Schauffele embraces underdog mentality
January 07, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Xander Schauffele interview after winning Sentry
KAPALUA, Hawaii – Four PGA TOUR wins. One of them a World Golf Championship. Another the TOUR Championship. This latest one – against a stacked field of winners at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
He’s a former PGA TOUR Rookie Of The Year. He currently leads the FedExCup. He’s moved to sixth in the world rankings.
But don’t tell Xander Schauffele he’s one of the big guns in world golf.
“Kind of weird sound to it, honestly. I don't know. I just still feel like an underdog,” he says.
“I feel like until you're No. 1, you're chasing. So guys like Bryson (DeChambeau) and Justin (Thomas), JT's put together a ton of good years, Brooks (Koepka) has been crushing it.
“They keep putting that flag way out there for me to go and chase and I feel like that's what I've been doing.”
He’s drawn on the underdog mentality his whole life. And it works.
Part of the famous high school class of 2011 that includes FedExCup winners Thomas and Jordan Spieth, Schauffele often found himself overlooked amongst bigger “names” in his amateur days.
Smaller in profile and smaller in stature, he fed off the perceived slights.
It drove him to be better. Work harder.
When he won The Greenbrier Classic in 2017 in his rookie season some tried to cheapen the accomplishment – it fueled him.
“People said the Greenbrier is often a first-time winner's course, so people were trying to take credit away from me,” Schauffele said.
This was despite the fact he’d been fifth at the U.S. Open the month prior at Erin Hills.
He backed it up at the end of the season to win the TOUR Championship over Thomas.
While his sophomore season went by without a win he was runner-up at both THE PLAYERS Championship and The Open Championship.
This guy lives for the big stage.
Come last fall he went to China and birdied the final two holes at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions to be in a playoff and then birdied the first playoff hole to best Tony Finau.
It was his third win – all come from behind as an underdog.
On Sunday he was a rank outsider when he bogeyed the opening hole and sat six shots back of the lead at the Plantation Course.
“You kind of look around and realize you have nothing to lose,” he said.
“All of my wins have been from behind. This was in sort of dramatic fashion and it turned into a birdie fest coming down the stretch.”
A birdie fest is an understatement.
Schauffele played his last 16 holes in 12 under par with two eagles and eight birdies for a course record tying 62.
He had an 11-foot eagle putt on the last to break it with a 61 but it slid by.
“I shot two under and it felt like an 80 next to him,” playing partner Marc Leishman said.
So now what for Schauffele? What other ways can he convince himself he’s the underdog?
His next start will be at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego where he grew up and went to college at San Diego State.
He’s played three times and missed the cut in all three – something he is very determined to rectify.
And he wants to do it in style.
“The next step in my career is to learn to be cool under the gun, having a lead and maintaining it,” he says.
“These are all stepping stones in the right direction and I think the end goal is for me to be able to go wire-to-wire and obviously a major would be nice but go wire-to-wire and show myself that I got the nerve to do it.”
Oh he’s got the nerve. He’s got it all.
It took a course record blitz from Xander Schauffele to best Gary Woodland’s great week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions but the three-time PGA TOUR winner says his consistent effort won’t soften the blow of another loss.
Xander Schauffele Round 4 highlights from Sentry