The rarest of birds
Watch Xander Schauffele’s bad back feel a whole lot better after making this double eagle at Amex
Two weeks ago, uncertainty loomed over Xander Schauffele. The 29-year-old Californian was bewildered by a mystery back ailment at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii that caused him to withdraw in the middle of the second round at Kapalua Resort out of caution. In so doing doing, he passed up the chance at an easy—and big—payday in the PGA Tour’s first “designated” event not to mention guaranteed FedEx Cup points that could help him move up from his 114th position.
Fast forward to this week’s American Express, and Schauffele was still not 100 percent but good enough to give things a go at a tournament he hasn’t played since 2017.
“It’s a little sore,” Schauffele said Tuesday of his back. “Trying to be as patient as possible to take things as slow as possible in terms of getting too many reps in and I guess being stupid in that sense. But I'm known to try to practice too much at times. I'm trying to take this one slow so I don't hurt it again or do something of that nature.”
Schauffele never said exactly what the problem was/is, only that he had a lot of work done on his back during the week between starts. “Obviously I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel solid.”
Sure enough, on Thursday he proved he wasn’t just putting a good spin on things, coming out and shooting an opening 65 at La Quinta Country Club to get into the mix. He subsequently followed that up with back-to-back 68s to get to 15 under, well within the cutline but eight off the lead of Davis Thompson and Jon Rahm.
To contend on Sunday, Schauffele had to get after it early at Pete Dye’s Stadium Course at PGA West, and four straight pars to start his round seemed to rule that out. But on the fifth hole, the 553-yard par 5, Schauffele pulled off something he hadn’t done in his PGA Tour career.
As the announcers note, Schauffele’s ball just barely cleared the water. We’re guessing he won’t be mentioning that to anybody when he retells the story of his 2 on this par 5 in the years to come.
"[I] didn't say anything in the air because I was a little bit worried," Schauffele said after the round. "So it was nice when I saw it hit on ground and then I actually saw it go in. So that was pretty special.
For the record, Schauffele said he used a 4-iron to hole the shot from 232 yards.
While this was the first double eagle of Schauffele's PGA Tour career, it's not his first ever. Previously, Schauffele made a 2 on the par-5 13th hole at Barona Creek in San Diego … when he was only 14! As he recalled it, "3-iron from pretty similar distance … something like that."
The last albatross by anyone on the PGA Tour came last summer in the final round of the John Deere Classic, courtesy of Stephan Jaeger.
If you expected the double eagle to kickstart things for Schauffele, well you’re right, although not right away. He wound up making two more pars on the next two holes before making seven birdies on his last 11 holes to close with a 10-under 62 and secure a top-three finish.