In a surprise to very few, Xander Schauffele is in the mix at the Tour Championship again this year. The 2017 winner at East Lake is just two shots back after 36 holes.
As the 2020 Tour Championship began, it looked to be a three-horse race between Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. However, if there was a player who could come from off the pace to catch, and potentially pass, those three, it figured to be Xander Schauffele.
That is due to two main reasons. First, the talented Schauffele seemed ready to earn his first win of the season. And second, Schauffele has an outstanding record at East Lake, including a victory in his first appearance in the Tour Championship in 2017.
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Due to the FedEx Cup standings, Schauffele started seven shots behind leader Dustin Johnson. And in Friday’s first round, the Californian was unable to make up any ground on Johnson or the other leaders, shooting a 3-under par 67.
However, Saturday’s second round was a much different story, and the circumstances produced a day where Schauffele was able to make up quite a bit of ground and get himself into contention for a potential second Tour Championship title.
The day started fairly quickly for Schauffele. After a par on the first hole, Schauffele birdied the par-3 second hole after his tee shot came to rest about eight feet from the hole. He did it again on the third hole, rolling in a 15-foot putt for birdie to get to 2-under par.
Schauffele would birdie the par-5 sixth hole to get to 3-under on his round. He would finish the front nine at that figure, shooting a 3-under par 32.
The back nine started with three straight pars before Schauffele found his only trouble of the day. His drive found the rough, as did his second shot. He would get on the putting surface in three, then would two putt for a bogey. It turned out to be his only blemish all day long.
Schauffele would par the 14th hole before catching fire late in the round. He would birdie the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to go from 2-under to 5-under on his round. A disappointing par on the 18th hole could not dampen what was a huge round of 5-under par 65.
While Schauffele was making his move, Johnson was shooting even par. That allowed Schauffele to move from seven shots back to just two behind with 36 holes to play. He’s now in third, trailing only DJ and Sungjae Im, who had the round of the day on Saturday with a 6-under par 64.
Schauffele’s track record at East Lake figured to have him in contention this week. And after his solid second round on Saturday, the sky’s the limit for Schauffele this week in Atlanta.