It certainly appears that Xander Schauffele has re-discovered how to win in professional golf.
After a two-year winless drought, the 28-year-old captured his third victory in his last seven tour starts, winning the Genesis Scottish Open by two strokes over Kurt Kitayama. It was the seventh victory of Schauffele’s PGA Tour career.
Held at Scotland’s Renaissance Club, this was the first year that the PGA Tour co-sanctioned the DP World Tour event. The field boasted an impressive collection of talent from both the U.S. and abroad, with the world No. 11 Schauffele being one of 14 players in the field who ranked inside the top 15 of the OWGR. The sole golfer missing was four-time major champion Rory McIlroy.
Hyped as a lead-in to next week’s Open Championship, the final major of the 2022 season, also being held in Scotland, the Genesis Scottish Open gave fans a good look into who is feeling comfortable playing links-style golf, something seen heavily in Europe, but very little in the United States.
Schauffele had come into the week off a victory, winning the Travelers Championship two weeks ago. In addition, he won the JP MacManus Pro-Am held at Renaissance early in the week, so it goes without saying that he was feeling confident about the state of his game.
A 4-under 66 in the third round vaulted Xander into the Scottish Open 54-hole lead, which he held over Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello. American Cameron Tringale held the lead after each of the first two rounds, opening his week with a 9-under 61, by far the lowest score shot by anyone all week.
Early, it looked like Schauffele might make Sunday boring. With birdies on the first two holes, combined with Cabrera Bello carding bogeys on those same two holes, Xander found himself leading by as much as four strokes early. However, in links golf, no lead feels safe, and Schauffele felt the momentum completely flip when he bogeyed 6, 7, and 9, to suddenly reach the turn one stroke behind Kitayama, a 29-year-old American looking for his first PGA Tour win.
Leaning heavily on his caddy, Austin, Schauffele was able to compose himself remarkably. After pars on 10, 11, 12, and 13, a tee-shot to 15 feet on the par-3 14th led to a birdie putt that put Schauffele back in front.
Being chased by several players, but most closely by Kitayama, Xander got some breathing room late when Kitayama notched an untimely bogey on 17 from several groups ahead, combined with a birdie of his own on the par-5 16th. A clutch par putt from eight-feet on par-3 17th gave him a two-stroke lead going into the final hole. Taking iron off the 18th tee, Schauffele then essentially clinched the title with his third shot on the par-4 18th, which landed less than seven feet from the hole. He missed the par putt, but then tapped in for bogey and the victory. For Sunday, he shot an even-par 70 to finish at 7-under-par for the week.
Kitayama finished one stroke back at 6-under, with 20-year-old South Korean Joohyung Kim finishing two strokes behind. The top five was rounded out with Patrick Cantlay and Tommy Fleetwood, who both had strong Sunday rounds of 67 to finish 4-under, in a tie for fourth.
Schauffele had been sitting on four Tour victories for more than two years, dating back to a January 2019 event. He snapped the drought in late April when he teamed up with close friend Cantlay to win the Zurich Classic, the only team event on Tour. Also, he won the gold medal at last summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, which is extremely impressive, but does not count as an official Tour event.
Schauffele now goes into next week’s Open Championship at the famed Old Course at St. Andrews with a target on his back. Schauffele is arguably the best player in the world to not have won a major, with numerous excruciatingly close calls.
A compelling side story at the Genesis Scottish Open, there were three spots up for grabs for next week’s Open Championship, with the top three finishers not yet exempt getting those spots, as long as they finished Renaissance in the top 10. Those three were Kitayama, who will be making his third straight Open start, along with a pair of sixth-place finishers in Jamie Donaldson and Brandon Wu. A bogey from Alex Smalley on the 72nd hole knocked him out of the spot that Wu received.
Scottish Open: Final Top 10
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Xander Schauffele -7 (E)
2. Kurt Kitayama -6 (-4)
3. Joohyung Kim -5 (-3)
4. Patrick Cantlay -4 (-3)
4. Tommy Fleetwood -4 (-3)
6. Brandon Wu -3 (-3)
6. Jamie Donaldson -3 (-3)
6. Cameron Tringale -3 (E)
6. Matt Fitzpatrick -3 (E)
10. Cameron Smith -2 (-3)
10. Dean Burmester -2 (-2)
10. Thomas Detry -2 (-1)
10. Rasmus Hojgaard -2 (E)
10. Alex Smally -2 (+1)
10. Jordan Spieth -2 (+2)
How Xander Schauffele Won the Genesis Scottish Open
If winning the pro-am gave him confidence heading into Thursday, it took a hit when he opened the tournament with a 2-over 72. However, he was much better in the middle rounds, chasing a Friday 65 with a Saturday 66 to take the 54-hole lead by two.
Even if he did not have his best stuff on Sunday, Schauffele stayed composed when his land faltered, and put himself in position where he needed just a bogey or better on 18 to seal the victory.
His 17 birdies for the week ranked third in the field, and he limited mistakes, as he did not card a single hole of worse than bogey the entire week. Hitting 12 of 18 greens on Sunday, he finished sixth for the week in greens in regulation, a statistic he currently ranks 10th in on Tour.
Schauffele’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 310.4 yards (25th)
Fairways: 25/52, 48.08% (T76)
Greens: 51/72, 70.83% (T6)
Putts/GIR: 1.686 (9th)
Birdies: 17 (3rd)
What Winning Means For Schauffele
Xander feels like the most overdue player on tour to capture his first major championship, but actually, at 11th in the world rankings coming into the week, he ranked just fifth among players without a major, sitting behind Cameron Smith (6th), Patrick Cantlay (7th), Viktor Hovland (8th), and Sam Burns (9th).
Now, with this win, Schauffele vaults ahead of all four of those guys into fifth position, which feels appropriate. In his major championship career, he has nine top-10s in majors, with four of those being second or third, without a win in 21 major starts. He also has five others where he finished between 11th and 20th. His closest call at The Open was in 2018, when he was one of three players tied for the 54-hole lead, but a Sunday 74 allowed him to get caught by Francesco Molinari. Schauffele finished in a four-way tie for second.
Schauffele jumps from 8th to 3rd in the FedExCup standings, trailing just Scottie Scheffler and Burns.
Schauffele’s 2022 Season
Cuts Made: 15
Wins: 3 (Zurich, Travelers, Scottish)
Additional Top 10: 2
Earnings: $6,357,516 (8th)
FedExCup Pts: 2097 (3rd)
World Rank Before/After: 11/5
Sunday’s Stars in Scotland
Sunday’s lowest score came from an unfamiliar place. Australia’s Jason Scrivener did not record a single bogey after the second hole, shooting a 5-under 65 that jumped him a field-high 37 spots from T53 to T16. The 33-year-old has just one professional victory, claiming a 2017 PGA Tour of Australasia event by six strokes. He will be in next week’s field, qualifying by finishing inside the top 30 of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai last season.
Joohyung Kim could have tied that 5-under with a birdie on 18 but carded his only bogey of the day. Still, a 3-under 67 was one of the best score in the Sunday field, as he jumped from T9 to solo-third. The highest-ranked of several dozen players with the surname Kim on Tour, the world No. 61 has won six times overseas in the past four years.
Also shooting 3-under was reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay. He vaulted into the early mix with four birdies in his first seven holes before stagnating from there. However, despite difficulties on the back nine, Cantlay moved 13 spots up the final standings from T17 to T4. It was his fifth finish inside the top 15 in his last six starts.
Sunday’s Stumbles at the Scottish Open
Starting the day in the runner-up position, Rafa Cabrera Bello’s 7-over 77 was the worst round in the Sunday field, causing him to plummet 34 positions from solo-second to T36. The 38-year-old Spaniard has been ranked as high as 16th in the world (2017) but has faltered in recent seasons. Coming into the week, he had been playing horrendously; in his nine previous starts, he had missed seven cuts, a T64, and a solo-67th. Ranked outside the world’s top 150, Cabrera Bello is not in the field for next week’s Open Championship, making it the first one he will be missing since 2011.
Another player who disappointed on Sunday and is snapping a long Open starts streak is Rickie Fowler. At 1-under through three rounds, a Sunday of 68 or better could have gotten him his Open ticket, but he was awful in the final round, carding just one birdie in a round of 5-over 75, which dropped him 30 spots from T17 to T47.
A runner-up to Rory McIlroy at the 2014 Open, the 33-year-old Fowler will be missing the first of his pro career, which dates back to 2009.
Jordan Spieth was in the leadership mix on the back-nine, sitting just one stroke back before being derailed by a double-bogey on 14, which he followed up with a bogey on the very next hole. The 13-time Tour champion finished with a 2-over 72, which dropped him seven spots from T3 to T10. The 28-year-old Spieth does not have to worry about Open qualifying for a long time though; his 2017 Open victory made him exempt until he’s 60.
“Yeah, I’m not sure if that’s like a curse or something. I’m going to ignore all the media, as much as possible,” said Xander Schauffele, on winning and being a favorite for next week’s Open Championship.
“There are a few guys who like to tell me about history and all, but I’m obviously in good form and going to try to carry that into next week.”