A hatred of losing fuels 2020 Olympic gold winner Xander Schauffele, yet he accepts that as a golfer you can be playing your best-ever game but still not walk away with a trophy.
After a string of 2022 victories, he tells RSNG.com how winning still creates fatigue, and how advice from the legends of the game keeps him going…
Winning Gets Tiring
Winning is a habit, but it still has the ability to sap energy out of even the very best champions. In 2022, Xander Schauffele won the Zurich Classic Of New Orleans (with playing partner Patrick Cantlay), the Travelers Championship in Connecticut and the JP McManus Pro-Am in Limerick – all before going on to win the Genesis Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club.
“Although it was obviously great winning three competitions in a row [prior to the Open], it did tire me out. It made jumping straight into preparation for the Open very difficult, because momentum can only carry you so far,” Schauffele, 28, says.
Sure enough, while the Californian would have been content with finishing T-15 at -10, he was five shots away from Cameron Smith. “I think by the end I had gained back some fuel – I shot a 67 on the final round, but the pressure was off then, and I think my body had realized it was finally due a rest. Mentally and physically, it can be hard to keep going!”
Incredibly, after Schauffele missed the cut at the Masters earlier that year, he hadn’t been outside the top 20 in any tournament he had entered.
I’m not sure there’s anyone who hates to lose more than me – if there is I would like to meet them
“The PGA Tour is such a brutal standard and there have been times where I didn’t feel I would be that great a part of the competition, but when some of the legends of the game give you confidence and advice, it’s as much of a boost as seeing you roll in a 30-footer.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to confide in people who have been there, seen it, done it, and are happy to help players like me out. I needed that so much because this game isn’t easy, and I have to say the support has always helped me become happier and certain that I belong on the big stage.”
Golf’s Ultimate Bad Loser?
Schauffele has already achieved so much without being a household name, and the neutral-grip star is right – to win a tournament in modern-day golf is such a difficult thing to do.
“It helps that I’m a bad loser,” he laughs. “I’m not sure there’s anyone who hates to lose more than me – if there is, I would like to meet them. So, when I win it sets my mind straight and reminds me how good that feeling is, to pick up that trophy, do the interviews and replay everything in my head.
“I want to retire after winning as many tournaments as I can, and that includes the majors – the ones which have eluded me so far. I want to get to be the best that I can, the best in the world. That’s what motivates me to play this game.”
In winning the Genesis Scottish Open in July, Schauffele got off to an inauspicious start when carding a two over par 72 in the first round. That was an unbelievable 11 shots off the leader, Cameron Tringale, who fired a course-record tying 61.
He may not have felt that his winning run was going to continue at that point, but then a 65 on Friday and 66 in the third round catapulted him to the top of leaderboard.
I am happy that playing some of the best form of my life is coinciding with trophies – because there’s no guarantee that will happen
It meant that a round of level par 70 was good enough to secure the trophy and although Schauffele says that the Sunday was a stressful experience for him, he was glad his earlier work had been sufficient to win.
“You can have good runs of form and not get over the line in tournaments, so I am happy that playing some of the best form of my life is coinciding with trophies – because there’s no guarantee that will happen.
“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who you are in golf, we all love to win. I don’t know any player who is unhappy when they win! We are all capable of getting on a hot streak, that’s why we’re here, I suppose.
“But only one player can win each week and it’s difficult to take when you feel like you’ve played really well, and you are beaten by someone who has just turned up the dial and played better. So, to capitalize and win was great.”
Money, Morality And Motivation
The big talk in golf has been the Saudi money of LIV Golf, but Schauffele won’t be one of those deferring away from the traditional PGA Tour.
“Money is all well and good, but surely there has to be some choice of morality in it all. If I was to move across and take the money from LIV whether I win or lose, how can I be motivated?
“Also, I couldn’t win the PGA Tour events, I couldn’t win any major championships and that’s what I want to do. Some people have seen the figures being thrown about and wonder how I haven’t had my head turned.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I trust my own judgment. I won’t be going anywhere.”
WHAT NEXT? Find out how Lydia Ko leveled up her fitness and strength by doing cross training for golf in this RSNG.com interview…