This time last year, Xander Schauffele was on a tear.
He won the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour. The next week, he won the JP McManus Pro-Am. He beat Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler by five shots and the newly minted United States Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick by 17.
When Schauffele showed up at the Renaissance Club for the Genesis Scottish Open, his solid play continued. He won the tournament by a shot, for his fourth victory in 12 months.
“It was probably one of the better months I’ve had in my career,” said Schauffele, who went to San Diego State University and exudes a Southern California calm.
He returns to Scotland this year a bit cooler, but still ranked sixth in the world. He hasn’t won in a year, but he has continued to play strongly.
The following interview has been edited and condensed.
You were on a roll last year. What was that like?
I played the Travelers, then JP McManus Pro-Am in between, where I played really well, and then I won the Scottish. I was in a really good mind-set. I was hitting a lot of shots I wanted to hit, hitting a lot of putts the way I wanted to. I felt like I was doing my best, and that was good enough to win. It was that calm feeling attached with really good golf.
How do you translate winning at River Highlands, one of the PGA Tour’s stadium courses, at which a lot of earth was moved to create the course, to the Renaissance Club, where the architect Tom Doak took a more minimalist approach to the land and the terrain?
At River Highlands, you go from greens that are slower and have a lot more break to greens that are faster and more nuanced. With Renaissance, it’s a little bit more relaxed coming in. It’s not as penalizing as River Highlands [home to the Travelers] with all its contours. The only thing that would translate is confidence.
Let’s talk scoring conditions. How do you adjust from going from plus 2 at the U.S. Open, (when minus 6 won it), to minus 19 at the Travelers and minus 7 at the Scottish Open?
It’s definitely something you take into account before the week starts when you’re coming into different greens. It’s the mentality. At River Highlands, when you make six or seven pars in a row, you have to stay patient because you know other players are reeling off birdies. You have to beat the course each week. That’s something that comes into play. You have to stay patient. It doesn’t always go your way. Overseas you sometimes feel bad making par. But then you realize par is going to win.
You shot a record-tying 62 in the opening round of this year’s U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club and a 70 the next day. Every golfer has done the equivalent of that. What was it like for you?
A 62 at that club definitely wasn’t something you anticipated. It was a setup thing. Through two rounds there were a lot of low scores. Rickie [Fowler] and I doing it early made people feel it was out there. The most impressive round was Tommy Fleetwood shooting 63 on Sunday. I was off to a heck of a start, but no round was the same. I didn’t adjust accordingly. I got off to a fast start, but then I started leaking oil.
What’s your plan to defend at the Scottish Open this year?
I’m close to some good form. I’ve been scratching at the surface. When I come to a site where I play well, I really don’t try to think too much about whether I won last year or not. I’m excited to be back here. I typically like to play on hard golf courses. But I’ve worked to make myself a believer that I could play well on any property.