Le Golf National.

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