He’s enjoyed the summer of a lifetime, and Xander Schauffele is determined to keep the good times rolling.
It is the culmination of a breakout year for the American, rising to world No. 4 in golf’s rankings, with his crowning moment coming at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kasahata, Saitama, Japan, following a dramatic final day’s action.
Schauffele’s commanding lead was slashed before he recovered to pip Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini by a shot. Having overcome the added difficulties posed by pandemic, the American’s achievement was made even more special by the fact his grandparents live in Japan.
“It was tricky,” Schauffele admitted to CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell. “I had a lot of help around me in order to succeed in Japan.
“From someone bringing the ice and food because I wasn’t allowed to leave my hotel room … there were a lot of people that made my week much easier with the Covid restrictions.
“I was able to also see my grandparents right before I left … so I was able to show them the gold medal. It’s really cool to impress an 85-year-old person who’s been on this planet and seen so many things.
“For them to get goosebumps holding the gold medal was really special for me – it was a real treat right before I left the country.”
There were more special family moments that emerged from Schauffele’s Tokyo journey, this time with his father, who basked in the achievement of a “shared dream” following his son’s victory.
“It’s massive,” Schauffele said. “We spoke a lot about winning big tournaments and major championships – when we shared certain dreams – but his dream from a young age was to be an Olympian, nonetheless a gold medalist, so it was a really special night.
“That night, he slept with the gold medal – I didn’t even have it with me. I have it with me here in Las Vegas, but he’s been sort of hogging it back at home and showing it to his friends, so I can tell how much it means to him.
“The longer time goes on, the more it really sinks in and we’ve talked how much it means to myself, but also to share it with my team. It’s been a really awesome experience to this point.”
McIlroy’s pain was America’s gain at Whistling Straights, Schauffele reveling in the celebrations with fans despite losing to McIlroy on the final day.
“Winning is obviously a very special thing, but I feel like I was able to have a few moments with the fans there at the end,” Schauffele said.
“I’ll blame the fans for me being so drunk in that interview. It’s a thing in Wisconsin to chug – Aaron Rodgers and his linemen always chug at the Milwaukee Bucks game – so I felt it was necessary to get the crowds involved.
“Losing my match early – I just went to the fans and they really pulled me through that. Just the whole atmosphere of competition was really cool, but the fans made it really special as well.”
With 2023’s Ryder Cup set for Italy, the dominant manner of this year’s victory will give the US confidence in their bid avenge the convincing away defeat suffered at Le Golf National, France in 2018.
Though if Schauffele’s revelations are anything to go by, Team US may be heading back to Europe with an underdog’s mindset regardless.
“Our team started talking about how we felt like underdogs,” Shauffele said.
“We wanted to play with a chip on our shoulders and we shared that mentality, so when we stepped on the grass, we really felt that we shared that thought process.
“We were out there with nothing to lose since we were getting our butts kicked for quite some time.
“Obviously, we set the record, but for the most part, we need to get back to our individual processes and have a similar formula of simpleness when we get overseas.”
‘A very nice touch’
The camaraderie of Schauffele’s US team during their Ryder Cup domination of Europe was clear for all to see, and a vital role in their success.
The Americans’ 10-point margin of victory surpassed the previous record of nine, a feat of teamwork made all the more impressive by the subtext of Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka’s rivalry, which had intensified in the run-up to the crushing US victory at Whistling Straights.
Eye rolls, heckles, social media jabs – the pair’s rivalry has received widespread coverage over the past few months, but Schauffele believes the spat has been blown out of proportion.
“They’re both very individual, just like every other pro out here. Everyone has their separate teams, that’s why Ryder Cups are so hard to get everyone on the same page.
“I look at this workspace, like an office. And so there’s some people you want talk to, some people you don’t want to talk to, and sometimes you don’t talk to anybody because you’re too busy getting your work done.”
The closing scenes of Team USA’s Ryder Cup press conference following their victory – which saw DeChambeau and Koepka hug in front of their cheering teammates – would certainly support claims of a truce, though Schauffele revealed the embrace possibly came with a caveat.
“They may have only hugged because they were both drinking, I have no clue,” Schauffele joked.
“But it was fun, it really added the extra kick to our interview. Our interview was pretty funny all along with all the personalities we have up on stage and so to finish it off with a Bryson and Brooks hugs was a very nice touch.”