Xander Schauffele Versus The ‘Quality’ Win Debate

Xander Schauffele, 2022 Zurich Classic,(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Xander Schauffele, 2022 Zurich Classic,(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

The week in Louisiana was dominated from beginning to end by the partnership of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay as both players picked up their first victory of 2022 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Records were broken, both with the lowest four-ball score in tournament history, and with the duo’s commanding 54-hole lead that they took into the final round. However you choose to spin it, it was an awfully impressive performance from the long-time teammates. Patrick and Xander went wire-to-wire this week to earn the W, but for Xander, questions will still remain after yet another win at an alternate or no-cut event.

The question may seem unfair, especially for a player who has contended on such a regular basis, but nonetheless, it is a question that has been asked of Xander for quite some time now. Thus are the expectations that revolve around the talented golfer. The question was even asked of Schauffele after his win at the Olympics last year.

“Do you count the Olympics as a win? I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten more recognition or attention for the Olympics and the gold medal than more than I’ve ever imagined. I think the longer that marinates, the better it gets for me,” he said at the WM Phoenix Open earlier this year.

The 28-year-old has been a regular contender in the majors, with nine top 10 finishes in nineteen appearances. He has won an Olympic Gold Medal, something very few can lay claim to, has won the Tour Championship, a WGC event, and is now a seven-time winner already in his young career. Yet questions remain.

The debate around the quality of wins Xander Schauffele has accumulated continues.

Some would argue that he has yet to win a big event on his own, that his Olympic win last summer came in a field that wasn’t anywhere close to the strength of field you would find at a major championship. That his only other big wins have come in limited field events, with no cut after 36 holes.

The fact that Schauffele has let a 54-hole lead slip on several occasions doesn’t help his cause, this includes when he held the lead at the 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open before eventually losing out to Brooks Koepka. The general thought process is that a player who puts himself in a position to win so often should be able to close the door and rack up the victories. But winning is hard.

Just ask former World number one Jon Rahm, who hasn’t won since his U.S. Open win last summer, or Dustin Johnson who hasn’t found the winners circle since the 2020 Masters. 2022 has been difficult up until this week for Schauffele as he had recorded just one top 10 finish this year, Xander himself admitted as much in the build-up to this week’s Zurich Classic.

“It hasn’t been very good. It’s about time to catch some stride here and go on a nice little run to kind of cap off the season,” he had commented on Tuesday.

Winning this week’s Zurich Classic with Patrick Cantlay will presumably not put an end to these questions, unfair or not. It is another win during a week that some would consider as being ‘not the norm’. Schauffele spoke as if he is all too aware of this after his win on Sunday saying:

“It’s interesting. I obviously found a really good partner. He played unbelievable golf this week, made me feel comfortable. He brought the best out of me on the course. Yeah, there’s a lot to take from this week. But for the most part kind of worry about enjoying it right now.”

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Xander will undoubtedly be enjoying the excellent team victory for the next few days. But he will remain acutely aware of the question that will be continually asked until he wins an event that people ‘deem’ worthy enough of the gifted Schauffele’s abilities.