Schauffele keeping his cool at US Open after first major win

By Jim SLATER

World number two Xander Schauffele is keeping the same composed manner that helped him sink a 72nd-hole putt to win his first major title at last month’s PGA Championship.

While the breakthrough triumph at Valhalla was important for the American after years of near misses and snapped a two-year win drought, it wasn’t everything he wants in golf.

“A lot of unchecked boxes,” said Schauffele. “I just checked one box, which is really cool, a box very much at the top of my list. But still a lot more to do.”

That’s why you won’t see a fist-pumping, emotional Schauffele when the 124th US Open starts Thursday at Pinehurst.

“I’ve learned to take a step back and sort of let it be and let myself play the best golf I can. I think it’s just a mindset that I’ve always had,” Schauffele said.

Schauffele doesn’t feel much difference being a major winner as his next major tournament approaches.

“My big goal is always to be in the hunt. If I’m in the hunt on that back nine on Sunday, it’s going to be really helpful knowing that I’ve done it before,” Schauffele said.

“But in terms of day-to-day or Thursday, Friday, Saturday, I don’t think it’s too crazy. You’re just trying to get yourself in that spot.”

Schauffele will have his hands full with the unique challenge offered by the sandhills layout with native area, wiregrass and domed greens. These aren’t just dirt and weeds. They are designed to produce a tough test for elite golfers.

“This is going to be quite the test,” Schauffele said. “Very much along the lines of a US Open, not the traditional one with really long grass, rough and stuff like that, but true test of a US Open where par is a really good score, and 5 sometimes isn’t going to hurt you, either.”

It’s the sort of course where Schauffele does well. He has seven top-15 finishes in seven US Open starts, the best of those a share of third in 2019 at Pebble Beach.

“Just a little bit of extra patience. You have to ramp that up a little bit more during these weeks,” he said of his success strategy for US Opens.

“All US Opens, they’re unique in their own way, but they all feel like par is a great score and you really have to just plot your way around a property.”

Around the green will come the choice between chipping, putting, using fairway woods or rescue clubs.

“Whatever you’re really comfortable with. I hit a lot of putts,” said Schauffele. “I’ve never swung so hard on my putter for nine holes than I did today, just trying to get up and down mounds.

“There are certain spots where you feel like you have to hit it really hard and you hit it too hard you putt it off the other side of the green.”

Precision will be vital.

“If you can keep the ball in front of you, you can make it a little bit easier for yourself,” Schauffele said. “Or you’re going to have to be a scrambling machine.”

Agence France-Presse

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