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'Capture it': Schauffele wins PGA for first major

Written by 
Published in Breaking News
Monday, 20 May 2024 00:11

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- They can't call Xander Schauffele the best golfer in the world without a major championship victory any longer.

The 30-year-old from San Diego captured his first major victory Sunday by outlasting LIV Golf League captain Bryson DeChambeau and Norway's Viktor Hovland in the final round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club.

After starting the day tied for the lead with two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, Schauffele silenced his critics who claimed he couldn't close out a big one by posting a 6-under 65 in the final round to finish with a 72-hole total of 21 under and defeat DeChambeau by 1 shot and Hovland by 3.

Schauffele recorded the lowest 72-hole score to par and the lowest 72-hole scoring total (263) in a major championship.

It was the ninth straight PGA Championship won by an American.

"I was actually kind of emotional after the putt lipped in," said Schauffele, whose last victory came at the Scottish Open in July 2022. "It's been a while since I've won. I kept saying it all week, I just need to stay in my lane. Man, was it hard to stay in my lane today, but I tried all day to just keep focus on what I'm trying to do and keep every hole ahead of me. Had some weird kind of breaks coming into the house, but it's all good now."

After DeChambeau tied Schauffele at 20 under with a birdie on his 72nd hole, Schauffele matched him in dramatic fashion -- becoming the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2005 at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship by one shot with a birdie on the final hole.

On the par-5 18th, Schauffele's tee shot failed to fade and stopped short of a fairway bunker, leaving him in an awkward stance. With both feet in the sand and his ball 239 yards away from the hole, Schauffele ripped a long iron. His ball stopped about 35 yards short of the green.

Chipping up the hill, Schauffele hit his ball cleanly and left it 6 feet short of the hole. He calmly made the putt and threw both arms in the air when his ball fell in the cup.

"I really didn't want to go into a playoff against Bryson," Schauffele said. "I'm assuming we probably would have played 18. It would have been a lot of work. I just told myself, this is my opportunity and just capture it."

Valhalla Golf Club, known for its thrilling finishes and low scores, delivered again. Schauffele had a 1-stroke lead with two holes to play. Shortly after his tee shot on the par-4 17th hole bounced into a fairway bunker, DeChambeau barely rolled in an 11-foot birdie putt on the 18th to tie Schauffele at 20 under.

"Proud of Xander for finally getting the job done," DeChambeau said. "I mean, he's an amazing golfer and a well-deserved major champion now. He has played well for a long, long time. Played against him as a junior. Not only is he just a great human being but an unbelievable golfer, and it shows this week. Super happy for him."

Schauffele's approach on 17th landed right of the green. He chipped to about 2 feet and made the par putt to maintain a share of the lead.

DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open winner, carded a bogey-free 7-under 64, his lowest round in a major, to finish second at 20 under.

Hovland, the reigning FedEx Cup champion who had struggled with his swing this season until this week, also had a chance to tie by sinking a 10-footer on the 18th. But he missed the birdie try and then a 3-footer coming back for his first bogey in 41 holes. Hovland finished third at 18 under.

Schauffele had at least a share of the lead after the first three rounds. He posted a 9-under 62 on Thursday, tying the record for the lowest round in a major (which he already shared with an 8-under 62 in last year's U.S. Open at the Los Angeles Country Club) to take a 3-shot lead. After registering back-to-back 3-under 68s over the next 36 holes, he was even better Sunday.

"I stayed very patient," Schauffele said. "I was looking up at the board. There's been times where I tried to look away from it until the back nine, but today, I was looking at it. I just wanted to be aware of everything. I wanted to know exactly where I stood. I wanted to address my feelings when they were happening."

Schauffele, the No. 3-ranked golfer in the world, has been one of the game's most accomplished players since joining the PGA Tour in 2017. A nine-time winner on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, Schauffele has been a consistent top-10 finisher in the four majors. He also captured a gold medal at the Olympics held in 2021 in Tokyo.

The only thing that had eluded him until Sunday was a victory in the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open or The Open, and he had been in contention to win one as much as anyone over the past eight years.

He had endured plenty of agonizing close calls. He tied for fifth in his first start in a major at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin and piled up 12 top-10 finishes and six top-5s in his first 27 major starts before this week.

"It's just noise," Schauffele said about being labeled as the best golfer in the world without a major championship win. "That's what I think. I thought I was. Not that people saying it made me think that. I just felt like I've done enough work, I'm good enough to do it. I just needed to shut my mind up and actually do it."

Schauffele was tied for the lead heading into the final round of the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland but carded a 2-over 72 in the final round and lost to Italy's Francesco Molinari by 2.

There was a pair of heartbreaking finishes in 2019. At the Masters, Schauffele was tied for the lead at 12 under with four holes to play. He could manage only pars the rest of the way and lost by 1 to Tiger Woods, who won his fifth green jacket. Two months later, Schauffele tied for third in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, losing to Gary Woodland by 6.

The ending of the 2021 Masters was equally as grueling. Schauffele stood on the 16th hole trailing eventual winner Hideki Matsuyama by 2 strokes after making four straight birdies. Schauffele's tee shot on the iconic par-3 hole was knocked down by the unpredictable winds at Augusta National Golf Club. The ball bounced into the water. He made a triple-bogey and tied for third, 3 shots behind Matsuyama.

Just last week, Schauffele squandered a 2-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy in the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and lost to him by 5.

"I don't think I'd ever look at it as lacking," Schauffele said of not previously winning a major. "I looked at it as someone that is trying really hard and needs more experience. All those close calls for me, even last week, that sort of feeling, it gets to you at some point. It just makes this even sweeter."

On Sunday, all of the scar tissue seemed like a distant memory when he finally hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy.

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