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Calm, chill Schauffele motivated to continue winning majors

Maddie Meyer/PGA of America / PGA of America / Getty

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Xander Schauffele may exude an ultracool California chill vibe, but don’t let that easygoing demeanor fool you into believing there isn't an intense competitive fire inside that drives him.

Schauffele made that perfectly clear on Tuesday, saying that he’s not content with winning just one major and that last month’s victory at the PGA Championship simply “checked one box” on his resume.

He clearly wants more.

The world’s No. 2 player takes aim at making it two in a row at the U.S. Open this week at the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club — although a power-packed field stands in his way including world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who has already won five tournaments this year.

“Just a lot of unchecked boxes," the 30-year-old Schauffele said of his future. "I just checked one box, which is really cool, obviously a box very much at the top of my list. But still a lot more to do, obviously.”

It took Schauffele 28 tries to win his first major despite being in contention several times and twice finishing as runner-up.

With the major monkey off his back, Schauffele hopes that experience will pay dividends the next time he's called on to make a big shot in a pressure-packed situation.

He made several of them at Valhalla.

“My big goal is always to be in the hunt,” Schauffele said. “If I’m in the hunt on that back nine on Sunday, I think it’s going to be really helpful knowing that I’ve done it before. ... Hopefully I can draw back from what happened at Valhalla as a positive there.”

Regardless of how he plays this week, it's unlikely you'll see much change in demeanor from Schauffele.

He's never going to draw any on-course comparisons to Tiger Woods, who air-punched his way to global fame with a flurry of emotionally-charged victories.

And Schauffele is just fine with that.

“Tiger was the best at it because it was so genuine, it was so raw,” Schauffele said. “I think that’s why we all felt it when he was doing it because he would use that energy, and it would just run through his entire round of golf."

Schauffele joked that if he tried to imitate Woods it would backfire on him.

“If I was to do that, I would get super fired up and then airmail a wedge on one green and three-putt the next hole,” Schauffele said with a wide smile. "And I’d do all this crazy stuff that I wouldn’t normally do, because that is just not how I play golf. If you can let it ride, it’s a good thing. I think, let it ride. But for me, I kind of know what lane I’m supposed to be in.”

Schauffele always seems to play well at the U.S. Open, regardless of the venue.

He's finished in the top 10 six times in seven starts, including a tie for third at Pebble Beach in 2019. His only finish outside of the top 10 was a tie for 14th two years ago at Brookline.

Through it all, he's remained the same person, never getting too upset after a poor shot or a tournament that slipped away, like it did last month when Rory McIlroy stormed back to erase Schauffele's two-shot lead and win the Wells Fargo Championship a couple of hours down the road in Charlotte.

Even as Schauffele went nearly two years between tournament wins, he never let himself get consumed by the pressure of winning.

“It’s just sort of how my brain ticks,” Schauffele said. “It really is just a result at the end of the day. You plug yourself into this equation, and you hope what you have is good enough. Most times when you make it too big in your head, you don’t really show up or show out to the best of your natural ability.”

He learned a long time ago that when he gets in his own head, things normally don't go well.

It's better to just be chill.

“I don’t perform at a high enough level when I put too much pressure on myself, so I’ve learned to take a step back and sort of let it be and let myself play the best golf I can,” Schauffele said. “I think it’s just a mindset that I’ve always had.”


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