Xander Schauffele rarely doesn’t say what’s on his mind.
“I want to win really bad,” he fired off Friday evening at TPC Scottsdale, where Schauffele holds a one-shot lead through 36 holes of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
It’s certainly been a while since Schauffele has found himself in the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour. Not that he hasn’t come close. Since his last victory, at the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Schauffele has finished runner-up seven times. Heck, since the beginning of last season, he’s only placed outside of the top 25 twice in 24 starts with his last non-top-25 coming last summer at Harbour Town.
Schauffele doesn’t need to be reminded – even if some, including him, would argue he won “low gross” last season at East Lake. He knows. He also believes he knows why.
“We kind of just realized where I was getting to I think in terms of me just becoming impatient,” he explained. “I feel like I had a sense of urgency when I really didn’t need to. I would look back at the week and I was like, ‘Man, why did I kind of jump the gun there? All I had to do was play decent and I would’ve been right there.’ I think it’s just a result of pushing and pushing and pushing and having decent results, but not what we really want. I’ve played well in a calm sort of state of mind, and that’s when I’ve done my best.”
Case in point: After an opening 66 Thursday, Schauffele got off to a slow start in Round 2 as he “saw everyone’s name flying up the leaderboard.” Then he reminded himself: Keep your head down. After one birdie in his first 11 holes, Schauffele played his final seven holes in 6 under.
The back-nine 30 included birdies at Nos. 12 (from 25 feet), 13, 14 and 18 (after hitting his approach from the left fairway bunker to 5 feet). Schauffele also canned a 21-footer for eagle at the par-5 15th.
“Pretty happy with the result,” Schauffele said afterward, “and obviously what I thought would work did work today.”
But will it work this weekend? Schauffele, who is one clear of Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley, is sure going to try.
“I’m going to wake up tomorrow and someone is going to be four shots ahead of me or something like that,” Schauffele said. “I think this is one of those golf courses where no lead is very safe, and you need to really, like I said, keep my head down and stay calm.”