The Punter

The Punter's De-brief: Sensational Schauffele bags his first major

Golfer Xander Schauffele
Xander Schauffele with the Wanamaker Trophy

Xander Schauffele has won the US PGA Championship and Steve Rawlings is here to look back on his first major championship success here...

Schauffele lead from the first round to the last

When Xander Schauffele teed it up at Kentucky on Thursday he was in search of his first victory on the PGA Tour in almost two years and he was looking to win his first major championship.

The week before, he'd led the Wells Fargo Championship after rounds one, two and three, before a pedestrian back-nine on Sunday at Quail Hollow saw him caught and passed by course specialist, Rory McIlroy.

Having been matched at a high of 32.031/1, Schauffele was trading at around 18.017/1 before the off at Valhalla but that wasn't a price that appealed to me after his latest stumble in-contention.

I expected a slow start to the week from Xander, but he opened up with a nine-under-par 62 to lead by three!

It was only the second time that he'd led after round one and it came exactly a week after the first occurrence.

Trading as the 5/23.50 favourite after day one, he looked short enough to me, given what had happened in the Wells Fargo the week before, but a respectable three-under-par 68 on Friday saw him go into the weekend leading by a stroke and trading at 11/43.75.

Collin forgot to move

My pre-event fancy, Collin Morikawa sat second at halfway and the two were tied with a round to go and both were trading at 3.7511/4.

Matched at a low of 3.02/1, Morikawa didn't get going at all on Sunday, parring his way around Valhalla with an ice-cold putter, and Schauffele started nervously.

He birdied the first from 27 feet after just clearing a greenside bunker with his approach, but he hit a terrible drive on the second that very nearly went into the water, way left of the fairway.

He settled down after that though, eventually posting a four-under-par 31 on the front nine.

With Morikawa treading water and Sahith Theegala (who began the day in third) struggling, Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland emerged as Xander's biggest challengers. Having turned for home with a two-stroke lead, he was passed by Hovland when the Norwegian birdied the 13th hole just after Xander had bogeyed the par five 10th.

Hovland at Valhalla.jpg

To his credit, Schauffele drew alongside Hovland again with a brilliant birdie of his own on 11 and he moved back in front with another at the 12th.

Hovland, who was matched at a low of 2.3411/8, and DeChambeau, whose price dipped no lower than 2.68/5, stood on the 18th requiring a birdie to draw alongside Schauffele and the latter named achieved his goal with an excellent putt from 11 feet, but the Norwegian made a bogey six.

Schauffele, aware that he'd been caught by DeChambeau, made a brilliant up-and-down for par at 17 and his birdie putt from six feet at the 72nd hole just caught enough of the left-hand side of the hole to drop.

It was impossible not to be happy for Schauffele. He's certainly not the fastest player in the world but he's a very likable character and he deserved to win a major.

He's leapfrogged Rory into the number two spot in the world rankings and he's now trading at 14.013/1 to win next month's US Open at Pinehurst.

Valhalla made for a boring venue

This was the fourth time Valhalla had hosted the US PGA Championship and it's also been the host venue for two Senior PGAs.

Schauffele won by a solitary stroke, as did Rory McIlroy ten years ago and the other four events went into extra time so it produces some tight finishes but I can't say it's been an interesting week of golf.

The course was softened by rain this week so that helped the pros to go low but it's not an interesting course and Schauffele's 21-under-par winning score is the lowest in the tournament's history.

Remember Valhalla at the Memorial

It may have been a bit of a boring watch at times, but Valhalla clearly correlates nicely with another Jack Nicklaus design - Muirfield Village - and this is a leaderboard we can refer back to when researching the Memorial Tournament in a couple of weeks.

Although he's never finished inside the top-ten there, Schauffele plays Muirfield consistently well, and the three men directly below him on the leaderboard here, DeChambeau, Hovland and Morikawa, have all won at Muirfield Village.

Now read my Charles Schwab Challenge preview here

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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