Xander Schauffele: Five things to know about the Olympic champion golfer
The Ryder Cup is almost upon us with Xander Schauffele hoping to follow the lead of his predecessor as Olympic champion, Justin Rose.
Two years after becoming golf’s first gold medallist for 112 years in Rio, Rose helped Europe regain the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National just outside Paris.
Now Schauffele is a key member of the USA team bidding to reclaim the trophy at Whistling Straits weeks after winning gold in Tokyo.
Ranked five in the world, the 27-year-old will make his Ryder Cup debut on home soil.
After his exploits at the 2019 President's Cup, where he scored three points out of a possible five to help USA beat the International Team in Melbourne, much will be expected of him in Wisconsin.
Read on for five things you should know about Xander Schauffele (pronounced Shoff-elee).
1. Xander Schauffele, a man of many nations
Alexander Victor Schauffele was born on 25 October 1993 in San Diego, California to Stefan Schauffele and Chen Ping-yi.
The couple met while students at college with Schauffele Sr hailing from Germany (with a French mother), and Chen born in Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) but raised in Japan.
Xander could theoretically also have represented Germany, France or Chinese Taipei at Tokyo 2020, but chose the land of his birth.
With tens of relatives living in and around Tokyo, his gold medal was special on a number of levels.
He dedicated his victory to his father whose hopes of becoming an Olympian were dashed in devastating fashion.
2. Meet Stefan Schauffele, Xander's coach and father
Schauffele's father Stefan was a talented decathlete, but his Olympic dreams were wrecked when his car was hit by a drunk driver in November 1985.
Weeks before his 21st birthday, he suffered multiple injuries in the crash including the loss of sight in his left eye.
Now he is known as the father and coach of Xander with his big cigars, colourful attire, and personality to match.
He even has the nickname 'The Ogre'.
Xander told PGA Tour, "My dad's been with me every step of the way. He plays a very unique role with several hats, being my coach and everything else.
"He was this big German sergeant-type dad growing up. Don't cross him. I mean, I tried to here and there, but that didn't go so well for me."
Stefan says, "The Schauffele way is discipline, respect, honesty.
"I told him that every day in the morning I want him to go in the bathroom and look in the mirror, in his own face, until he smiles to see how insignificant he really is and how insignificant worries are."
But Schauffele Sr has a soft centre beneath that tough exterior, and is totally dedicated to helping his son reach his peak.
"I'm at his mercy. Whenever he wants me to be there, then I'm there.
"You can't count the hours that were needed to get to this point, but it's all worth it now."
The highlight of Schauffele's career was that gold in Tokyo, although it looks like Dad has claimed the prize for himself.
Before Tokyo, Schauffele said that he would love to compete in Paris to give his father the experience of an Opening Ceremony with Covid protocols resulting in a scaled down event in Japan.
He told Golf Digest, "I really do think if there was an Opening Ceremony that he could have been a part of and walked, I think maybe he would have gotten emotional, just because it was a dream of his for so long.
"Maybe if we went there (to Paris), if we were able to go there… hopefully I can qualify for another Olympics so he can experience that and I think that would mean a lot to him.”
3. Xander Schauffele's 2017 breakthrough
After a successful college career at San Diego State University, Schauffele turned pro in June 2015.
He earned his card for the Web.com Tour that year and missed out on a PGA Tour card by less than US$ 1,000. However, his 15th place finish at the 2016 Web.com Tour Finals did see him graduate to the big tour for 2016-17.
Schauffele's breakthrough came at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin where he shot a bogey-free 66 to end the first round one shot off the lead.
He remained near the top of the leaderboard going into the weekend and finished tied for fifth on 10-under, six strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka.
Three weeks later, he clinched his first PGA Tour title at the Greenbrier Classic and then became the first rookie to win the season-ending TOUR Championship.
He ended the year ranked 32 in the world and was, unsurprisingly, named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
4. How many majors has Xander Schauffele won?
The answer is none. Yet.
Schauffele has been knocking on the door for some time and now has six top-five finishes in majors.
He was tied for second at the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie, two strokes behind Francesco Molinari.
Alongside him on six-under were fellow American Kevin Kisner, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Rio Olympic champion Justin Rose.
Schauffele shared second again at the 2019 Masters, this time alongside Koepka and former world number one Dustin Johnson, as Tiger Woods scored one of the most famous victories in golf history by a single stroke at Augusta.
Later that year, he finished tied for third at the U.S. Open after a fine final round left him on seven-under, six strokes behind winner Gary Woodland and three behind Koepka.
He came up just short again at this year's Masters, sharing third place as Matsuyama Hideki scored a historic triumph for Japan.
Patrick Cantlay's superb form in recent months has moved him above Schauffele in the world rankings, and it looks like a race between the two Californians as to who will be first to win a major title.
Golfweek have Schauffele at the top of their 'Best players without a major' list and it does seem like a matter of when rather than if he sheds that tag.
Perhaps Augusta is the place for him to win that elusive major.
I don't play golf for money or medals, in all honesty. I just play to be competitive and I want to beat everyone.
5. Gold medal ball marker?
Schauffele and six-time major winner Phil Mickelson both hail from San Diego and are good friends.
The pair played a lot together during the Covid lockdown with Mickelson recounting to Golf Digest that he told his wife Amy, "I don't know how I'm going to beat this guy," such was Schauffele's form.
He added, "I saw what it looked like to play at the highest level and so forth."
Months later, Mickelson - at the age of 50 - took the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island to become the oldest major champion in history.
After Schauffele's victory in Tokyo, 'Lefty' suggested he should use his gold medal as a ball marker when they meet again.
While we look forward to seeing this on social media, it should be pointed out that this would not be the first time an Olympic medal has been used to mark a ball.
Sochi 2014 snowboard cross bronze medallist Alex Deibold showed how it's done.