For the past few years, Xander Schauffele has restarted his season at Kapalua with some momentum already in hand.
In 2018, he was coming off a T-2 finish at the Dunlop Phoenix on the Asian Tour. The next year he was a recent WGC champ in Shanghai when he rallied to take the Tournament of Champions title in Maui. A runner-up at the WGC-HSBC and two worldwide top-10s preceded a T-2 showing in 2020. And last year’s T-5 at Kapalua came on the heels of a two-major fall that included a solo fifth at Winged Foot and runner-up at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas.
This time around? Not so much. Schauffele, the world No. 6, played three times last fall – all limited field events – with a top finish of T-12 … at the 18-player Hero World Challenge.
“In the past, I’ve sort of gotten off to a better start during our Asian swing. I have not done that,” Schauffele said Tuesday in his pre-tournament press conference for the Sentry TOC, the year’s lid-lifter. “We played in Vegas and I did play in Japan, but for the most part, I didn’t really get off to that sort of hot start that makes me really comfortable pushing through. So, I need to use this tournament and this West Coast swing to really hit the ground and run so I can kind of plan the rest of my year accordingly, versus chasing.”
Full-field scores from the Sentry Tournament of Champions
Schauffele’s early-year slate following Kapalua is set to include the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Genesis Invitational at Riviera. It will also include the Asian Tour’s Saudi International, which has attracted several top players, including Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, despite no longer being sanctioned by the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour). It will be played the week prior to Phoenix.
“We’ll put my body through the wringer and my mind through the wringer, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Schauffele said.
The PGA Tour recently approved a release of its members to compete in the Feb. 3-6 event, which is opposite the Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only provided those members who play in Saudi Arabia return to compete at Pebble within the next few years. According to a Tour memo, players who have played Pebble within the past five years will be required to play the event at least once in the next two years while players who haven’t played in the past five years will have to add the event to their schedules twice over the next three years.
Schauffele falls into the former category, but just barely, as he last teed it up in the Pro-Am in 2017.
“It’s sort of one that’s still being ironed out,” Schauffele said of playing the Saudi event. “I’ve had my reservations about playing at AT&T, so it’s definitely a tricky one to handle that situation. So, we’re still navigating that with my team and we’ll kind of see what happens here shortly.”