PGA Championship: Don’t look past under-the-radar contender


Xander Schauffele’s play often stands out in majors. Eventually, his name and face will, too.

Until then, the 25-year-old Masters runner-up appreciates every low-key practice round he can play.

“If I could choose, I’d love to stay under. I’ve heard veterans tell me to stay under the radar as long as possible, as long as you can,” Schauffele said before Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship. “I can’t even relate to some of the guys who are not under the radar in terms of how they have to organize their time and please everyone.”

Schauffele has approached the spotlight on several occasions, finishing in the top six in four of his eight major appearances.

After becoming just the third player since 1980 to record at least 25 birdies at the Masters, Schauffele arrived in New York with the greatest confidence of his career — and no clue how it will translate to his first-ever round at Bethpage Black.

“The Masters is always on the same property, so playing well there is never a bad thing, and it proved that we can win there, which is a comforting feeling when you fall asleep at night,” said Schauffele, who was also the runner-up at the 2017 British Open. “This is a completely different animal out here. Bethpage, the Black course, it’ll wear you out.”

Before arriving on Long Island, Schauffele heard the famed course was a “beast,” and a “monster.” He finished 27 holes of practice play in agreement.

“Just the nastiness of the rough. … You can hit 2 yards off the fairway and have 215 yards to the pin and start laughing because you have a sand wedge in your hand,” the San Diego native said. “You have to golf your ball, and you definitely can’t fake it out here. Everything is right in front of you, and you’ve just got to go get it.”

Already with two wins this season — and four PGA Tour victories in his career — Schauffele enters the tournament as the ninth-ranked player in the world.

“I sort of have the same happy-go-lucky attitude,” Schauffele said. “I’m not really at a point where I’m walking out here with a huge head thinking I’m the big guy. I still feel like I’ve got to do all my homework and kind of keep my head down.”

Concentration comes easiest these weeks.

“I feel major weeks, I seem to maybe focus more,” Schauffele said. “I just feel freed up in a sense.”