​"X" marks The Open Championship

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Xander set for first major championship, Claret Jug?
Posted on
July 13, 2022
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Open 2022 - Xander Schauffele
(Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


St. Andrews, Scotland. The ladder to golf stardom has a number of rungs that any aspiring golfer must climb for eventual affirmation as one of the game's elite players.

Initially, it means securing a playing card for the PGA Tour-- although some young talented players may opt for a future with the developing LIV Tour which may or may not be a wise long-time career move.

For those who opt for a place on the PGA Tour - a player's card guarantees an opportunity to succeed -- not actual success.

The next rung is being a consistent finisher for 72 holes. Missing cuts will happen but they can't be a steady diet. Then comes being in contention for regular events followed by an actual win with other wins certainly on the radar screen. 


This is where Xander Schauffele is now. The 28-year-old from San Diego is now ranked 5th in the world and coming into this week's 150th Open Championship there is no hotter golfer on the planet. Since late June -- Xander has won three times -- starting with The Travelers in Connecticut, then the J.P. McManus Pro-Am in Ireland and last week's victory at the Scottish Open.

Xander has seen his position rise in a number of ways. In 2020 he claimed the men's gold medal in golf at the Summer Olympic Games in Japan. Granted, the field was limited but winning is still winning.

Last year he played in his first Ryder Cup matches in Wisconsin and it's likely he will be on a number of them in the years ahead. Given his tight bond with Patrick Cantlay it seems a natural fit that these two talented players will be a formidable pairing.

The word potential can be both a springboard for ultimate validation or a heavy weight that grows exponentially with each passing year. Schauffele has watched a number of talented golfers near his age have success in the majors with Collin Morikawa having two such wins -- Jordan Spieth has three. There are also emerging players who have made their presence known with Scottie Scheffler taking the green jacket at Augusta and recently Matthew Fitzpatrick capturing the U.S. Open title last month at The Country Club.

Xander has been no stranger to being in contention at the majors. He tied for second at the 2019 Masters which Tiger Woods won. He was just two shots back of eventual winner Hideki Matsuyama in the final round in 2021 when reaching the par-3 16th. Unfortunately, his approach hit short and left and bounced into the pond that defends the green.

Schauffele has played well in The Open -- tying for second with three others players in the 2018 event at Carnoustie. He's also had nine top ten finishes in the four majors so now the next step is can he take things all the way to conclusion with a win?



His victory at The Travelers was notable -- marking the first time he led after 54 holes and closed out the tournament for his 7th PGA Tour title.

Make no mistake about it -- when someone wins a major championship the reality of their life changes forever. You are now a member of a limited club of golfers who can say with justifiable pride they have won one of golf's most cherished titles. There's also the reality that the longer the chase for a major title continues the more the pressure mounts on the golfer. Just ask Phil Mickelson who did not claim his first major until 2004 at the Masters after playing professionally for twelve years. Mickelson was then 34 years old.

The 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews will be notable with the golfer claiming victory forever having his name on the famed Claret Jug and proclaimed the “champion golfer of the year.” More importantly,  becoming one of the few who have done so at golf's grandest stage — the Old Course. Adding one’s name to the likes of such revered champions as Sam Snead, Peter Thompson, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods twice each, Nick Falso and Seve Ballesteros, among others.

Leading into this week's Open -- Schauffele has admitted to being courted by representatives from the LIV Tour but he has been steadfast in wanting to add his name to the roster of past greats who have won major titles. If he joined the LIV Tour the possibility of being forced out of future majors is something he considered seriously.

Xander's recent comments to Golf Magic speak clearly to his motivations.

“There are certain numbers that even fans of mine, if they looked at it and sit it they’d tell me I’m an idiot for not going, but right now, I’m 28-years-old, I want to win major championships, I want to win PGA Tour events, and I really think we can make this product on the PGA Tour, it’s been the best and now there is competition, and we can keep it the best with the talent we have, we just kind of need to unify and keep it together."



Pressure will be front and center. Majors are that intense for a reason. And Schauffele will need to face it head on when action commences for the first round Thursday. The stakes for his career are now front and center. Hoisting the Claret Jug would be a clear statement that Xander has placed his name among the great players who have earned a major championship title.

The vagaries of the Old Course will be a clear test as players will need to demonstrate the wherewithal to adjust as circumstances demand. Schauffele is a seasoned professional and there's little question he possesses the talent to achieve an even higher position on the ladder of fame. Nothing is a given -- it will need to be hard fought and earned.

Failure to win will mean waiting a long nine months until Augusta returns to the spotlight next April. Xander is playing at a different level than his rivals and the global stage an Open Championship provides can well mean a rocket launch to even greater heights. 

Majors matter.

Putting an "X" on the dotted line is Xander's game plan.

The time is now at hand for him to show if he's able to rise to that occasion and put pen to paper for keeps.

A name in ink is permanent.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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