Xander Schauffele: I feel like an underdog

Xander Schauffele fired himself to a brilliant victory, aided by a pair of eagles and eight birdies in a spectacular 62 on Sunday. The Sentry Tournament of Champions was the fourth victory of his young career

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Feeling like an underdog could be Xander Schauffele's secret to success

08 January 2018: Xander Schauffele might be making a fine habit of winning titles, but he still feels like an underdog going into tournament Sundays. Perhaps, that is his little secret key to success, as each of his four victories has come while trailing the field after 54 holes. The 25-year-old birdied the 72nd hole in each of those four victories, either claiming victory or forcing a playoff.

In this post-victory interview with the media, Schauffele was freewheeling in sharing his views.

Your first win here, fourth career win. Take us through the feelings down the stretch and also in the scoring trailer while you were watching Gary finish up.

XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, it was a bit nerve wracking, honestly. Funny enough, in the — well, I was asked if I wanted to watch it with Todd but a camera would be on me, so I decided to hang tight with Montana there and Austin. But I didn’t know the TV was delayed about 10 or 12 seconds, is what they were telling me. And we heard some sighs in the distance, and then I watched Gary’s putt, so it was kind of a weird transition or feeling, I guess, because he missed it in realtime, and then I saw it afterwards, and then said congrats with Austin. So it was a bit strange.

But the day was awesome. I feel like we obviously played great, minus the first hole, and it’s nice to win in this fashion.

Q. Gary came up to you, made a beeline for you, and kind of gave you a little shove on the shoulders playfully, and did he say anything to you?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Congrats. He knows he could kick my ass if he wanted to, so.

Not much, it wouldn’t be much fun for him. But, no, Gary him and Butchy are awesome. And Gary’s been very kind to me since I’ve been out here on TOUR, and he’s just a really cool dude.

Q. What is it about coming from behind that doesn’t seem to bother you because all four have been come from behind.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I have no idea. I just I don’t know if it makes me more or less comfortable. I was chasing at one point. Once I was shared with the lead coming down the stretch I was pretty nervous. I told someone earlier I really don’t want to watch that downline putt to win — or in my mind it was to win just because it’s a hard hole to eagle. I was pretty nervous and kind of pulled it pretty poorly and don’t want to see it. But Gary was kind enough to let me off easy.

Q. Along those same lines, do you feel like you start final rounds freewheeling it a little bit given your record in come from behind victories?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I mean a day like today, yeah, especially after you bogey the 1st. You kind of look around and realize have you nothing to lose. Yeah, all of my wins have been from behind. This was in sort of dramatic fashion and it turned into a birdiefest coming down the stretch. So I have no idea what it is, but I think the next step in my career is to learn to be cool under the gun, having a lead and maintaining it.

Q. Can you walk us through the eagles?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: No. 9, was just a straightforward chip. On the upslope it’s always into the grain, I had a 56 degree. And I thought to myself it would be kind of cool and pretty funny if I just chip in right now to spice things up because I looked at the leaderboard and saw that I was kind of trailing. So that was kind of cool. And then coming down the stretch on 12 we had about 102ish, something. Austin and I were hitting the gap wedge on the range this morning with that little board and I was landing it just short, which was 102, so I figured take a little off that and it happened to one hop in there.

Q. I heard you say outside you didn’t have any sense what was going on until 15, but surely after 12 you would have thought you were in the hunt?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I looked up. I didn’t take too long of a look, but I just sort of got a quick feel of where I was at just because once you’re done with 13, 13’s a little bit tricky, and then 14’s very gettable, 15, 16, and 17’s difficult, but 18. So you got so many birdie holes it’s sort of pointless to look too early. I just wanted to see where I was at.

Q. And it’s cool to see a ball go in the hole like it did at 12. Was that your best shot of the day or was there another one under the circumstances that really stands out to you?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Not really. Honestly. Nothing — I was just flowing pretty smoothly.

Q. What club on 17?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: 17? That was a 6-iron from about 188 adjusted, of course.

Q. Adjusted for the followthrough or?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: No, adjusted just for like 300 yards downhill, minus, you know, whatever it is. I don’t do, I let Austin do all the math.

Q. When you first came out here and your first two wins you sort of talked about how through college and that you were feeding off that underdog mentality and that spirit. Clearly you’re not that anymore. Where are you going getting the motivation now that you’re one of the big guns?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Kind of weird sound to it, honestly. I don’t know. I just still feel like an underdog. I feel like until you’re No. 1, you’re chasing. So guys like Bryson and Justin, JT’s put together a ton of good years, Brooks has been crushing it. So they’re just, 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.

Q. So you have those goals and sites out there that keeps you in that same mindset?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, it’s pretty simple. Winning is hard enough. Someone like Tiger Woods wins 25 percent of his starts, so you take them when you can get them.

Q. With this being a Presidents Cup year, is making that team on your list of goals this year?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, of course. It’s at the back of my mind. I won’t look at the — or I mean once people start talking about it, then I’m sure I’ll start looking at the standings, but it’s super early and it’s time to put your head down and try your best.

Q. Did you know that eagle putt on 18 was for the course record?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I did not but I’m glad, you know, someone told me that earlier and I’m sure it would piss me off even more if someone told me that and I missed it. So I’m glad I had no idea.

Q. I talked to Alex Nakajima a little bit about just your ties to Hawaii with him and your dad at on Kauai back in the day. How cool is it to know that you’re coming back here with those ties and what — if you got a chance to talk to Alex, what did you say?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, he just gave me a big hug and said congrats. Him and my dad go way back and he’s always treated us like family when we come to this island. And it’s definitely nice to be able to book those flights earlier versus last year, so looking forward to it.

Q. If you go back 18 months ago to when you show up at Erin Hills, could you have imagined this, 18 months later to have four wins of this quality and be where you are? Makeup a good answer for me, would you?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Well, yeah. You want me to finish your question for you? You know, no. This is the stuff you sort of dream about. This is why everyone works hard and does the right stuff. But to actually pull it off it feels awesome. And to answer your sort of half question, no, I could never see myself — I could see myself doing it, but it’s hard to believe just sitting here and talking about it.

Q. Of the four come-from-behind victories, which one of them seems most unlikely in retrospect?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Oh, man, I don’t know. You would have to tell me what the deficit was. Today was six after 1. So that was probably the worst one yet, right? Sorry, Gary.

Q. What do you have next?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Torrey Pines. So go home, chill, have to ice my forearms after holding this thing. It’s pretty heavy. So, but, yeah, it will be one of my big goals for 2019, is to make the cut at the Farmers. Talk about making big goals here. I’ve failed to play well at home and looking forward to resting up and giving that place a good shot.

Q. When you look back at your first year, and you win in the middle, and then add the TOUR Championship late, now you’re in position where you’ve won twice early. We haven’t really hit the mainland. Does that readjust your thinking and hopes for the rest of the year? Is it different from 2017? I finished the question. Thank you very much.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Well, here you go. Good for you. Yeah, I’ve always, like you said, been sort of pretty good at midyear coming into form. So it is pretty special to, obviously we’re out here in Maui and Tournament of Champions, but it’s a nice to play well early in the year. And China was late in the year, which I normally don’t really do well. So hopefully I don’t jinx myself for the middle of this year, but it should be a pretty fun 2019.

Q. I apologize for not knowing this. Have you ever gone into the final round with the lead?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I mean you guys are supposed to have all those stats and numbers, but I’m pretty sure no. I don’t think I have. I’ve been close. Like in China I was close. I don’t remember being six back. Three back? That’s pretty far back too. Thanks. Greenbrier. Anybody? I don’t know. This is the stuff I don’t want to worry about. Just put your head down and run.

Q. Which one of these wins your four wins now do you think really is the one the building block for you? It’s pretty hard to say this one is, but which one do you think of the four was the one that kind of propelled you?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Oh, man, probably the first. The first win. The Greenbrier. Just it showed me that I can hang and then — I mean maybe the TOUR Championship actually. People said the Greenbrier is often a first-time winner’s course, so people are trying to take credit away from me, which is nice. And then, and so the second one, you know I was in a pretty heavy hitting field there at the TOUR Championship, had no idea what I was doing, it was a very weird week. And to be able to sort of win there was massive. But these are all stepping stones in the right direction and I think end goal’s 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.

Q. When you talk about learning from winning, did you take much in a positive direction from Carnoustie as well as you played until probably I guess 17, but probably acquitted yourself pretty well, do you take anything good out of that?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, that was a huge — yeah I took a lot, actually. Everything. It was the high stakes, it’s one every one wants to win and I fell apart, honestly. Jordan and I were feeding off each other in horrible ways you won’t imagine about and we got behind and we were hitting these weird shots that we wouldn’t even hit with our eyes closed. So that was a very good learning experience for me controlling the nerves and I sort of woke up a little bit and tried to come back to life, but to do something like what Brooks has done, just to walk through the fire at a major hitting shots back and forth all day is something to try and do.

Q. What are you lacking right now?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Forearm strength apparently. What else? I don’t know. That’s a good question. My chipping has gotten better, obviously I chipped in earlier and I feel like my short game was better, but it’s just — you try and peak at the right time. I heard guys talk about that and once you get to certain level everyone can do similar things, obviously there’s some new guys out here that can hit it about 40 yards further than me, so maybe touch up on that, but try not to change too much.

Q. Do you think you’ve been giving yourself enough chances to win? Are you happy with that?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I mean, still, it is my third year on TOUR. I obviously would like to contend every week, but it’s, yeah, of course, I think you are a premier player when you contend every week and because most some weeks you won’t have everything you got and you’re still trying to win that tournament. So if you can contend every week you know you’re right up there.

Q. Was there any point today when you thought to yourself hey, this might be my day? I mean any point when you knew that something special was happening?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: 18. That putt for eagle, I thought I hit such a good shot in there and I like to regrip the club a few times and my left hand was shaking, so it’s like, whew, oh, boy, kid, you’re a little nervous here. So I pulled that shot off, that was pretty special and then that putt, yeah, that was, that was kind of it, on 18, was sort of when I realized, hey, you might have a shot here because I looked up at the board and I saw Gary was tied with me, so an eagle is tricky at 18.

Q. What was the club then?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: It was a 5-wood from I don’t know with the slope and — Austin told me it was a perfect 5-wood, so me and him have built a lot of trust over the last couple years.

Q. Of your previous three wins what was the best celebration?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: You know I’m a pretty mellow guy. I got a fire burning inside, but you guys will probably never see that. Maybe you will. I don’t know. Greenbrier I was a ghost. TOUR Championship, probably I was little known for. Everyone likes to show that video of me yipping a 2-footer so I would say probably that one.

Q. I was thinking post-tournament.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Post-tournament? What is my best celebration? I can’t tell you that. Like what did I do to celebrate?

Q. To be determined?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, oh, yeah, that’s not stuff for you guys to know. We got our own things going.

Q. Mind if we just make it up?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I can’t do that because you guys are going to run off with something weird.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports