Xander Schauffele wins PGA Championship for first major

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — They can’t call Xander Schauffele the best golfer in the world without a major championship win.

The 30-year-old from San Diego earned his first major victory over LIV Golf League captain Bryson DeChampeau and Norway’s Viktor Hovland in the final round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Sunday.

After a final-round tie with two-time major winner Colin Morikawa, Schaffel silenced his critics, saying he couldn’t close out a major after posting a 6-under 65 and 72 in the final round. The hole total was 21 under and beat DeChambeau by 1 shot and Hovland by 3.

Schaffel posted the lowest 72-hole score and lowest 72-hole score (263) in a major championship.

It was the ninth consecutive PGA Championship won by an American.

“I’m actually kind of emotional,” said Schaffel, whose last win was at the Scottish Open in July 2022. It was difficult today to stay in my lane, but I tried to focus on what I was trying to do, and there were a few weird breaks coming home, but everything is fine now.”

After DeChambeau tied Schauffele at 20 under with a birdie on his 72nd hole, Schauffele matched him in dramatic fashion — becoming the first player since Phil Mickelson at Baltusrol in 2005 to win the PGA Championship by one shot with a birdie on the final hole.

On the par-5 18th, Schaeffel’s tee shot failed to fade and landed across a fairway bunker, leaving him in an awkward position. His ball 239 yards from the sand with both feet, Schaffel rips a long iron. His ball landed 35 yards from the green.

Chipping up the hill, Schaffel hit his ball cleanly, leaving it 6 feet short of the hole. He calmly putts and throws both hands in the air as his ball lands in the cup.

“I really didn’t want to go into the playoffs against Bryson,” Schaffel said. “I think we probably would have played 18. That would have been a lot of work. I told myself this is my chance, take it.”

Valhalla Golf Club, known for its exciting results and low scores, has once again delivered. Schaffel had a 1-stroke lead with two holes to play. Shortly after his tee shot bounced into a fairway bunker on the par-4 17th hole, DeCambeau curled in an 11-foot birdie putt to tie Schaffel at 20 under.

“I’m proud of Xander for finally getting the job done,” DeChambeau said. “I mean, he’s an amazing golfer and a deserving major champion. He’s played well for a long, long time. Played against him as a junior. He’s not only a great person, but an incredible golfer. I’m really happy for him this week.

Schaeffel’s approach on the 17th landed right on the green. He chipped to about 2 feet and par putt to maintain a share of the lead.

DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open winner, carded a bogey-free 7-under 64, his lowest round at a major, tied for second at 20 under.

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Hovland, the reigning FedEx Cup champion who had struggled with his swing this season until this week, sank a 10-footer to get even. But he missed the birdie attempt and came back 3-feet for his first bogey in 41 holes. Hovland finished third in the under 18s.

Schaffel had at least a share of the lead after the first three laps. He posted a 9-under 62 on Thursday, tying the record for lowest round at a major (he already shared a 62 at last year’s US Open at Los Angeles Country Club) and taking a 3-shot lead. . He was even better on Sunday after posting a 3-under 68 over the next 36 rounds.

“I was very patient,” Schauffele said. “I was looking up at the board. There were times when I tried to look away from it until the back nine, but today I was looking at it. I wanted to be aware of everything. I wanted to know where I stood. . . I wanted to talk about my feelings as they happened.”

Since joining the PGA Tour in 2017, Schauffele, the No. 3 golfer in the world, has won nine times on the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, and Schauffele has been a consistent No. 1 player. A -10 finisher in four major categories. He also won the gold medal in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Only a win at the Masters, PGA Championship, US Open or The Open eluded him until Sunday.

He had endured many painful close calls. He finished fifth in his first start at the 2017 US Open in Erin Hills, Wisconsin, and before this week had amassed 12 top-10 finishes and six top-5s in his first 27 major starts.

“It’s just noise,” Schaffel said of being named the world’s best golfer without a major championship win. “That’s what I think. That’s what I thought. I don’t think that’s what people said. I’ve done enough work and I feel like I’m good enough to do it. I just have to shut up. Really do it.”

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Schaffel led the way into the final round of the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, but shot a 2-over 72 in the final round to lose 2 over to Italy’s Francesco Molinari.

There were a couple of mind-blowing results in 2019. At the Masters, Schaffel had a 12-under lead with four holes to play. He lost by 1 to Tiger Woods, who won his fifth green jacket. Two months later, Schaffel tied for third at the US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, losing by 6 to Gary Woodland.

The outcome of the 2021 Masters was equally tough. Schaffel stopped at the 16th hole and made four straight birdies to trail Hideki Matsuyama, who won by 2 strokes. An unexpected wind at Augusta National Golf Club caused Schaffel’s tee shot to drop on the par-3 hole. The ball bounces in the water. He made triple bogey and finished third, 3 shots behind Matsuyama.

Last week, Schaffel blew a 2-stroke lead against Rory McIlroy in the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and lost to him by 5.

“I don’t think I’ll ever look at it as a disadvantage,” Schauffele said of not having a major win before. “I look at it as someone who tries harder and needs more experience. Even last week I had all those close calls, that kind of feeling, at some point you get it. It makes it even sweeter.”

On Sunday, all that scar tissue seemed like a distant memory when he finally lifted the Wanamaker trophy.

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