AUSTIN, Texas — Pardon Xander Schauffele if he didn’t get too chesty after comfortably capturing his opening match during the 2023 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.
Sure, Schauffele played well Wednesday against Cam Davis, using birdies on five of the opening seven holes to cruise to a 4-and-3 victory during a round in which he said he hit only one bad shot.
But the World No. 7 has been in this position before, and he knows that a group that includes red-hot Tom Hoge and Aaron Wise will still be tough to navigate. In fact, in four previous starts at the Pete Dye-designed course, Schauffele has never emerged from pool play, even though he’s played some solid golf along the way.
With the tournament scratched from the 2024 PGA Tour schedule (and the entire World Golf Championships franchise perhaps riding off in the sunset), Schauffele knows this is his last chance to finally make some noise in an event strong-willed players seem to love.
“There’s been plenty of times where you go 2-1 and you don’t get out because somebody goes 3-0,” Schauffele said. “If you want to get out of your group, just go 3-0 and that’ll do the job. That’s kind of what we have in mind.”
Schauffele has seven PGA Tour victories and has thrice finished in the top three at a major, but he admitted he hasn’t always come to Austin in peak form, especially with preparation for the upcoming Masters often taking precedence.
“I don’t think I’ve been in great form coming in in the past. The one time I played really well I think Sergio (Garcia) was like 9 under through 16 or something and I was 6under,” Schauffele said. “I was playing well and he beat me straight up. It’s one of those things where you can match up against someone, shoot 1 over and win your match, or you can shoot 7 under and lose your match.
“That’s just the beauty of match play and the beauty of all these players being the top players in the world, and it’s also this golf course. Anyone can birdie any hole on any given day, so it makes it pretty exciting.”
On Wednesday, Schauffele hit 10 of 12 fairways and was among the day’s longest players off the tee in getting out to a sizable lead over the Australian Davis. Schauffele was 4 up at the turn and coasted home, despite making a bogey at No. 14.
After tinkering with his driver, the native of Southern California felt right at home during a warm, foggy Texas afternoon that made the greens approachable. He’s hoping the success will continue through the week.
“It’s been a work in progress with equipment on the woods side. I’ve been hitting my irons pretty good, and I don’t know if it’s a speed thing or a delivery thing, but my whole bag wasn’t really married to each other. I’d hit my irons really good and my driver or hit my driver okay and my irons bad,” “We’ve been kind of working through it a lot last week and earlier this week, Monday, Tuesday.
“It’s nice that it worked out.”
[12:55 PM] Schmitt, Timothy
Schauffele will meet Wise in a pool-play match Thursday that’s scheduled to tee off at 3:06 p.m. ET.