Xander Schauffele sets goal to be frontrunner
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Written by Ben Everill @BEverillGolfbet
Xander Schauffele wants to be the hunted rather than the hunter.
The 25-year-old has already won four times on the PGA TOUR, including a World Golf Championships event and a TOUR Championship, but something about those wins has left a void he wants to fill.
Schauffele is undoubtedly proud of his efforts but he came from behind in all four triumphs, something he says brings less pressure and therefore keeps him out of the most elite company on the PGA TOUR.
Finishing third, 15th and second in the FedExCup over his first three seasons is incredible, but Schauffele has higher aspirations.
His lone 54-hole lead came at the 2018 Open Championship where he sat tied with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, but he shot 3 over on Sunday to settle for a runner-up finish behind Francesco Molinari.
So he starts his 2019-20 season at this week’s ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan with a specific goal: get more 54-hole leads, and convert them.
“If I just would be in contention more, that would be awesome … The way I look at it and the way my team looks at it, I haven't really done a whole lot,” Schauffele said.
“It's a little bit harsh, but it's just sort of how I'm judged at certain times by either my dad or people on my team that give me advice, and it's true at times.
“In order for me to become more of an elite player and more of an established name I think it would be important for me to sort of play to what I know I can do at certain times versus trying to be the come‑from‑behind kid.”
Schauffele’s first win at the 2017 Military Tribute at the Greenbrier came from three back at the 54-hole mark. Later that season he erased a two-shot deficit on Sunday to win the TOUR Championship.
Last season he made up three shots at the World Golf Championships–HSBC Champions in China on the way to victory and was a distant five shots back before storming home to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
“I don't mind coming from behind, it's plenty easy and more comfortable than trying to sleep on what I would imagine to be a 54‑hole lead,” he says.
“Look at all these other players. JT (Justin Thomas) has already won 11 times. He's a bit of an exception, too. He's an incredible player. There's a bunch of other guys, though, who have had 54‑hole leads who have closed them.”
If the 2017 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year is to get a quick start on his goal it might be in part due to some huge family support at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club this week.
Schauffele estimates he’s been to Japan 10 to 12 times as his mother’s family resides in the country where she grew up from the age of 2. A huge contingent is expected to flock to the course to watch, and word is they may even have special shirts and hats for the occasion.
“I've maxed out tickets but I'm still asking for tickets from everyone else, from other players, if they have any extra,” he confirms.
“It's just really cool. I haven't been able to play in front of my mom's family at all. It's kind of special for me and my family. I'm assuming 30 to 40 maybe. I have a bunch of cousins, uncles, you name it.”