Xander Schauffele: Uncanny and Relentless

For casual viewers who glance at those small leaderboard graphics on televised PGA Tour tournaments, the similarity in names is striking. “Scheffler” is there again, but so, too, is “Schauffele.” What gives?

First up, understand this: Scottie Scheffler, who turned 28 on June 21, is the world’s top-ranked player and it’s not debatable. But Xander Schauffele, 30, has numbers that fully support the No. 2 position into which he recently climbed, even if they pale in comparison to Scheffler’s.

Let’s enter the numbers into evidence. Since 2020 and up to the recent Travelers Championship, Scheffler has piled up 12 wins, nine seconds, and 10 thirds in 114 starts, good for $70,097,136. Across the board, here are Schauffele’s numbers during that stretch: four wins, 10 seconds, and six thirds in 100 tournaments, with $37,577,014 in prize money.

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Xander Schauffele celebrates after winning on the 18th green during the final round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 19, 2024 in Louisville, Ky. (photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

So, we are talking remarkable consistency over the last five years, times two. Scheffler with 56 top-10 finishes in 115 starts (48.7 percent); Schauffele with 44 in 100 starts (44 percent). Scheffler hasn’t missed a cut since August of ’22; Schauffele’s last cut missed was the Masters of ’22.

So, yes, the “SCH and DOUBLE-F” guys are on impressive rolls, though this isn’t to compare the two. Instead, this is to shine the light on the guy who wins less frequently but speaks more frankly.

Xander Schauffele.

There is the strong statement he made back in March about Commissioner Jay Monahan: “Trust is something that’s pretty tender, so words are words and I would say in my book (Monahan) has got a long way to go.”

Two months later, Schauffele again: “I’ve criticized Jay in the past, but the fact is, not once has our commander-in-chief stood up for all of us players and said, ‘This is happening, this is where we’re going,’ and protected us.”

Apparently, just as Schauffele’s game doesn’t ride a roller coaster, neither do his emotions. Since the whole PGA Tour vs. LIV contentiousness arrived for public consumption two years ago, Schauffele has stayed steady. Unlike a line of players who said one thing and did another, Schauffele has put the onus on PGA Tour leaders, specifically Monahan.

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Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele walk on the first green during the first round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2024 in Augusta, Ga. (photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Whereas some players have flip-flopped so often they don’t even know which side they’re on, Schauffele has stood his ground and persistently asked that PGA Tour leaders be more transparent.

A lot of players have decided Patrick Cantlay, a member of the Policy Board, is easy to ridicule and hold in contempt. Not Schauffele, whose loyalty is as thick as his play is consistent.

Weeks after he won his first major of his career—the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla—Schauffele again was outplayed by Scheffler at the Memorial, finishing tied for eighth as the kid from Texas won for the fifth time this season. “Every week we play, he seems to build a bigger lead and somehow make the mountain even taller for all of us to climb,” said Schauffele, who with a T-7 at the U.S. Open placed himself in the top 10 for the 11th time in 15 tournaments in 2024.

But while with every win Scheffler provides the media with more reason to push everyone else into the shadows, it is hard to resist the fascination with Schauffele and to think he has the game that won’t back down against the world No. 1.

His stance against PGA Tour leadership, Monahan in particular, sounds eerily familiar to the way Tiger Woods stood up against Tim Finchem back in the fall of 2000. Dismayed by how he felt his likeness (and those of other players) was being abused by the PGA Tour, the man who had just rolled to three straight major wins told the media that “I believe in what I believe in and a lot of guys feel this way on Tour…”

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Xander Schauffele speaks to the media during a practice round prior to the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort on June 11, 2024 in Pinehurst, N.C. (photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

None other than Nick Price applauded Woods’s lead. “If he can take on the Tour and beat the Tour, so be it,” said the three-time major winner. “I never felt I was strong enough to win.”

Woods eventually made peace with Finchem, mostly because the then commissioner was savvy enough to give up enough in return to facilitate peace.

The issues in 2024 are different, of course, and this isn’t to suggest Schauffele is out “to beat the Tour.” He’s not. He wants to know where the road is heading. On course and off, he is uncanny in his consistency, relentless in his commitment.

Hard to believe, given the level at which he’s played, that Scheffler will cool off. But if you asked for one player who could possibly get on a roll and challenge the Texan’s hold on No. 1, my pick would be Schauffele.

Fittingly, at a time when Schauffele’s world-ranking is its highest and his challenge to Monahan’s leadership just might have helped push the PGA Tour and Saudis closer to a deal, the stage in front of him was the national championship.

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Xander Schauffele plays his shot from the first tee during a practice round prior to the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort on June 12, 2024 in Pinehurst, N.C. (photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

After all, it was at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills when an unheralded 23-year-old roared into a share of fifth place. Steve Stricker, then 50, said he had crossed paths at a U.S. Open qualifier with this Xander Schauffele fellow and the media needed to pay attention.

“I just remember he had a ton of game and he was a good kid, fun to be around,” said Stricker.

Not that Stricker knew where Schauffele was headed, because even the kid from San Diego was uncertain. But seven years later, with his chase of Scheffler and his scrutiny of Monahan in full bloom, Schauffele himself is sure of one thing.

“I’m still searching, I think, to be a great player in my own opinion,” he told reporters. “That’s sort of how I view myself. Getting over the hump and winning a little bit more is definitely something that I believe will happen.”

From my vantage point, he speaks the truth.

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