Xander Schauffele might be a little more worried about what happens off the course Saturday than on it.
Schauffele followed up his first-round 67 at the WM Phoenix Open with a “stress-free” second-round 65, and he is T-2 with Brooks Koepka at 10 under and two shots off Sahith Theegala’s lead. He’s looking to continue his strong play into the weekend and claim his first PGA Tour victory since 2019, but he’ll have an extra obstacle to face other than his competitors.
The world No. 8’s regular caddie, Austin Keiser, tested positive for COVID Wednesday, and although Schauffele continues to test negative, he still has one more test go and hopes he doesn’t “end up like Jon Rahm at the Memorial.” (Rahm tested positive prior to the third round last summer at Muirfield Village and after taking a commanding, six-shot 54-hole lead had to withdraw.)
“Austin’s starting to feel a little bit better,” Schauffele said after Round 2. “I get the excitement of waking up and testing every morning, so, so far so good. Tomorrow’s my last day I have to test for the contact tracing, so fingers crossed, obviously.”
Full-field scores from WM Phoenix Open
If the 28-year-old can produce one more negative test, he’ll have a chance at redemption from his last visit to TPC Scottsdale. Last year, Schauffele had the WM Phoenix Open title within reach, but after a final-round 71, he finished runner-up to Koepka. But he puts all his hardships in the rearview.
“I don’t lose any sleep about my losses at this point in my career,” he said. “I just look forward to the next win and getting that done.”
Schauffele’s last win on Tour came at the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. He’s had many close calls since then, but finally broke through by winning Olympic gold in Tokyo. Even though that wasn’t a Tour event, Schauffele blocked out his doubters and decided that feat is – and will remain – a monumental moment in his career.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten more recognition or attention for the Olympics and the gold medal than more than I’ve ever imagined,” he said. “I think the longer that marinates, the better it gets for me. At first, I didn’t just because it was just new and people were telling me no. And then I kind of sat down and looked at it and I was like, hmm, screw everybody else, like I think this is a win.
“So if you want to talk about PGA Tour official wins, then, yes, I’m lagging on that end, so we’ll pick up the slack.”
And if he tests negative Saturday morning, he’ll then have two more rounds at TPC Scottsdale to end his PGA Tour winless drought.