Xander Schauffele is off to a solid start at the WM Phoenix Open. He’s hoping he has a chance to finish it off.
Schauffele shot 4-under 67 on Thursday at TPC Scottsdale, doing so without his regular caddie, Austin Keiser, by his side. Keiser tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and was replaced on the bag by Schauffele’s friend, Kevin Techakanokboon.
Schauffele said he and Kaiser – among others – had been sharing a two-story house this week, with player upstairs and caddie downstairs. Kaiser informed Schauffele early Wednesday morning that he wasn’t feeling well.
“We both tested. I was negative. He was positive. So, kind of just him and his wife packed everything up and kind of just left the house right away,” said Schauffele, who added that everyone staying in the house has been tested.
“We literally had every fan and window open in the place. I don’t know what else to really do.”
Full-field scores from WM Phoenix Open
Schauffele said he called Techakanokboon, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour’s China series, at 7 a.m., on Wednesday and “Tech” was on the next flight out of Southern California.
Tech previously caddied for Schauffele at an event in Japan and the two first met at Long Beach State University, where Schauffele played his freshman year.
“We’ve played a ton of golf together. He’s caddied for me once,” Schauffele said. “[There are] small things that Austin knows what to do, Tech has no idea what to do. But he plays and it’s very helpful for me, like I can trust his reads and sort of his feels as well.”
As for the golf, Schauffele made three birdies, one eagle and one bogey in the opening round. The highlight was a holed-out bunker shot for a 3 at the par-5 15th.
On the other hand – the right hand – was the par-4 sixth, where he picked up a loose impediment that was a bit too prickly.
“I grabbed it, not really looking at the other side, and I kind of tossed it and I had six or seven little thorns sticking in my hand, my finger,” he said.
“Some people in the crowd are like, ‘He’s from San Diego.’ So, they’re right we don’t really have cholla or whatever you call it.”
Home to San Diego is where Kaiser and his wife were headed on Wednesday.
“I talked to him last night. He was running like a 103 [degree] fever, headache, body aches,” described Schauffele, who said Kaiser was not vaccinated.
“He dodged the whole thing for as long as this has been going on, so he was bound to get it. And I just told him – he was pretty bummed out; it’s one of his favorite courses of the year – I just told him it’s better here than the Masters.”
Schauffele, meanwhile, will continue to be tested throughout the week. He’s hoping he doesn’t “end up like Jon Rahm at the Memorial,” where Rahm held a commanding lead through 54 holes, only to be informed after Round 3 that he was COVID-19 positive.
“Fortunately, I’m fine,” Schauffele said. “For now.”