May 18, 2021
Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the 2021 PGA Championship here at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We are very pleased to be joined by official world golf ranking No. 4 Xander Schauffele. Xander, welcome to what is your fifth career PGA Championship, and what's interesting about your progression is that with every appearance you've played better and better. Appeared in the top 10 last August back in California. Is there something that you're kind of syncing up with about what a PGA Championship golf course is and learning more as you go along, and have you learned enough to get to the winner's circle this week do you think?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I hope so. That's the plan. All the failed attempts are hopefully going to lead to success at some point. I think I can attribute all the recent good play in the PGA Championships, or the better play, I should say, just to experience.
I think as the courses get harder, if you look at sort of -- I don't even remember my first PGA -- Quail Hollow, scoring wise was one of the tougher ones. My second one was Bellerive. That was an earlier score, and then it kind of ramped up with Bethpage and Harding Park and now here.
I don't see a really low score winning this week with the wind and difficulty of the course, which usually feeds into sort of my ballpark.
Q. You've had plenty of occasions of playing with wind. In Hawai'i you played with wind. You have Pacific, Atlantic, everything. What do you do here mentally and --
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, it's just like San Diego -- I'm kidding. San Diego if it's blowing 10 miles an hour it's breezy. This is new. It's been a while I'd say since I've played in a lot of wind, and it does funny things to your golf game and your golf swing.
Just been trying to iron out sort of those compensations that I've been making and moving along in that direction.
Q. Talking about San Diego, the contrast. There's going to be a bunch of big tournaments by the water this year --
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: A lot of coastal tournaments, yeah.
Q. What is the contrast, and very specific about each of the golf courses and each of the tournaments?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Just different grass, I think. The greens here are perfect. They're paspalum. The fairways are perfect. They're some sort of mix of Bermuda with a little paspalum, kind of spotty in certain areas. The type of grass it is I'm not too away of. Everything is perfect.
Torrey Pines should be in great condition. It's nice to have everyone out in August or whenever the U.S. Open will be in a couple months here. The grass is very different. The greens aren't as pure at Torrey Pines. They're bumpier and sketchier. If you hit a good putt out here there's no reason it shouldn't go in.
So in terms of coastal golf, I think it's just wind dependent. That's probably the only similarity the two properties have is they're both on the water and both going to be windy. Just sort of prepare your game for windy conditions and find out how to flight the ball correctly.
Q. We were talking with Rory about 2012 and we were talking about when you have memories of winning something and we were talking to Adam Scott, too, and the memories are more mental than anything. It's not about technique and all that. I know this might be a fabulous secret, but what do you do mentally, and if you can be a little specific --
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, I mean, mentally it's just a -- if you're not tired after each and every round you play this week, then you probably didn't try enough hard enough. When it's windy like this it's a complete headache for the player and the caddie. It's a collaborative effort. It's just tough.
It's really tough, and if you can and your caddie can focus for six hours each day -- it's a major championship. If you can focus long enough, more than everyone else, you have a better chance of beating them. Obviously you have to hit the right shots and everything, but you also have to think your way around the property when it's this windy.
Q. You mentioned compensations in the wind. I'm wondering what are some things that you do to play effective golf in the wind?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, when I say compensation, I mean the way I swing. I sort of tug on the handle and I can shut the face down pretty quick, that sort of bowed left wrist that people like to refer to. When it's windier I feel like I need to hit it even lower and that bowed left wrist sneaks in even more, too soon in my swing.
I'll get it going left and kind of up high to the right and those shots aren't good in the wind or in any condition for that matter. For me it's sort of trying to stay -- the old saying is swing easy when it's breezy or whatever the saying is, but that's sort of the mentality that my dad and I been trying to work on this week, is not getting to caught up with sort of crosswinds or into the wind and still trying to swing as if there was no wind almost.
Q. Just curious, have you played the 17th?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yes, I have.
Q. How difficult is it, and the challenge of playing that hole?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I hit a 2-iron in the water and then I hit a 2-iron to two feet. I think that kind of sums up the hole in all honesty. When you're hitting a long iron into wind and it's struck properly, it should hold its line and its flight. If you don't, it's going to go way off line and not hold its flight.
I think for me it's sort of you've really got to muster up some courage coming down the stretch and depending on where they put that tee box, it's going to be really tricky.
Q. It's well documented you've had a bunch of close calls in the majors and THE PLAYERS. They always say that you learn from your losses. What are your takeaways that kind of help you prepare mentally for this week at the PGA Championship?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, the takeaway is a couple things. I think the first takeaway is that I can win. I think I've done it before and I've put myself in a lot of situations and big tournaments to do it. I know that I can do it; I just haven't done it yet.
The second thing is the mistakes I've made are all very similar. I've sort of been in contention when I've been playing really, really well and I've sort of been around the lead, as well when I haven't been playing as well, and I think both times I sort of lost track of where I was in the tournament in terms of mentally, and I wasn't present.
I think that's a lot of what champions talk about, how they're able to stay present and go shot to shot and sort of stick to what they know best. For me I haven't won a whole lot in my life or in my career when it comes to golf. It's such a new thing for me, and I'm still getting used to sort of trying to win. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and look too far in advance.
Q. Every two years we start talking about the Ryder Cup. Have you talked to the captain? What are you looking forward to there? What are the preparations? What's going on with that?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: It's sort of been small chatter text-wise. I know Stricker fairly well now, him sort of being a vice captain or assistant captain at the Presidents Cup and sort of being around him or playing around him for a few years.
In terms of preparation I think he wants everyone to keep their head down and focus on playing each and every golf tournament, each and every shot. He announced that there's a lot of points out to grab still, and I'm not really thinking a whole lot about it yet.
I think there are some scheduled practice rounds at Whistling Straits that you should attend if you're in the top 25 or so, and I'll do that. But besides that it's sort of week-to-week and day-to-day for me, and the Ryder Cup is so far away in my mind and on my schedule that I'm just worried about this week.
Q. So something that is closer is the Olympics. Can you tell us about your plans for that and also your personal connection with Japan?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, of course. The Olympics, unfortunately I think they announced that there's no foreign spectators. It's kind of a tricky one. Obviously Japan has invested a lot of money and infrastructure, or built a lot of infrastructure and stuff to accommodate the Olympics and tourists and everything, so I understand why there's sort of questions about having the Olympics.
But for me personally, my grandparents live in Shibuya, in Tokyo. And I've been there a bunch and I love Japan. I love being there. I love the culture and everything. If I do get on the team it looks like I'd be playing.
Q. What's your opinion of the Ocean Course? I assume this is the first time you've seen it.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, I played 18 holes yesterday; I played nine today. Saving the back nine for tomorrow. Let it kick my butt before I start the tournament on Thursday.
It's tough. I read that the scoring average in 2012 was 74Â½ or 74.6, which was the second hardest tournament the guys played in 2012. With it being windy and sort of a constant wind and breeze, I feel that it's going to be a very difficult task and a big ask on certain holes. Just a really good test, honestly.
I think it's a really good venue for a major, and it seems like everyone is excited to play.
Q. Adam Scott talked about the length of the golf course, and even though this is the longest yardage-wise in the history of major championship golf, how that doesn't seem to faze young players, and I put you in that group --
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Thank you.
Q. -- is that something that you notice, or is it just something you have to experience once you're out there but it doesn't enter into your preparations?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: You notice it when you're playing a 600-yard hole straight into the fan blowing 20 miles an hour. It's something you notice. It's rare for certain guys out here not to be able to reach a par-5s.
I honestly don't know if the longest guy on TOUR could reach that hole, I think the 16th or so, when it's blowing straight in. It's something you take account for.
When it's so long and no one can reach it it almost seems fair again. People talk about distance and everything, but when you have holes that are so long that -- for example, I was playing with someone yesterday that I hit it further than, but into the wind he flighted one a little bit more than I did and I kind of hit it a little bit higher and we were four yards apart, and downwind I was 30 yards ahead of him.
It really plays into shot shaping and your ability to flight and control your windows more than anything else. I think the more comfortable you are with flighting golf shots or controlling your flight, the better you'll play in tournaments like this.
Q. Do you start working on that weeks ahead of time, days ahead of time, between season A and season B? When does that all happen?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Yeah, absolutely. You try and find a range that's straight into the wind. Your miss is amplified into the wind, and that's kind of just it. If you thin it or toe it or heel it or hook it or slice it into the wind it's going to look like the worst shot anyone has ever seen out here, even for us.
You can't really prepare for it honestly. I've been working in San Diego and trying to flight the golf ball, hitting certain windows, but as soon as you come out here you start tensing up a little, start changing how you attack the golf ball, and the rest is history.
So you really try and control your window as much as possible.
Q. So range finders, greens books, the technology more and more. Some people are saying you're losing the creativity because of this.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: A little bit. I think when it's this windy and it is called the Ocean Course because it's right on the coast, wind will move a ball on the green. You can look up the greens book all you want, but if you've got a left edge putt and the wind is blowing 20 right to left, probably should play right edge, and no book or person is going to tell you that. You just got to kind of feel that.
So I think technology when it's this windy is sort of out the window, and you've really got to rely a lot on your feel.
Q. Going back to about the wind and everything and the fact that you said you hit a 2-iron on 17, is a 2-iron a standard club in the bag or have you made some changes because of all the shots that could be into the wind this week?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: It's a club that hasn't been in my bag in a really long time. It kind of seemed like a no-brainer. I would much rather hit an iron into a 240-yard hole than a 7-wood. You catch a 7-wood at the bottom of the face it's going to go 50 yards short into this wind.
It is a new club in my bag. I've been trying to work on it a little bit more. I just know it's probably the right way to go with it being windier.
Q. I'm just wondering, has any player asked your father about coaching them?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: I don't think so. I really don't know. I'd have to ask him.
Q. How would you feel about another player working with him?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Just absolute betrayal (smiling). I'm just kidding.
Q. Are you surprised --
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: It depends on who it is.
Q. Are you surprised that others haven't considered the success he's had with you?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: These are interesting questions that I haven't been really asked. You know, I don't know. I think there are world-renowned coaches out there that have worked with several people. My dad obviously, he got his hands on me when I was very young and he had his thoughts on the swing and implemented them at a very young age.
If you're 40 years old or 30 years old and you've sort of been swinging the way you swing, I don't know if he'd be the best person for you. You could argue differently. But if I was 35 years old and I didn't have my dad as my swing coach, I'd personally look for someone that in all honesty brought 10 guys up on the PGA TOUR or works with 10 guys just because he's probably seen more.
My dad has worked with me and we've had a lot of success, but compared to a lot of other coaches him working with me has limited his ability to work with a lot of other people, and there's push and pull to that situation.
Q. Do you think he'd see it as absolute betrayal if you want to work with someone else?
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: Probably. We've talked about it. We joke about it now, but we had serious talks about it for a while. If he felt he couldn't take me far enough and we felt like we weren't working well enough, then the best solution -- we both want me to play the best golf I can play, and if it meant going to someone else then it meant going to someone else.
But so far we can iron out tough situations still and we work well together. I don't really see the point in going to see anyone else.
Q. Talk about what you see in these greens. We've heard a few thoughts that they're running pure. Just your observations from being here for a few days.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: They could be the nicest greens I've ever putted on. I thought Shadow Creek was in incredible shape for the CJ Cup this year. Obviously they had a lot of money to pour into their property. I've played on paspalum greens a few times, and these are just flawless. I think the fact they don't pitch -- when you hit a ball into a green they don't make a hole at all, so the service area stays very flush and very clean.
You don't really see any marks anywhere on the surface. They're really nice. They're really predictable. It doesn't mean you're going to make putts, but it sure does feel like you should make everything you look at when you're on the surface just because they're rolling so nice.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for the time, Xander. Have a terrific week and we hope to see you again.
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