The trouble with achieving success right way is backing it up can be tougher than winning for the first time. Xander Schauffele is learning that the hard way.
After winning the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta as a PGA Tour rookie in 2017, he has qualified for the event again this week, marking the fourth time the 26-year-old from San Diego will be in the 30-man field at East Lake Golf Club. It’s a fantastic achievement, but something is missing.
“I haven’t really contended that much, which has been a bummer,” Schauffele said on Wednesday during a virtual press conference. “I’ve had a few top-25 finishes, which, it sounds bad to say, I don’t really care about that, but I obviously want to contend and get the juices flowing on the weekend, which I’ve been missing out on quite often.”
Schauffele was the runner-up to Rory McIlroy at the WGC-HSBC Champions last November, but that feels like decades ago now. Since the PGA Tour’s restart in June, he’s earned a tie for third at the Charles Schwab Challenge and a tie for sixth at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He has made every cut, but really, he’s just been hanging around. Earning over $3.8 million this season has kept his accountant happy, but Schauffele wants wins.
“I think I was more happy, maybe, when I got here my rookie year versus expecting to get here,” he said. “Maybe I should just go back to being very happy? I mean, I am happy that I’m here, but I’m trying to be more focused.”
Schauffele is an elite player, ranked No. 11 on the Official World Golf Ranking and No. 14 on the FedEx Cup point list. His game has no weaknesses. He’s sneaky long off the tee, ranks 11th in greens in regulation and seventh in strokes gained tee to green. He’s even a very respectable 57th in strokes gained putting.
To win for the first time since January 2019, Schauffele does not have to rebuild anything, but he recognizes that he needs to do a few little things better. He needs to be more focused on details and get more efficient. It’s a philosophy that he’s employing both on the course and off it.
“I’ve been trying to make my bed every day,” he said. “There’s been books about it, about how important it is to start the day with a win. I don’t know if it’s changing much, but for a few weeks now, I’ve been trying to make my bed at home. My girlfriend makes the bed always. I’m pretty bad at that. But here on the road or hotel or Airbnb or whatever it is, I try and make my bed.”
He has also tried to concentrate more during practice sessions, referring to notes on his phone and focusing on specific things rather than letting his mind wander and letting loose shots affect his attitude.
“Those are kind of the small, little goals I try and make for myself during the day to make sure I feel like I had a productive and successful day,” he explained.
There’s no better place for Schauffele to have success than East Lake. After winning at Bobby Jones’ old club, he tied for seventh in 2018 and was a runner-up last year. He loves the course.
“For this week, hopefully, some old memories will spark on the property here, and I can get something going,” he said. “Last year I started at 4 under, this year at 3 under, so I don’t really see the big change for me mentally. I just kind of go out and get it. I’ve got nothing to lose.”