LA QUINTA, Calif. — Xander Schauffele’s opening round Thursday at the 2024 American Express was like that movie you loved all the way through right up until the surprise twist ending left you confused and unsatisfied.
The 10-time winner on Tour was cruising along at 8 under through 17 holes at La Quinta Country Club and had a perfect tee shot on the 18th hole in the middle of the fairway. He dialed in his approach shot and was staring it down. He knew it was good.
Turned out to be too good.
His approach hit the hole and the bottom of the flagstick on the fly, startling the gallery who then gasped as his ball ricocheted off the pin and toward the green-side water.
Back in the fairway, Schauffele looked on in disbelief and his playing partner Tony Finau put his hands on his head in an “Oh no!” fashion.
American Express: Photos
As unlucky as the unwanted deflection was, Schauffele breathed a sigh of relief as his ball stayed on dry land just short of the water. He was able to get up and down for par and preserve a fine opening-round of 8-under 64.
“Yeah, I trashed the cup there. I hit a really good shot, and I guess it was lucky it didn’t go in the water. Super unlucky it wasn’t in the hole or right next to the hole. So, kind of a weird feeling, and just happy I was able to make par,” said Schauffele, the fifth-ranked player in the world.
His shot damaged the cup so badly, he and Finau had to put their greenskeepers’ hats on for about two minutes trying to fix the cup so it would be playable for the rest of the field.
Despite the agonizing turn of events, Schauffele, playing in this event for only the third time, is in prime position. He took advantage of the La Quinta Country Club course known for its pristine greens. Schauffele had six birdies, a holed-out chip for eagle on No. 11 and no bogeys. He parred the final five holes.
“Got off to a pretty solid start. Made some early birdies before the par-5s. Got kind of hot through that middle stretch. Chipped in there on the back nine. A little bit of a scramble coming in, but I was able to scramble. Happy to keep the card clean,” he said, still a tad crest-fallen by the final-hole misfortune.
Schauffele, playing again with Finau, will tee off Friday at the Nicklaus Tournament Course at 10:31 a.m. off the 10th tee and Saturday at the Stadium Course at PGA West at 9:58 a.m. off the first tee.