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McKINNEY, Texas – When CBS Sports reporter Amanda Renner congratulated Xander Schauffele on shooting his career-low round on the PGA Tour, he scrunched his face and said, “Is it?”
Indeed, it was. Schauffele went out early in the first group off the first tee and shot 11-under 61 at TPC Craig Ranch in the final round of the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson. Well, technically, he was informed he did shoot a best-ball 59 in the team-event with partner Patrick Canltay at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but that deserves a big asterisk. Schauffele smiled and said, “I think he made eight of the birdies, anyway.”
Nonetheless, it was an incredible turnaround for Schauffele who was 3-over par through the first 23 holes of the tournament. He ranked T-150 in Strokes Gained: putting in the first round, which he blamed on poor green reading, and was eight strokes off the pace of the 36-hole cut, which took 5-under 139 or better. At 2 p.m. on Friday, he was 149th on the leaderboard, and at one point trailed leader Sebastian Munoz by 15 strokes.
“It was embarrassing,” he said.
AT&T Byron Nelson: Leaderboard
Was he thinking about catching a flight home on Friday?
“We kind of joked about mailing it in, I guess,” Schauffele said. “I never do. It was looking pretty grim. I was just happy making the cut. I saw guys shooting 12 under, 10 under, I thought I might as well do it myself.”
Schauffele responded with six birdies in an eight-hole stretch on Friday to make the cut on the number. After the 3-over start, he went on to play his final 49 holes in a ridiculous 26 under to grab the clubhouse lead at 23-under 265.
Schauffele, who started the day trailing Munoz by nine strokes, jump-started his final round with a hole-out eagle from 97 yards at the par-4 sixth.
“It’s hot, off Zoysia, usually it’s a sand wedge off any other grass, lob wedge out here for me with the heat, it being a little downwind,” he explained. “It was a really good number and it was going to end up pretty close if it didn’t go in.”
Schauffele, ranked No. 12 in the world, made six birdies in an eight-hole span beginning at the eighth hole to rocket up the leaderboard. It was a continuation of Schauffele’s birdie binge since his sluggish start to the tournament.
“When you’re so far away from the cut line like I was on Friday you kind of just free yourself up, kind of like today, just try and make as many birdies as possible and sometimes it goes your way,” Schauffele said.
But the hole he dug himself turned out to be too big to overcome as Schauffele ran out of holes. Asked if 23 under would be enough, he said, “No chance.”
“I’m just being realistic,” he said. “I don’t see it sticking. The wind’s up, but these guys are good.”
He was right. Even though he fell short of claiming the title, his sizzling-hot finish could serve as a springboard into next week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills, a course he’s played once as an amateur when he competed in the Trans-Miss Amateur Championship.
“Just some good affirmation I’m doing right things. Just positive things for the game,” he said. “Seeing the ball go in the hole which is a really important thing before a major and, yeah, I’m assuming it’s going to be very different, I heard the surfaces around the greens next week are very difficult to chip. And I don’t see — if you can shoot 61 around Southern Hills I think that would be really good, but it’s going to be slightly different.”