You’ve read the reports about Ryder Cup rifts, contract disputes with the PGA of America, and rumors of a LIV move. Now Xander Schauffele wants you to hear his side of the story in this explosive, tell-all interview.
Xander Schauffele is honest enough to admit that he’s had enough. He wants and needs a break from golf and has already pulled out of Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge event in the Bahamas as a result. He doesn’t plan on playing again until the Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January.
The next two months will allow him to decompress and enjoy some downtime for the first time since the pandemic. He has not spoken fully about the fallout from the Ryder Cup, but a text message from his agent tells us he is finally ready to talk. This is his chance to reflect and set the record straight about a few things that have been said and written about him over the last month.
There’s a lot to discuss, which is why we need 60 minutes to get his take on rumors linking him with a move to LIV Golf; the PGA Tour’s deal with the Saudis (spoiler alert: he wants Jay Monahan to go); and the Ryder Cup story which almost broke the internet.
Schauffele is speaking from his home in San Diego, four weeks after the Ryder Cup, and two days after his 30th birthday. The last time we spoke he had just won twice in as many starts in the build-up to last year’s Open Championship. Three times if you include the JP McManus Pro-Am at the 2027 Ryder Cup course in Ireland.
He was playing the best golf of his career, but his 2023 story has been defined by disappointments. He co-led after the opening round of the US Open at LA Country Club before falling back into a tie for 10th, his 11th top 10 in a Major since 2017.
He would have won the FedEx Cup in August had it not been for the staggered scoring system and the brilliance of Viktor Hovland. Instead, he ended the campaign with no wins and no $18 million bonus, despite boasting the fifth-best scoring average on the PGA Tour. He lets out a sigh before offering his assessment.
“The consistent play was there, week in, week out, but in terms of what we’re trying to achieve, I feel like I came up short,” he concedes. “I didn’t feel like I was in contention a crazy amount. I had a good amount of top 10s, but I didn’t feel like I was really in the hunt a lot. Only a few events kind of pop up in my head.
“At LA Country Club, I felt invincible the first day and then ended up having a really poor weekend. I’ve always kind of had a moment or one round which has kind of cost me a little bit. In those big tournaments, you want it so badly, and it is really difficult to stay present and grounded. That’s something I’m still working on and trying to learn how to do.”
He talks a lot about working and staying patient, which is why he tries not to get too hung up on statistics or the anxiety that occasionally creeps into his short game. He has read a lot of books on psychology and sees the value in investing in his mind and body. Sometimes to the point of obsession.
The rewards have been plentiful so far, better than many predicted when he first graduated to the PGA Tour in 2017 and nearly lost his card a year later. He considers for a moment the widespread theory that he is the best player in the game yet to win a Major Championship.
“It’s such an interesting stat line. I mean, I could look at it through a positive or negative lens. When people tell me, it doesn’t really bother me. It means I’m a really good player, right?”
He pinpoints the US Open as his best chance of winning a Major and laughs at my suggestion that he is everyone’s favorite each-way bet because of his consistency.
“It’ll pay off eventually,” he says.
The optimism comes with the knowledge that he still has time on his side. He makes the point that “money is not a motivating factor anymore”, which feels especially pertinent given everything that has been reported about him and Patrick Cantlay being at the center of a rift in the US Ryder Cup team room.
“I’m not sure how or why any of that was printed,” he says when pressed on the accusation. “If I’m going to set the record completely straight, there was zero fracturing in our team room. To say that we didn’t eat with our teammates was pretty funny. Everyone in our locker room had a pretty good laugh at that part.”
Schauffele’s father Stefan, who also acts as his agent and swing coach, has since revealed in an interview with the Sunday Times that any friction may have stemmed from a contract dispute with the PGA of America over a player participation and benefit agreement, which he claims almost saw his son kicked off the team just weeks before the Ryder Cup began.
Xander denies that was ever the case and takes issue with the suggestion that there was ever a row over being paid to play.
“That was the one thing that was pretty ludicrous, I don’t know where the money thing honestly came from,” he says, adding that he didn’t wear a hat on Sunday to make a point and support Patrick Cantlay.
As for his father’s comments, Schauffele struggles to mask his frustrations.
“I was pretty unhappy that he was talking to the media, we’ve already hashed that one out. That stuff didn’t need to be said. You know, I would say there was some miscommunication originally, but it came late and we just wanted to adjust a few things legally in the framework before we signed it (the contract). At no point did I ever feel personally threatened that I was not going to be on the team.
“To be completely honest, I was just wary of the whole Netflix crew. Zach [Johnson] asked me if there were any concerns that I had and I told him honestly, I don’t feel comfortable with Netflix being on the inside of our team room.
“I gave him my reasons and told him that I know our team is split on the Netflix deal, but my favorite part of every Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup that I’ve been a part of is the interaction between the guys in the team room and the physio room. It’s the only sort of normalcy that comes during the week and the conversations we have with each other should stay private.
“I understand why fans would want to see that, but selfishly I didn’t want them in there. Zach took the initiative and talked to every guy on the team. And it was a unanimous decision to vote and not have them on the inside. That’s pretty much all there was to it.”
His version of events does contribute to this sense that there’s a ruthless, no-nonsense side to Schauffele, one that has perhaps been lacking in the big moments on the course this year. He agrees with the sentiment and lets his mask slip as he reveals the level of guilt he felt after losing his first three matches at the Ryder Cup.
“I did feel like I let Patrick down on Saturday morning after we struggled Friday,” he says, regretfully. “I felt like he was charging and he left me a couple of putts there that I missed late in the match. I missed the putt on 16 and 17. We could have changed everything.
“We were the anchor match; we were supposed to win our match. I wouldn’t say I was emotional, but I was pretty heated. That’s probably the angriest I’ve been all year, just at myself for letting the team down. When I reflected back on that, I realized how much it meant to me. There’s nothing like losing a match to give you a kick in the butt. When I got back to the locker room, I really didn’t want to be around anybody.”
Schauffele used to be that angry kid on the golf course but has worked hard to keep his emotions in check in the heat of battle. He is all business now, purposely reserved and robotic in his routine.
When he holed the putt to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics, there was no fist pumping or attempts of showmanship. Just a smile and a hug for his caddie and father, whose own Olympic dream as a promising decathlete was ended by a head-on collision with a drunk driver that left him partially blind.
Such coolness can make it hard for fans to form an attachment with Schauffele, but take him away from the public eye and he is a ‘goofball’ according to his wife. The ‘funniest guy in the team room’, according to Jordan Spieth.
We rarely get to see that side on TV, but there are flashes of it during our conversation as I ask him if there are any positives he can take away from Rome.
“At least I won something! At one stage, it felt like death by a thousand cuts. Going 0-3 was a bit rough, so it was a last-ditch effort and it was nice to win a point. It kind of looked interesting for a split second on Sunday.”
He is hopeful of a better outcome at Bethpage in two years’ time, though he remains diplomatic when asked whether Tiger would get his vote to captain the US team.
“I’d be happy with anybody to be honest…”
He is more forthcoming once our conversation shifts to LIV Golf and Phil Mickelson’s prediction that another exodus of the PGA Tour is about to happen. Schauffele has made no secret of having been offered “obnoxious” money to make the switch previously, but he decided against making the move then and he says he has no regrets about staying loyal to the PGA Tour.
“I haven’t really thought a whole lot about it and I don’t sit here and think, oh gosh, I should have pursued that more or anything of that nature. I’m pretty content with where I’m at and what I’ve done.”
I remind him about the headlines he made this summer when he said that Jay Monahan had eroded his trust. He considers for a moment if he is still the right man to lead the PGA Tour.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing some new leadership take place on our circuit,” he replies, tentatively. “I would be lying if I said that I have a whole lot of trust after what happened. That’s definitely the consensus that I get when I talk to a lot of guys. It’s a bit contradictory when they call it ‘our Tour’ and things can happen without us even knowing.
“It’s hard. I’m sure there are reasons for what happened, but at the same time, it puts us in a really hard spot to trust the leadership that did some stuff in the dark and is supposed to have our best interests at heart. It’s a bit sicky, and I am a bit in the dark still. I hate to sit here and hope for the best.”
Schauffele has a big voice now as an established member of golf’s elite and a lot of strong opinions that appear to be simmering beneath the surface. He questions the makeup of next year’s calendar, which will see the Wyndham Championship – the final event that decides who qualifies for the FedEx Cup Playoffs – taking place four days after the Olympic Men’s Competition in Paris.
He doesn’t like to predict whether patriotism or money will win out, but you sense that he already knows the answer. His own participation hinges on whether he qualifies, though it would be a shock if he is not part of the American contingent in Paris.
“I’m obviously very excited, but a little anxious,” he admits. “I still have to compete at a very high level to make the team but if I qualify, I will be there. I promise you that.
“They are really special events. At the same time, I have an attachment to the Olympics, just because of my dad, so it is a unique situation. For it to be in Paris and with my dad being half French and me being a quarter French, it means more.”
Unlike a lot of his countrymen, Schauffele sees himself as a global golfer and would like to play more in Asia and Europe if his schedule – and the PGA Tour – allows. He accepts the logistical minefield that every golfer is facing right now and acknowledges that his is only going to get worse now he’s signed a two-year contract to play team golf on Monday nights as part of the new high-tech golf league, fronted by Tiger and Rory.
He admits to not knowing a whole lot about it, including what team he’s going to be on, but saying no was never an option. Especially where Tiger is concerned.
“I feel like I would have regretted it if I wasn’t a part of something that could be this big,” Schauffele explains. “If you look at some of the names attached to it, you can see why it is such a big deal and why it is going to succeed. It’s going to be really cool.”
As for his own ambitions, Schauffele intends to come back fitter, stronger, and longer next season. He has already spoken to Matt Fitzpatrick about the benefits and pitfalls of following the Stack System and has started looking over his Shotlink stats to help shape his goals for 2024.
“The big gains I can make in my game I feel are in the gym and getting stronger. It’s been some time since I’ve been able to sit down with my team, put a really good plan together, and get some good training in versus that sort of maintenance training that you have during the year.”
The aim, he says, is to increase his swing speed by 5mph in the long term, which would equate to an extra 15 yards off the tee. That would put him among the top 10 longest hitters on the PGA Tour.
“The most important thing with driving is distance,” he adds. “If you look at guys’ accuracy, they might be 150th but they’ll be hitting it 325 yards and gaining shots. There’s something to be said around that line. A lot of guys who have tried to chase the distance have had to deal with some sort of injury, so I am wary of that. And that’s where the patience part comes into it.”
Schauffele is clearly prepared to play the long game, which may well be the thing we start focusing on the most when we assess his Major credentials. For now, at least, he’s happy goofing around before the hard work begins in the gym in a couple of weeks’ time.
About the author
Michael Catling is an award-winning journalist who specializes in golf’s Majors and Tours, including DP World, PGA, LPGA, and LIV.
Michael joined Today’s Golfer in 2016 and has traveled the world to attend the game’s biggest events and secure exclusive interviews with the game’s biggest names, including Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Gary Player, Martin Slumbers and Justin Thomas.