Skip to main content
First major title ends streak of close calls

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Xander Schauffele ate Italian food and watched basketball the night before the biggest round of his career. He was back at the rental house with his wife, Maya, and their two dogs, Chewie and Momo. His older brother Nico, who does the cooking, had made chicken piccata, and the team, which also includes Xander’s uncle/manager, watched the NBA playoffs before turning in.

Online, people were clucking about his earlier comments – “It’s another Sunday. Winning a tournament is just another result” – saying they explained why he had not won since the 2022 Genesis Scottish Open, his seventh and still his most recent PGA TOUR victory. And it was why this overly laid-back exemplar of SoCal chill hadn’t won a major. He lacked something.

Didn’t he?

“I don’t think I’d ever look at it as lacking,” Schauffele said after shooting a final-round 65 to win the PGA Championship by a shot over Bryson DeChambeau (64) at Valhalla Golf Club on Sunday. “I looked at it as someone that is trying really hard and needs more experience.

“All those close calls for me,” he added, “even last week, that sort of feeling, it gets to you at some point. It just makes this even sweeter.”

Suffice it to say your newest major champion is not very well understood, which is funny considering he makes his living largely on TV.

“I listened to his press conference last night,” said Max Homa (69, 8 under), “and I feel like a lot of people online were saying, ‘Oh, this is why he hasn’t won, because he’s so process-oriented,’ and he said it’s just a result. But I don’t think people understand that the greats of every sport, that is exactly how they looked at it. They wait for the dominoes to fall their way.

“I think (a victory) would mean honestly very little to him … for how he goes about things,” Homa continued. “He understands that he’s doing the right things. I just think it would help the narrative of him. I think people don’t grasp just how phenomenal a golfer he is.”

Well, sure, the average fan was starting to feel half in, half out on the idea that Schauffele would deliver. But that was before his 6-footer for birdie straddled the left edge, circled, and dropped as he thrust his arms into the air at the par-5 18th, which DeChambeau had also birdied.

With that one putt, Schauffele laid waste to the old narratives. He had previously played in the final group on Sunday four times this season, one shy of world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler for most on TOUR, but Scheffler had four victories while Schauffele had none. He had held the final-round lead a week earlier at the Wells Fargo Championship but been overtaken by Rory McIlroy and finished second.

What’s more, Schauffele had eight straight top-20 finishes in the majors, the most on TOUR, but no wins. He shot 62, tied for the lowest score ever in a major, in the first round at last summer’s U.S. Open, but faded to a tie for 10th.

He shot a final-round 74 to tie for second at the 2018 Open Championship, and a final-round 72 to tie for third at the 2021 Masters.

“A lot of guys would dwell on all these close calls, but I didn’t see it from him,” said Schauffele’s caddie, Austin Kaiser, who has been with him for all of it. “Last week he shook my hand on 18 after Rory beat us and he goes, ‘We’re gonna win one of these soon, dude.’”

Soon turned out to be exactly a week away.