• Schauffele edges clear

    Xander Schauffele
    In front

    It was still dark when Xander Schauffele made the extremely early trip Friday morning to Aronimink for his second round of the BMW Championship. On the way over, he decided to look at his statistics for this season, hoping to find something to get him pumped up.

    Then he looked at his final-round scoring average. Deflation followed.

    ‘Pretty bad, to be completely honest here,’ he said.

    Schauffele ranks 183rd in the PGA Tour in final-round average (72.39). Compare that to his first-round ranking (tied for 29th) or even the ranking for his middle two rounds (tied for 91st on Fridays; tied for 93rd on Saturdays).

    The first two rounds this week obviously have been no problem for Schauffele, who leads the BMW after backing up his opening 63 with a six-under 64 on Friday. It’s just the ninth time this season that a player has posted consecutive rounds of 64 or better in the same event. Schauffele now takes a two-shot lead over Justin Rose going into the third round at Aronimink.

    And that’s where the challenge really begins for last year’s Rookie of the Year.

    ‘A lot to prove, not just to everyone else but to myself this weekend,’ said Schauffele, whose group was first off the tee at 7am. ‘I’ve been failing a lot, so it would be nice to turn the switch and kind of clutch up.’

    Schauffele was certainly clutch in his rookie season when he won twice, including the Tour Championship. He’d love to have a chance to defend, and if he maintains the lead through 72 holes, he’s projected to enter East Lake ranked sixth in points.

    This year, though, has been a winless one, although he’s played well in big events. He shared second to runaway winner Webb Simpson at The Players Championship, was in the final group on Sunday at The Open Championship, and had a top-10 finish at the US Open. He’s the only player this season with top-10 finishes in The Players and two majors.

    But he’s still young – 24 – and still learning how to be a consistent closer. The Open at Carnoustie was reflective of those struggles – he shot a 74 in the final round to lose by two strokes to Francesco Molinari. In his last five starts, he’s failed to break par in the final round.

    Sunday is not here yet, and Schauffele doesn’t want to get ahead of himself. But this weekend promises to be a shootout – Rose estimates the winner will need to reach at least 20 under – and Schauffele would like nothing more than to be in the mix down the stretch.

    ‘I have lots to prove to myself,’ he said. ‘I just want to win and kind of handle my business. I feel like I haven’t been doing that as well just on the weekends and maybe too relaxed or what not.

    ‘I always thought I was rather a clutch player coming down the stretch and this year has said otherwise.’

    Credit: PGA TOUR

    Article written by