Xander Schauffele may be more concerned about what happens off the course on Saturday than what happens on it.
Schauffele followed up his first-round 67 with a “stress-free” second-round 65 at the WM Phoenix Open, and he’s tied for second place with Brooks Koepka at 10 under par, two shots behind leader Sahith Theegala. He’s hoping to carry his strong play into the weekend and win his first PGA Tour event since 2019, but he’ll be up against more than just his opponents.
Austin Keiser, the world No. 8’s regular caddie, tested positive for COVID on Wednesday, and while Schauffele continues to test negative, he still has one more test to take in the hopes of not ending up like Jon Rahm at the Memorial. (Rahm tested positive prior to the third round at Muirfield Village last summer and had to withdraw after taking a commanding six-shot 54-hole lead.)
After Round 2, Schauffele said, “Austin’s starting to feel a little bit better.” “I get the thrill of testing every morning when I wake up, so far so good.” Tomorrow is my last opportunity to test for contact tracing, so fingers crossed.”
If the 28-year-old can produce one more negative test, he’ll be able to atone for his previous trip to TPC Scottsdale. Last year, Schauffele was in contention for the WM Phoenix Open, but he finished second to Koepka after a final-round 71. He, on the other hand, puts all of his difficulties behind him.
“At this point in my career, I don’t lose any sleep over my losses,” he said. “All I care about now is the next win and getting that done.”
Schauffele’s most recent victory on the PGA Tour came at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in 2019. Since then, he’s had many close calls, but in Tokyo, he finally broke through by winning Olympic gold. Despite the fact that it wasn’t a Tour event, Schauffele ignored his naysayers and said that the feat was – and will continue to be – a watershed moment in his career.
“I’m very sure the Olympics and the gold medal have brought me more exposure or attention than I could have ever anticipated,” he remarked. “I believe the longer it sits in the marinade, the better it becomes for me.” I didn’t at first because it was still new to me and people were telling me no. And then I sat down and looked at it, thinking to myself, “Hmm, screw everybody else,” as if this was a win.
“So, if you want to speak about official PGA Tour wins, yes, I’m behind on that end, but we’ll make up for it.”
If he tests negative on Saturday, he’ll have two more rounds at TPC Scottsdale to break his PGA Tour winless streak.
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