Weekly PGA Recap: X Gon' Deliver To Ya

Weekly PGA Recap: X Gon' Deliver To Ya

This article is part of our Weekly PGA Recap series.

When we last saw Xander Schauffele the week before the PGA Championship, he was getting his teeth kicked in by Rory McIlroy on the back nine of Quail Hollow Club.

Maybe that's what it took. Maybe that's what it took for Schauffele to become a major champion.

The golfer who's been on the wrong side of more close calls than the Bills against the Chiefs in January has finally closed the deal.

Schauffele sank a knee-knocking six-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole at Valhalla Golf Club on Sunday to win the 106th PGA Championship by one stroke over hard-charging Bryson DeChambeau.

In going wire-to-wire, Schauffele set the all-time major scoring record of 21 under par, beginning with a major-record-tying 9-under 62 on Thursday. He's the only golfer to back up that 62 with a win. Weather surely factored into the easy scoring conditions as rain softened the course, but it was the same for everybody else in what is always called "the strongest field in golf."

The 30-year-old Schauffele had one of the most impressive major resumes in golf, certainly the best among non-winners, easily holding the title of Best Golfer to Have Never Won a Major. He had finished second and third at the Masters, second at the Open Championship, and third, fifth, fifth, sixth and seventh at the U.S. Open. The PGA Championship was the only major in which he hadn't contended, never finishing better than 10th.

Schauffele also had trouble winning non-majors, and it was close to two years since his last worldwide title at the 2022 Scottish Open. This season alone, all four-plus months, saw two runners-up, a third, fourth and fifth. The streak appeared ready to end last week, when Schauffele roared out of the gate at the Wells Fargo Championship, only to be chased down on Sunday by McIlroy playing a surreal stretch of golf of 8-under across eight holes.

"I mean, I actually used last week as sort of fuel," Schauffele said in response to a question noting how quickly he bounced back from that thrashing. "It was some of the best ball-striking I've had in quite some time, shaping it right to left, left to right. I knew that this course was sort of -- you had to do those things. … I kind of used that as fuel, and it calmed me a little bit knowing I'm coming into a major in good form."

There had been no obvious reason for Schauffele coming so close so often without ever winning. That usually means the issue isn't physical but mental. Not everybody figures it out at the same time. Phil Mickelson needed close to 50 major starts before winning, far more than the 28 Schauffele needed, and look how many majors he eventually won (six).

"I don't think I'd ever look at it as lacking, Schauffele said. "I looked at it as someone that is trying really hard and needs more experience. All those close calls for me, even last week, that sort of feeling, it gets to you at some point. It just makes this even sweeter."

Schauffele finished third in the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and second in SG: Approach, metrics usually associated with the world's No. 1 golfer, Scottie Scheffler. Even on the day Schauffele hoisted the Wannamaker Trophy, he knew he still has work to do.

"All of us are climbing this massive mountain," he said. "At the top of the mountain is Scottie Scheffler. I won this today, but I'm still not that close to Scottie Scheffler in the big scheme of things."

The only way to get there is to win more, win more majors. Winning isn't always a prelude to more winning. But in the case of Schauffele, it sure seems as if more tournament wins and more majors are coming, and now it would surprise no one if they came quite quickly.

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Bryson DeChambeau
DeChambeau electrified the gallery all week, no more so than when he sank a 10-foot birdie putt on 18 on Sunday to tie Schauffele, albeit briefly. He is one of only four golfers to finish top-10 in both 2024 majors, joining Schauffele, Scheffler and Collin Morikawa. That's pretty lofty company, and DeChambeau will be one of the favorites next month at Pinehurst for the U.S. Open. He led the field in driving distance, which is no surprise, but he also had a scrambling success rate of an otherworldly 90 percent.

Viktor Hovland
Hovland had struggled mightily all year after changing coaches and going through a swing change. He didn't have a finish better than T19 all season. He reunited with his swing coach, Joe Mayo, last week and the results were instantaneous. Hovland shot 68-66-66-66 to finish solo third. Now that Hovland is back, watch out. He surely has assumed the title of Best Golfer to Have Never Won a Major from Schauffele.

Collin Morikawa
Morikawa has now played in the final group in both majors this season. And both times he had subpar Sundays. While playing partner Schauffele was shooting a 6-under 65, Morikawa limped home with a 71 to tumble into a tie for fourth. He ranked 26th in the field in SG: Approach, far better than his season-long numbers but well short of what he traditionally has done. As the saying goes, he's "close."

Thomas Detry
The Belgian had already been sniffing the top of leaderboards – fourth at Pebble, runner-up at Houston – before tying for fourth this week, his best major showing ever. Detry has been doing well with terrible approach play all season. It was better at Valhalla but still not great – he ranked 47th in the field. But he was so great around the greens and is such a good putter. That is a game plan often used to great success by Cameron Smith and Patrick Reed.

Justin Rose
Now on the other side of 40, there has been some serious slippage in Rose's game. But for four days at least, he showed what he can do when he's at this best. He tied for fifth -- and that was only after bogeying the final two holes. It cost him some cash but maybe a lot more. A top-4 finish would've guaranteed entry into all the other majors for the next 12 months -- including the Masters. But he did move up to No. 56 in the world, and that was enough to get him into next month's U.S. Open.

Shane Lowry
Lowry joined Schauffele in shooting a 62 this week. It came on Saturday. It proved very hard to back up as Lowry managed only a 70 on Sunday, leaving him in a tie for fifth. The burly Irishman now has finished top-5 in every major once.

Scottie Scheffler
There's a lot to unpack here. Where to begin? How about at the end, where Scheffler closed with a that's-more-like-it 65 to zoom into the top-10 after all that happened to him this week. He shot three rounds at 67 or better, including one after being arrested on Friday morning. In fact, you could make a strong case that what affected him more was not having usual caddie Ted Scott on Saturday. Scott took one day to attend his daughter's high school graduation, and Scheffler ballooned to a 73, shooting himself out of the tournament.

Justin Thomas
Some golfers might wilt under the pressure of playing a major as a home game. But the Kentucky native thrived in tying for eighth. That's Thomas' best major showing by far since he won the 2022 PGA. Thomas had a couple of high-profile missed cuts at THE PLAYERS and the Masters this year, but now also has six top-12 finishes. If he could make a few putts -- no sure thing -- a win could be coming.

Billy Horschel
Horschel's game had fallen so far in the past year that he found himself in the Dominican Republic last month playing in an opposite-field event. He won. And now he tied for eighth at the PGA. Horschel may not return to his highest heights. But he could return to the top 50 of the OWGR if he keeps going. He's now back at No. 64.

Robert MacIntyre
The Scotsman missed the cut at last year's PGA, and that's the only time he's MCed in 13 career majors. He just had one of his best, tying for eighth. After slumping for the better part of a year, MacIntyre moved to 74th in the world.

Rory McIlroy
A T12 a week after winning the Wells Fargo. The major drought is now a decade old. McIlroy didn't finish top-10 as he so often does in majors. He's probably had more close calls the past decade than Schauffele. On to Pinehurst, where McIlroy will likely once again be the second betting choice behind Scheffler
 
Sahith Theegala
Theegala was outstanding for three rounds. He was in the final threesome on Saturday and in the penultimate group on Sunday. But he shot 73, by far the worst round of the day by anyone who finished in the top-30. He plummeted into a tie for 12th. It's been a great year to date for Theegala. He can't let this disappointment derail his season, and it probably won't.

Dean Burmester
Burmester showed that his two non-LIV wins in South Africa at the end of last year were no fluke. He tied for 12th. That's a great week, but he'll still need to qualify for the U.S. Open.

Tony Finau
After a few years of bad majors that followed a strong stretch filled with many top-10s, Finau showed he can still bring it. He tied for 18th.

Brooks Koepka
Don't let the tie for 26th fool you. It was another terrible week and terrible major for Koepka. We know it's dangerous to downgrade Koepka when talking about a major, but that's what it's looking like for the U.S. Open.

Max Homa
After turning a corner in his past two majors, Homa didn't have it this week. He tied for 35th.

Jordan Spieth
No Career Grand Slam. Spieth tied for 43rd.

Dustin Johnson
Johnson birdied 18 on Friday to make the cut, shot 66 on Sunday to move up into a tie for 43rd. He is about to turn 40 and has just one top-10 in a major the past two years.

Patrick Cantlay
T53. Another major no-show.

Gary Woodland
Woodland has not had a good season recovering from brain surgery. But making the cut (T60) deserves a shout-out.

Talor Gooch
Gooch got invited, made the cut and tied for 60th. Are all the LIV bots happy now?

MISSED CUTS

Jon Rahm
Rahm finished T45 at the Masters and now this. They are his two worst events of the season, since he's finished top-10 in every LIV event.  He was of course unhappy with his Masters title defense so put in every prep time for the PGA. Presumably, he'll do the same for next month's U.S. Open. We shall see.

Ludvig Aberg, Wyndham Clark, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sam Burns, Akshay Bhatia, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods. Aberg trunk-slamming was a stunner, but perhaps his skills will shine through better at the U.S. Open, where scores won'tt be as high as they were this week. … Clark has now missed the cut at two majors in a row. … Fitzpatrick has missed the cut at the past two PGAs, his only major MCs in the past four years. … Scott was playing in his 91st consecutive major … Mickelson and Woods? Well, we should not be swayed by both of them making the cut at the Masters. They know that course so well they could continue to make the cut there for years to come despite diminished skills. Other major tracks are an entirely different story.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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