Schauffele wins PGA Championship, his first major

The American golfer won his first tournament in two years. Scottie Scheffler was 8 strokes off the lead.

(AFP - VOZ MEDIA) With a clutch birdie on the last hole, American Xander Schauffele won the PGA Championship this Sunday, the first major championship of his career.

The defending Olympic champion Schauffele was forced to close his last round with a birdie in Louisville, Ky., to avoid a playoff against his compatriot Bryson DeChambeau, a player on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour.

Schauffele, who had led the tournament from the first day, held his nerve and sealed the 6-foot putt that gave him the trophy with a total of 263 strokes (21 under par), the lowest winning score in a major championship in history.

The Californian, who pocketed a check for $3.3 million, thus ended a two-year drought without a victory in an event that he dominated from start to finish at Valhalla Golf Club.

"I was actually kind of emotional after the putt lipped in," Schauffele recalled. "It’s been a while since I’ve won and I kept saying it all week, I just need to stay in my lane."

At 30 years old, the Californian inaugurated his major showcase after having finished in the top-10 of a dozen major tournaments.

DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open champion, finished in second place with a cumulative -20, and Viktor Hovland, the 2023 PGA Championship runner-up, came in third at -18.

DeChambeau aspired to follow in the footsteps of defending champion Brooks Koepka, who last year was the first member of LIV Golf to win a major.

Spaniard Jon Rahm, one of the biggest names on the PGA Tour, did not make the cut on Friday in Louisville, nor did veteran Tiger Woods.

Start to finish

Schauffele dominated the second major of the season, as the favorite, Scottie Scheffler, suffered from a chaotic day on Friday in which he was briefly detained by the police.

The favorable conditions at Valhalla Golf Club and the weather, with intermittent rain, allowed Schauffele to start the event with a first round score of 62 (-9), which equaled the record for any round of a major.

He began the final day tied for the lead with his compatriot Collin Morikawa, with a large group of candidates lurking, including DeChambeau 2 shots away.

Schauffele even gave up the lead at several points in the second half of the final round, first against Hovland and then against DeChambeau, who put him under maximum pressure with a birdie on the last hole of his round.

DeChambeau acknowledged he was proud Scheffler had won. "He's an amazing golfer and well-deserved major champion now. He's played well for a long, long time."

Exhausted Scheffler

Although far from the fight for the trophy, Scottie Scheffler said goodbye to Louisville with a solid day that elevated him to eighth place.

The world No. 1, who had just won four of his last five tournaments, starred in an unusual episode on Friday when he was briefly detained by the police.

Scheffler was handcuffed and booked into the police station for skipping a police checkpoint in the middle of a large traffic delay, caused by an accident in which a person was run over and killed.

The winner of the last Masters arrived that morning in time at Valhalla to begin the second round that positioned him close to the lead, but on Saturday he collapsed with his first round over par since August 2023.

This Sunday, Scheffler opened his round with a bogey but recovered to finish with a score of 65 (-6) and a cumulative score of 271 (-13), 8 strokes off the lead.

A fatigued Scheffler said the results weren't what he had expected before the tournament, but that he was "proud of the way I fought this week."

Hispanic American presence

Chilean golfer Joaquín Niemann finished in 39th place, with a final round score of 67 strokes (-4) for a total of 277 strokes (-7).

Argentine Alejandro Tosti, the other Latin American golfer in the fray, made up for his disastrous performance on Saturday and finished the tournament with a round of 68 (-3).

The man from Rosario, in his first appearance in a major, had perhaps the shot of the day on Sunday with a spectacular eagle on the 13th hole thanks to a precise approach shot from 338 yards away.

Tosti, 27 years old, finished with 284 strokes (even) in 73rd place out of the total of 78 competitors.