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Schauffele admits first major win took chip off his shoulder – Golf News

When Xander Schauffele fired a record-equalling 62 in the opening round of the 106th US PGA Championship, jokes soon followed.

“Schauffele bids for second spot” read a common post on social media, one of many variations on the theme that aimed to praise Schauffele’s reputation for failing to turn leads into wins.

Three days later it was Schauffele who had the last laugh as he defended his first title with a wire-to-wire victory at Valhalla with a total of 21 under par.

Xander Schauffele hugs his caddy Austin Kaiser after winning the US PGA Championship (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

The winning style was a fitting response to his critics, with Schauffele holding his nerve to birdie the 72nd hole to avoid a match with former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who had birdied the same hole minutes earlier to pile on the pressure.

It came seven days after Schauffele had given critics his inability to close out tournaments with multiple shots as he failed to convert a 54-hole lead at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“All those close calls for me, even last week, that feeling, it gets to you at some point,” Schauffele admitted.

“It makes this even more fun. I know it’s big, but just winning in general is as good as it gets for me.”

Asked how he felt about his near miss, Schauffele added: “Definitely a chip on the shoulder there.

“You ask questions, you investigate, I have to sit here and answer them. It is very easy to answer with this item [Wanamaker Trophy] sitting next to me now, obviously.

“It’s just fuel, fueling my fire. It was growing, and it was leading to this. “

Schauffele had been winless since the three-week golden period in 2022, when he tasted victory at the Traveler Championship in the United States, the JP McManus Pro-Am in Ireland and the Genesis Scottish Open. His odds were very high by the online betting site despite being ranked 3rd in the world at the start of the week.

Viktor Hovland reacts after missing a putt on the 17th hole in the final round of the US PGA Championship (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Tied with Collin Morikawa after 54 holes at Valhalla, Schauffele looked to have one hand in the Wanamaker Trophy when he came to the turn with a two-shot lead, then birdied the par-five 10th as Viktor Hovland drove two teams 12 ahead.

“Someone like me who hasn’t won in two years has tried everything, to be completely honest,” said Schauffele.

“You try not to look at the leaderboards until nine o’clock, you try not to look at them early, you try not to look at them at all. Today I am looking at them. I watched them all day.

“I wanted to hear everything. I wanted to correct everything I was feeling at that time.”

Hovland’s birdie on the 13th gave the Ryder Cup star the lead, an unwelcome development Schauffele received when he faced a birdie putt on the 11th.

“I thought I was leading, so when I looked up at the board I was like, oof, Viktor was 19 (under), so I went back into chase mode and I knew the putt was really big in the tournament,” Schauffele said.

When that putt was successfully converted, Schauffele made another birdie on the 12th and another on the 18th – set up by a perfect second shot from a poor position in the fairway bunker – to seal a stunning victory.

It has lifted the 30-year-old from San Diego to the second highest spot in the world rankings and should ensure he is able to defend his Olympic title in Paris.

“That’s just the cherry on top,” Schauffele said. “That was my goal, obviously, to qualify. The US team is strong. It’s hard to qualify.

“I think this win allows me to enter the Olympics. That’s a whole different ball game, I won that one, but I’ll definitely be able to take confidence out of this thing.”

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