San Diego native Xander Schauffele wins PGA Championship for first major title

Xander Schauffele

May 19, 2024; Louisville, Kentucky, USA; Xander Schauffele celebrates after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Clare Grant-USA TODAY Sports

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    Mandatory Credit: Clare Grant-USA TODAY Sports

After many brutal close calls, Xander Schauffele finally got his first major title at the 2024 PGA Championship.

After winning the CIF California state title in golf at Scripps Ranch High School in 2011 and becoming an All-American at San Diego State, hopes were high for Xander Schauffele when he made the PGA Tour in 2017.

For the last seven years, he separated himself as one of the world’s best golfers. In fact, lately, he likely was the best golfer in the world…to never have won a major. He now stands as the No. 3 golfer in the world, per the official OWGR rankings. The narrative became that Xander could never win “the big one.”

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Schauffele was the 2020 Tokyo Olympics men’s golf gold medalist, becoming the first American since 1900 to win an Olympic gold medal in golf.

Heading into the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, the second of men’s pro golf’s four majors every year, Xander Schauffele had finished in the top 10 in 11 majors without a win. That included runner-up finishes at the 2018 Open Championship in Scotland and in the 2019 Masters.

Even just last week, the former Aztec held a two shot lead in the middle of the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. That was before the No. 2 golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, steamrolled past him on the back nine for a comfortable win. Another near-miss for Schauffele.

The theme of his 2024 season (and basically his entire career) to this point was “oh, so close.” He finished second to Scottie Scheffler at golf’s unofficial “fifth major,” The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in March. He played well in last month’s Masters, finishing eighth.

He hadn’t won on the PGA Tour at all since the 2022 Scottish Open.

Clearly, Schauffele is a world-class golfer. Now, finally, he has the hardware to prove it. He shot out of the gates in Round 1 on Thursday with a record-tying 62 (nine under par) in a major championship at Valhalla. He led the field by three strokes with three rounds to play.

Fellow Californian Collin Morikawa charged towards Schauffele in the next two rounds, eventually tying the Scripps Ranch alum after the third round. LIV golfer and former U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau also made a move up the leaderboard to begin Sunday’s final round just two shots back.

In the end, it was a four-horse race and an exciting finish in Louisville. After an eventful week that included the arrest of the current No. 1 golfer in the world, Scottie Scheffler, the morning before Friday’s second round, the tournament delivered a thrilling finish.

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Viktor Hovland entered the conversation as he shot three straight 66s to end the four-round tournament at 18 under par, three shots short of Schauffele. The drama came down to DeChambeau nailing a tough birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie Schauffele, as DeChambeau finished his round at -20.

That left Schauffele needing to find a birdie between holes 17 and 18 to avoid a playoff with the surging DeChambeau, who had gained massive support from the fans as his social media presence is large in the golf world.

The San Diego native and former CIF champion golfer navigated a par on the 17th after missing the green with his second shot. He walked onto the tee box on 18, all knotted up with DeChambeau, needing a birdie on the lengthy Par 5 finishing hole to seal his first major win.

Things got off to a rocky start (or sandy?) on Hole 18, as Schauffele found his ball up against the edge of a bunker on the grass. But the position of the ball required he stand with his feet in the bunker in an awkward position, with his ball lying much higher than the level of his feet in the sand.

He held his poise and knocked his second shot just short of the green. He then hit a chip shot to inside 10 feet, needing to sink the putt to seal the PGA title.

With the golf world watching with bated breath, Schauffele finally did what he had failed to do for so long- seal the deal in a major championship. The birdie attempt saw his Callaway golf ball enter the edge of the hole and nearly lip out before finally circling the drain into the cup.

In the end, Schauffele became a first-time major champion, now at age 30. It’s the first time a San Diego native has won a major since Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship in 2021 at age 50.

At long last, the moment came. Schauffele raised the famous Wanamaker Trophy and joined the list of the elite of elite golfers as a major champion.

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