Xander Schauffele bettered his performance by nine strokes from Thursday to Friday at the Open Championship, good enough to start the weekend just outside the top 10. A difference, according to the fledgling American star, that partially stems from Round 1 equipment issues.
After Friday's trek at Royal Portrush, Schauffele said his driver—a Callaway Epic Flash—was deemed nonconforming earlier in the week, sending him scrambling to find a replacement.
"So I had a bit of a run-in with the R&A, which wasn't the most fun," Schauffele said. "I was doing driver testing up until Wednesday. And then yesterday it wasn't really matching my bag, which was a bummer. I was getting a little upset on the golf course. And today I was testing a little bit on the range again with two different heads. But moved a few weights around and sort of found a good setting, I guess."
For the second straight Open the R&A tested the drivers of some 30 players to see if their faces were too springy. Last year, all drivers passed the ruling body’s spring-like effect limit, known as the CT Test. (CT stands for characteristic time, which refers to a measurement of the rebound effect of a tiny spring-loaded pendulum device impacting the face of a driver.) Schauffele became the first player to publicly acknowledge a failed test.
For his part, Schauffele was peeved at the sample, calling it "unfair."
"I would gladly give up my driver if it's not conforming. But there's still 130 other players in the field that potentially have a nonconforming driver as well," he said. "Had a word with [the R&A], and hopefully they take my comments seriously and my concern just because it wasn't my plan to show up Monday morning of a major or Tuesday—sorry, it was Tuesday evening where I was doing driver testing here. It's not really what players want to be doing.
"What's the fair thing to do? Just test the whole field. It's plain and simple. When I talked to them, they didn't really know how to ... you can't really answer that question. You test everyone, it's simple as that.”
The R&A confirmed on Friday evening that Schauffele's club failed the test.
“We randomly selected 30 players for driver testing, as we did at last year’s Championship, and we can confirm the statement that Xander’s driver failed. We have worked with Xander and his manufacturer to ensure that he has a number of conforming drivers he can use this week," said an R&A spokesman. “We offer the testing as a service to players so that they can ensure that their drivers conform. We believe that 30 is a reasonable sample and a practical option for conducting this process in the week of a major championship.”
UPDATE: Multiple sources have told Golf Digest that Schauffele was not the only player with a driver issue. At least two, and possibly three, equipment manufacturers other than Callaway had clubs deemed nonconforming. Golf Digest reached out to several OEMs on Friday evening and Saturday morning to see if their products failed the test. As of this writing, none would confirm or deny the results on record. While Schauffele suggested in post-round comments Saturday that both TaylorMade and PXG had a driver that failed the R&A's test, PXG said it had one driver tested by the R&A and that club "was found to be in compliance." TaylorMade declined to comment on Schauffele's statement or the R&A testing. Meanwhile, according to a Srixon/XXIO official, "all of our drivers passed." Other major manufacturers declined comment or did not respond to a request for comment.
In a follow-up to the R&A on the prospect of multiple failures, the organization replied it would not comment further on the process.
The news comes as the sport awaits the findings of the Distance Insights Project, a joint endeavor by the R&A and USGA into the present and future impacts of distance in golf.
(Mike Stachura and Ryan Herrington helped in the reporting of this story. This story will be continue to be updated.)