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PGA Championship: Golf’s ‘nearly man’ Xander Schauffele in first major win

Xander Schauffele finally broke through the barriers of nearly-man status in golf, adding the PGA Championship title to his Olympic gold with a dramatic birdie on the last hole, securing his maiden major victory and lifting the esteemed Wanamaker Trophy.

Just a week after relinquishing a two-shot lead at the Wells Fargo Championship, Schauffele found himself in a similar position at the Valhalla Golf Club. However, this time, he remained resolute, displaying nerves of steel to sink a crucial six-foot putt under immense pressure.

Reflecting on the nerve-wracking moment, Schauffele admitted, “I was pretty nervous. I kept reading it, kept kind of panning. I thought, oh, my gosh, this is not what I want for a winning putt. I ended up playing it straight. Just so much relief. I don’t really remember it lipping in, I just heard everyone roaring and I just looked up to the sky in relief.”

The birdie secured Schauffele a one-shot victory over Bryson DeChambeau and marked his first triumph since the 2022 Scottish Open.

Despite being recognized among golf’s elite with an Olympic gold, seven PGA Tour victories, and a world ranking of number three, Schauffele had struggled to clinch a major title until this breakthrough moment. Despite showcasing immense talent, the 30-year-old had amassed 12 top-10 finishes in majors, including runner-up spots at the Masters and British Open.

Expressing his satisfaction with the win, Schauffele stated, “I’ve become very patient not knocking off any wins in the last couple of years. The people closest to me know how stubborn I can be. This is awesome. It’s super sweet. But when I break it down, I’m really proud of how I handled certain moments on the course today, different from the past.”

Following a disappointing loss to Rory McIlroy at the Wells Fargo Championship, Schauffele bounced back with a dominant performance in Louisville, kicking off with a record-tying opening round of 62, the lowest score ever recorded at a major.

With this triumph, Schauffele will ascend to number two in the world rankings, but he remains focused on the ongoing journey to the top. “All of us are climbing this massive mountain,” Schauffele remarked. “At the top of the mountain is Scottie Scheffler. I won this today, but I’m still not that close to Scottie Scheffler in the big scheme of things. I got one good hook up there in the mountain up on that cliff, and I’m still climbing.”

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