GOLF

British Open 2022: After St. Andrews eyeball in 2018, Xander Schauffele is now at Old Course as golf’s hottest player

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Returning home from the eventful 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie, Xander Schauffele took a predictable detour.

Schauffele and his father, Stefan, ventured to St. Andrews, turned left onto Golf Place and passed the stately R&A clubhouse to take a look at the old links. From the road they couldn’t see much but as a golfer you had to do it.

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It’s as close as Schauffele had been to the Old Course before Monday’s practice round with Patrick Cantlay, prompting a reporter to ask why he and Stefan didn’t play the legendary ties in 2018?

“I was tired of golf at that time,” he smiles.

For context, Schauffele had just finished second at the Open after a closing 74. He had started the day tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner to play the numbers 5-7 for 4 over par. He was in no mood to play golf, even in a magical place like the Old Course.

It was still relatively early in what was by all accounts a promising career and this Open was only his sixth big start. Being short of a Championship Sunday will always leave a mark, but there would be other Opens. There would be other Sundays.

By comparison, the mood Monday in St. Andrews was jubilant. Although exhausted, Schauffele embarked on his maiden trip around the Old Course alongside Cantlay and Stefan less than 24 hours after winning the Genesis Scottish Open.


Full tee times for the 150th Open Championship


“I’ve never played at St Andrews. I’ve never played at the Old Course so I have a lot of homework to do,” said Schauffele, who is looking to become the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2013 to succeed. the Links Slam and to win both the Scottish Open and The Open in the same year. “I’m going to rely a lot on my caddy to do that. I’m tired. I’ve played a bit and I need a rest and need to get ready for the week.

In 18, he didn’t want to get out of the car. This time he couldn’t wait. These are different times and Schauffele is a very different player, a player transformed by a breakthrough that took a long time to come.

Heading into last month’s Travelers Championship, Schauffele was 0-for-4 on the PGA Tour, converting 54-hole leads into wins. Although he won four times on the Tour, his inability to close – whether perceived or not – was a problem. But then he started the final round at TPC River Highlands with a one-stroke lead, closed with a regular 68 and won by two strokes.

BY Brentley Romine

There is no hotter player on the planet entering the 150th Open than Xander Schauffele. Unfortunately, Schauffele admits it himself, there may not be a more eager player either.

“Of course, that means a lot to me. That’s what I want to do. I’ll take a win anytime, anyway. But I’m not picky. Of course it’s better, more rewarding,” he said of his decisive victory in Hartford.

What once seemed so difficult has now become second nature to Schauffele, who was remarkably calm on Sunday at the Renaissance Club after entering the final round with a two-stroke lead. Although he stumbled early to lose the lead, he rallied with birdies at numbers 14 and 16 for a hard-fought victory.

It’s hard to imagine the player who made his wide-eyed way into the Home of Golf on Monday, still looking for confidence. The World Golf Rankings correctly ranks Scottie Scheffler as the best in the world right now and according to rolling two-year calculations, that’s not even particularly close. But a snapshot of the past three months reveals a much different equation.

In his last seven starts, Schauffele has three wins and has finished no worse than 18th. He may be fifth in the world, but by any measure he is the most consistent player.

“I’m playing one of the best golf courses of my life and enjoying playing really well,” he said. “A lot of times all the best players, any player that plays professionally, plays really well, but they don’t get everything out of it and I feel like I got the most out of my game. “

Schauffele and Stefan traveled to St. Andrews late Sunday evening after fulfilling their media obligations. There was no victory celebration (although he hinted there would probably be a cigar on the way), there was no time.

A crash course in links golf and a long-awaited introduction to the Old Course were in order.

“I don’t know if it was love at first sight but I enjoyed playing with winds blowing 30 [mph] and play the ball closer to the ground and be okay with aiming kind of 100 yards from a bunker that you can’t get in and play from there,” he said. “It’s just fun golf for me.”

Four years into his time at the Old Course, Schauffele’s mood and career prospects have improved.

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