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Xander Schauffele won with skill, attitude

Xander Schauffele won with skill, attitude

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Spend enough time around elite golfers and it becomes clear that the ingredients for success – and sanity, for that matter – are a short memory, a thick hide and a stout ego. All three are intimately connected, but ego is the most important component, with the others essential for keeping it intact.

Padraig Harrington isn’t known as boastful or brash, but in a long-ago conversation the amiable Dubliner stressed the importance of self-admiration in professional golf. “I have a huge ego. We all do,” he said. “Do you think we’d go out and risk having our heads chopped off every week if we didn’t want the glory that comes with winning?”

One hundred fifty-six egos came to Valhalla for the 106th PGA Championship. Most are like Harrington’s, strictly professional, largely understated and well-disguised. A few are more obvious and worn openly, like the personal logo emblazoned on the sleeve of Bryson DeChambeau, which resembles a paramilitary patch favored by mercenaries who serve unsavory causes. By Sunday afternoon, it was clear who among the egotists could call upon the benefit of having a short memory too.

Viktor Hovland could. A few days earlier, he was so mired in the quagmire of swing theories that he considered withdrawing from the tournament. An 11th-house reunion with the instructor who helped him earn more than $35 million in 2023 provided clarity and erased confusion. Collin Morikawa’s story was similar. He left his longtime coach, Rick Sessinghaus, last year but recently returned to base camp and his old self. Shane Lowry forgot a season of iffy putting and moved into contention because of the short stick. Even Scottie Scheffler needed a touch of amnesia, moving beyond his detour to jail 48 hours earlier.

Most tour players will tell you that a bad shot has a longer life span than a good one, that misfires at a crucial moment linger longer in the memory than well-executed deliveries. The ability to forget those shots – or to at least rationalize them – is key. Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors in part by creating alibis for his 19 second-place finishes. Even today, the Bear struggles to recall the particulars of those times he came up short.

It’s a skill Xander Schauffele has had to call upon often in his still-young career. He has seven PGA Tour wins but twice as many runners-up. His 42 top-five finishes entering the 2024 PGA Championship are almost a quarter of his career starts. That’s an awful lot of…


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