Xander Schauffele Seals Major Victory in Record-Breaking PGA Championship

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In the gently rolling hills of Louisville, Kentucky, the paths to victory winded through every tee and green of the Valhalla Golf Club. It was here on a sun-drenched Sunday that Xander Schauffele strode to both victory and the noble threshold of becoming a major champion. It was never easy, never a given, despite the California native’s consistently impressive performances this season.

At every twist and turn of this compelling chase, there were signs that the path to victory would be arduous. The audacious Bryson DeChambeau was matching Schauffele shot for shot, mounting an unyielding challenge during the PGA Championship. DeChambeau doggedly pursued, erasing the spectators’ doubts until he was nipping at Schauffele’s heels, buoyed by a birdie on the final hole at Valhalla.

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Unfazed by the pressure, Schauffele continued to carve a path towards victory. A bolt of luck seemed to escape him when a particular shot ended up masked in mud despite a promising drive on the 16th. His tee shot on the 17th met with an equally grim fate, ricocheting backward rather than forward.

However, his dream of walking away with the title remained tenaciously alive as he approached the par-5 18th hole. Schauffele’s elation at what he thought was a brilliant drive soured when he discovered his ball had rolled ominously close to a bunker, obstructing a clear green shot. A prelude to his triumph, perhaps it was at this moment that the image of the hard-earned heavyweight silver Wanamaker Trophy kindled within him.

With a grin betraying self-deprecation, Schauffele joked, “If you want to be a major champion, this is what you need to conquer.” In these millimetres between victory and defeat, Schauffele extracted lessons of persistence.

Emerging victorious from one nail-biting encounter after another, the 30-year-old finally got his crowning moment. A gutsy shot gave him a perfect angle, landing him some 35 yards short but close enough to pitch up the slope to 6 feet. What followed was nothing short of magic as Schauffele swirled in a six-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win, denying DeChambeau his triumph and etching his own name in the annals of golfing history with a record-breaking 72-hole score.

Tasting victory, he said, “I engaged with the moment, lived it fully. I believe I’ve earned this, and that’s all I choose to remember. The rest – the deafening roar, the immense relief – seems to have blurred into a euphoric haze.”

A showdown that was exhilarating to the bitter end, the PGA Championship saw Schauffele outperform DeChambeau, delivering a closing round of 6-under 65 to beat DeChambeau’s score of 64. DeChambeau’s disappointment couldn’t veil the pride in his achievement: “Shooting 20-under par in a major championship is a momentous occasion that boosts my momentum for the remaining majors.”

Schauffele became the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2005 to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the last hole. Even the last shot was a heart-stopper as Schauffele squatted down. After much contemplation, with his heart pounding, the winning putt fell and he was greeted by generous applause. His long-time caddie and former teammate, Austin Kaiser was the first to share the joy with a tight embrace.

For other players, like Viktor Hovland, it was a day of missed opportunities. However, the star of the weekend was undeniably Schauffele, whose record-breaking performances announced his arrival in the big leagues. It wrapped up another week of glorious, pressure-cooker golf in the greens of Valhalla.

His caddie Kaiser, while reminiscing the journey, said, “I recall Xander saying, ‘We’ve got to go get it.’” He certainly did. With incredible resilience, Schauffele emerged victorious from a series of obstacles that followed. In many ways, it was long overdue.

With this win, Schauffele clinched his eighth victory on the PGA Tour, and his Olympic gold from Tokyo Games 2021 found its silver partner in the enormous Wanamaker Trophy. On that victorious Sunday, his winning birdie took him to a career-best number two in the world, offering him a spot in the U.S. Olympic team.