Schauffele looking to continue strong play at Valhalla

golf16 May 2024 03:12| © Reuters
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Xander Schauffele © Gallo Images

It looked like Xander Schauffele all but had his eighth PGA Tour win in hand last week.

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And then he had to play the final 11 holes at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The 30-year-old Schauffele saw a two-shot lead turn into a five-shot loss as Rory McIlroy pulled even with birdies at No 8 and 9 and then stormed past him to a victory.

"Last week was a bit of a buzz saw," Schauffele said. "I felt like if someone would have told me I'd shoot (1-under) at Quail Hollow on Sunday and lose – it's just a testament to how good Rory played. When someone like him is firing on all cylinders, he's a tough man to beat, and he proved that on Sunday."

In golf, Schauffele said you have to have a short-term memory.

The seven-time PGA Tour champion has put it behind him and is now ready to contend at the 106th PGA Championship, which starts on Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club.

"I'm playing really good golf," Schauffele said. "At the end of the day, when I go to sleep, I remind myself that I'm playing at a really high level. I've put myself in position. Seven years ago I won twice quickly, I had high expectations, then I didn't win for a year or two, then I won two or three times in a year. It's just kind of how it goes sometimes."

Schauffele, the No 3 ranked player in the world, is making his first trip to Valhalla.

He's prepared there all week and said he's been impressed with the course.

"It's kind of a tale of two nines," he said. "The front nine is much more open. The holes do shape with bunkers. The back nine, there's a lot more trees. The routing is a little bit different. It's sort of tighter almost.

"Really good finishing stretch. Just beastly holes in 16, 17 and 18."

Schauffele has finished in the top 25 in eight straight events, including an eighth at the Masters last month. He said he's prepared well this week, also trying to take care of his body.

"You try and conserve energy," he said. "It's easy when you're on these massive properties to want to get your game in a perfect spot. Us pros like to keep chipping away at what's wrong in our game. Just because it's a major, you want to feel like everything is firing on all cylinders, but at the same time, these rounds are going to be over six hours is my guess. It's just a long walk

". . . I've tried to practice each morning just depending on the weather, not really knowing this golf course. Get a little bit of training in, and at the end of the day trying to sleep as much as possible because I know come the weekend you're going to need some rest."

McElroy's winning score in 2014 at Valhalla was 16-under-par and the tournament has come down to the final holes all three of the previous times the PGA has been held there.

Schauffele hopes he's there in the end, but knows it will be a dramatic finish.

"Definitely I think gear up for a really exciting finish, and it's a beast of a property," he said. "With it sort of raining each day, the rough is getting long. The greens are receptive, but the course is still very long. Just because the greens are receptive you're still coming in with like a 5-, 6-iron and not like a wedge or 9-iron very often."