Time to give Xander Schauffele his due for 62s in Majors; salute Tiger for solid play

For the longest time, no one was able to go lower than 63 in a major.  But, now, Xander Schauffele is practically an expert in beating that score. 
Xander Schauffele - 2024 PGA Championship
Xander Schauffele - 2024 PGA Championship / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

Xander Schauffele shot his second major 62 in the first round of the PGA Championship but was hurried out of the interview area because Tiger Woods was finished and ready to talk. Woods, of course, didn’t know that. But, facts are, nobody is going to ask Woods to wait. His game may not be what it once was, but he’s a living legend, and you don’t ask legends to wait.   

However, let’s give Xander Schauffele his due.

His first round score is the lowest that has ever been shot in a major championship, and he’s now done it twice.

His first 62 in a major was in the 2023 U.S. Open at LA Country Club, and he shot it to tie Rickie Fowler. Fowler finished first, and Schauffele subsequently followed him to the scorer’s tent. 

He was asked to compare 62s --  which was better -- and Schauffele showed his sense of humor.

“I can't nit-pick. I'll take a 62 in any major any day,” he answered with a smile.

Making it happen, according to Schauffele, all boils down to doing a few things really well.

“There’s spurts, moments in time where you feel like you can control the ball really well. You're seeing the greens really well. You're chipping really well," he said. "But over a prolonged period, it's tough to upkeep high performance.” 

However, there was a difference in this 62 and the other three that have been shot in majors. Fowler and Schauffele posted the amazing number at LACC in the U.S. Open, and Branden Grace shot a 62, at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale (that Jordan Spieth won), which were all par 70.  Those 62s were all 8-under par scores.

Schauffele’s second 62 in a major at Valhalla Golf Club was 9-under par and on a par 71 golf course.  Nine birdies: four on the front, four on the back. So, is his 62 better than the others since he had an additional birdie? That’s nit-picking.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods posted a first round 72, which was 1-over par and 10 shots higher than Schauffele’s first round score.

He said he hadn’t played any competitive rounds since the Masters and that playing Vahalla was different than playing a flat course in Florida.

Then he revealed some surprising things about his game.  For instance, Woods doesn’t know his ball speed during play.

“I do at home on the range, but when I'm out here at a tournament, I don't look at any of that," he said.

Woods needed three holes to get into what he calls “competitive flow,” meaning feeling adrenaline, temperatures, and greens speeds.

“These are all things that normally I adjust to very quickly, and it just took me a few holes to get into it,” he explained.

In other words, the W is still on his mind. The rough, he said, is lie dependent. He called it dense. Some places, the lie is good enough to get a club on it.

“There are other lies -- a couple times I had to pitch out sideways. I laid up at 13 and 15,” he added.

When asked about his resilience, he pointed to his previous made-cut streak.

“I think that I've made a few cuts in a row, what was it, 140-some odd,” he noted. “You have to just grind it out. It's a marathon. Major championships are a long grind.”

A PGA with underlying tensions. A PGA Championship with underlying tensions. light. Next

The long grind to win the Wanamaker Trophy has just begun. Whether Schauffele can keep the lead, and whether Woods will make the weekend are still unknowns, but the suspense will end tomorrow.