Xander Schauffele closes the deal to secure first major at PGA Championship

Xander Schauffele holds the Wanamaker trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Xander Schauffele sat down in front of a microphone to begin his post-tournament press conference, took one look at the Wanamaker Trophy — shining and standing tall atop a blue platform — and with a laugh pulled it as close as he could.  

Until Sunday, Schauffele was known for two things — the first was that he rarely showed much emotion on the golf course and the other was that he was, very likely, the best current player to have never won a major.

He shed both those titles Sunday night, winning the PGA Championship with a final-hole birdie. Schauffele’s 21-under 263 total set the lowest scoring record in major championship history.

Schauffele had been in the final group on Sunday four times previous this PGA Tour season but had yet to close the deal. In fact, he hadn’t won on Tour since 2022. His major record was also sparkling — including 12 top 10s in 27 starts — but closing the deal was long an issue until Sunday.

He was great Sunday because he had to be – even admitting that he felt like he was the best player to never win a major.

“I thought I was. Not that people saying it made me think that. I just felt like I’ve done enough work, I’m good enough to do it,” Schauffele said. “I just needed to shut my mind up and actually do it.

Bryson DeChambeau finished second at 20 under and watched Schauffele’s winning putt fall from the driving range, as he was preparing for a playoff. It was his fourth top-5 finish in his major career.

DeChambeau, with his long drives and built-for-social-media persona (he boasts more than 600,000 followers on his YouTube channel and often gets more than one million views on his Snapchat videos), electrified the Louisville crowd. He rocketed up the leaderboard after a Sunday 64 — tied for the low round of the day. 

The average ball speed on the PGA Tour is 170 miles per hour. At one point Sunday DeChambeau hammered a drive at 196 miles per hour. He’s a scientist, maxing out the game’s technology to help him hit it further and play better – he’s currently using a 1-of-1 set of 3D-printed irons that were approved as ‘conforming’ to the rules of golf just days prior to the Masters.

“Shot 20-under par in a major championship. Proud of myself for the way I handled adversity. Definitely disappointing, but one that gives me a lot of momentum for the rest of the majors,” DeChambeau said. “I said today it was ‘closing time,’ but it will be closing time hopefully over the next couple majors.”

DeChambeau said he felt like he was playing with his ‘B’ game this week – a scary notion for potentially what’s to come. Even Schauffele didn’t want to face off against him in a playoff.

“If he tomahawks a draw off the water it’s literally going to be like a driver, 9-iron (to the green on 18). It’s just one of those things, if you run that stat in your head – Who has the advantage? It’s the guy who hits it further,” Schauffele said.

The biggest battle Schauffele faced Sunday came against some of his own personal demons. Just a week ago Rory McIlroy sprinted past him on the back nine on Sunday to win the Wells Fargo Championship. He said he used that as fuel this week, along with some of the titles that had been bestowed upon him the last few years.

“I believe in positive self-talk. I’ll speak to myself. I just kept doing it,” Schauffele said. “When you believe something enough, it’ll happen.”

Schauffele, as major champions often too, did seemingly everything right all week on a scoreable Valhalla Golf Club. He was 13th in strokes gained: putting, third in strokes gained: off the tee, and second in strokes gained: approach the green. It was a needed complete effort, given how soft Valhalla was playing.

The man who just finished just behind Schauffele in that final stat was Corey Conners — the low Canadian for the week. Conners shot rounds of 67-67 on the weekend to finish at 9 under.

Conners said his ball striking was back to being its usual top tier after having a stretch at the beginning of the season where it wasn’t where he wanted it.

“Just got to tidy up the putting,” Conners said. “I feel like I’ve hit a lot of good putts, just wasn’t getting them to go. Will work on that and try to get ready for another big stretch. Definitely lots of positives. I feel like I can hit it as good as anybody out here, that makes life a lot easier for the most part.

“Some whipped cream on an average week, scoring-wise. I did feel good about my game just didn’t quite get the results I wanted.”

Adam Svensson finished tied for 43rd at 6 under while Adam Hadwin rounded out the Canadian contingent at tied for 60th after a 4-under week.

Hadwin had an early highlight on the board after knocking his approach from 111 yards into the hole on the par-4 13th for an eagle. After attending the University of Louisville to play golf for four years, Hadwin — wearing a Louisville Cardinals-red shirt on Sunday — threw up a “L” with his fingers to the delight of the crowd.

“It was one you’re hoping to hit close but when it goes in, it’s a welcome surprise,” Hadwin said of his hole-out.

Svensson is the lone Canadian teeing it up next week on the PGA Tour at the Charles Schwab Challenge who was also in the field in Louisville — as the group prepares for the RBC Canadian Open in two weeks’ time.

Of all the names that are expected to play next week, Scottie Scheffler is the biggest one. He shot a final-round 65 at the PGA Championship, his low round of the week, to finish tied for 8th — marking his 10th top-10 finish in 11 starts this season. This one, of course, came under circumstances unlike any other.

Scheffler is set to be arraigned Tuesday at 9 a.m. in court in Louisville after being arrested in the early hours of Friday morning, but according to a No Laying Up report, the charges against him are expected to be dropped.

Still, as of Sunday evening, Scheffler was unsure of what was next.

“I put my head down on the scorer’s table and I think I about fell asleep, so I’m just kind of just wondering what time bedtime is,” Scheffler said. “I’m trying to figure out how quickly I can get home from here… that’s pretty much it.”

It was, of course, a very emotional week for Scheffler.

And Schauffele.

His caddie, Austin Kaiser, said the first thing he told Schauffele after he nailed the winning putt was that he loved him, and he was proud of him. They’ve been together Schauffele’s entire career.

Schauffele told himself that putt on 18 was his moment.

“And just capture it,” Schauffele said.

Capture the moment he did — and, for the first time in his career, a major championship trophy was his. He’ll be keeping it close.  

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