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Players Championship: Why Xander Schauffele keeps rehearsing this crucial golf swing move

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Kevin C. Cox

There's not much room for Xander Schauffele to improve his ball-striking, but he's not letting that stop him.

Schauffele finished third in strokes gained/approach last season and seventh in 2021-22. He's inside the top 10 in SG/approach this week at the Players Championship, and leads the tournament by one shot after 54 holes at TPC Sawgrass.

His journey to this big opportunity started late last year when he began noticing early hints of some shots he didn't like. So Schauffele began enlisting some of the top teachers in the country for golf swing consultations, eventually enlisting Chris Como, the highly regarded Golf Digest Top 50 teacher, for help.

"I've known Chris for quite some time. I've always liked Chris ... I really trust him," Schauffele says. "He's learning that I can be a bit—I wouldn't call myself a head case—but I can be a little too technical at times. So he's put me on a bit of a trickle in terms of information."

Old move: Too level and laid-off

The primary issue in Schauffele's swing—by his own admission—came on the backswing.

On the takeaway, Schauffele would extend his arms and club slightly outside, which caused his shoulders to turn too level to the ground as he finished his backswing. This landed his club in a laid-off position.

"For a bit I had this sort of long flat, sort of laid-off look," Schauffele said at Bay Hill last week.

In Schauffele's case, that laid-off position created the tendency for a steep downswing because it propelled the heaviest part of the club vertically down as he turned through. That laid-off-to-steep move was similar to the move Butch Harmon recently helped rectify in Rickie Fowler's golf swing, and for Schauffle, it could occasionally cause both left or right misses.

You can see him miss right on the occasion below, which took place late last year.

New move: Left shoulder down, right shoulder up

Como says "the main focus is getting the club less laid-off," so the clubhead is propped more above Schauffele's hands at the top of the backswing.

One way you'll see Schauffele work on this is by rehearsing his takeaway move, without a club.

What he's feeling here, Como says, is that his left shoulder is moving down towards the ground, and his right shoulder up towards the sky. That increases his shoulder tilt (amateur golfers usually don't have enough of it), which prevents the laid-off position.

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With the heavy club head more in line with the hands at the top of the backswing, it allows Schauffele to swing through the ball on a better path. Good advice for the rest of us.

Schauffele, for his part, says the new move is still "getting there." But with just one round left of the 2024 Players Championship, the results could be arriving ahead of schedule.