So close so many times, Xander Schauffele breaks through at the PGA Championship

So many times at a major golf tournament, Xander Schauffele had not been able to close the door. Sunday at Valhalla, he shut it. And turned the lock.

The 30-year-old from San Diego had posted six top-five finishes in major tournaments without walking away with the trophy. That changed in the final round of the 106th PGA Championship when Schauffele birdied the 18th hole to win his first major, edging Bryson DeChambeau by one stroke.

Three times this year Schauffele had failed to win despite being in the final group. Plus, the 2021 Olympic gold medal winner had finished second in the 2018 British Open and 2019 Masters, as well as third in the 2019 U.S. Open and 2021 Masters before finally breaking through on a beautiful Sunday before a packed and enthusiastic crowd.

“I stayed very patient,” Schaffele said afterward. “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.”

The steady Schauffele shot a final round 65 to set the all-time scoring record of 21-under par at a major. He parred holes 13 through 17 before a perfect pitch for his third shot at the par-5 No. 18 left him five feet from the cup and the Wanamaker Trophy. His putt curled the lip but dropped for the victory.

Xander Schauffele celebrates his PGA Championship victory at Valhalla Golf Course in Louisville on Sunday.
Xander Schauffele celebrates his PGA Championship victory at Valhalla Golf Course in Louisville on Sunday.

Ranked third in the world, Schauffele entered the tournament 1-for-6 when leading after 36 holes. He opened with a record-tying round of 62 on Thursday. He held the tournament lead after a 68 Friday. And he was the co-leader with Collin Morikawa at 15 under after another 68 for Saturday’s third round.

But last week, Schauffele led the Wells Fargo Tournament after 36 holes before being overtaken by Rory McIlroy’s winning 65 on the final day.

Schauffele’s father is a French/German naturalized citizen while his mother is a naturalized Taiwanese immigrant. He played his college golf at San Diego State. In addition to his gold medal, he owned seven career PGA wins and 14 runner-up finishes before Sunday.

“My family and my team, they’ve been the most concrete thing that I have,” said Schauffele, whose wife Maya was there to meet him off the 18th green. “They keep me in line, and it’s so awesome for me to win one for them so we can all celebrate together.”

Valhalla fans were particularly loud for the demonstrative DeChambeau, who shot a 64 in the final round to put the pressure on Schauffele heading to 18. The LIV Golf tour star appears to have won over fans put off by his quirky style and outspoken ways. At times, he played to the appreciative crowd.

“YouTube has helped me understand that a little bit more,” DeChambeau said Sunday. “When the moment comes, knowing what to do, what to say, how to act is really important. You know, when I was younger I didn’t understand what it was. Yeah, I would have great celebrations and whatnot, but I didn’t know what it meant and what I was doing it necessarily for. Now I’m doing it a lot more for the fans and for the people around and trying to be a bit of an entertainer that plays good golf every once in a while.”

A two-time PGA Championship winner, Louisville native Justin Thomas shot a 68 Sunday to finish the tournament tied for eighth at 13 under.

“It was an unbelievable week,” Thomas said afterward. “I’m bummed it’s over. I had so much fun. The fans were unbelievable. I played some really, really, really good golf. I played plenty well enough to win this week.”

It was an unbelievable week for tournament favorite Scottie Scheffler, who was arrested on Friday morning for allegedly disregarding an officer’s orders at 6 a.m. when his vehicle was attempting to get around the scene of a fatal accident to enter the course. The world’s No. 1-ranked player shot an uncharacteristic 74 on Saturday but bounced back with a 65 to finish at 13 under.

“Overall right now how I’m feeling, I’m fairly tired, definitely a lot more tired than I have been finishing some other tournaments,” Scheffler said Sunday. “But I’m proud of today how we went out there and fought.”

Schauffele had to be tired of failing so many times on the final round at a major. Sunday, he got it done.

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