In Xander Schauffele’s mind, none of this is particularly simple.
The world of professional men’s golf has begun to imitate the whole world. Choose aside. Dig deep. Cover your ears. This is how we get Shane Laurie the win “One for the Good” as a loyalist of the tour defeats the dissident LIV. It’s how we get to Talor Gooch and he says LIV Joe was like Ryder Cup. We are prone to simplicity, exaggeration, tribalism. So it goes.
As for Shaveli: How long did you get it? The No. 5 player in the world is thoughtful. I deliberately underestimated. He chooses his words carefully. Now that the job requirements in his profession have gone beyond athletic excellence to include an understanding of geopolitics and the legal system, WhewSometimes it’s easier to say relatively little instead. As his peers on the PGA Tour prepared for an embarrassing showdown at the BMW PGA Championship, Schauffele went off the grid. He and Maya, his wife, joined Patrick Cantlay in Napa for what turned out to be Cantley’s engagement over the weekend. He then put himself on a relatively low profile, fulfilling the couple’s foster care obligations in Southern California (his original home) before packing his car for a road trip to Las Vegas (his new home). This is where I met, sitting in traffic, to recap an unforgettable PGA Tour season. Once he knows what he wants to say, Shaveli isn’t afraid to do so. It’s a straight shooter. You can listen to the entire conversation on the Drop Zone podcast below (or here on Spotify).
We’ve worked our way through his entire year, starting with last fall’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, winning three points and then working his way through a variety of afternoons and champagne before a memorable performance in the winning press conference for Team USA. We immersed ourselves in his exciting wins as well, and his relief to cross the line on the PGA Tour after so many close calls. “I subconsciously think it was definitely [weighing on me] “More than I wanted to admit,” Shaveli said. And then, as all golf talks do these days, our conversations gravitated toward the LIV Tour versus the PGA Tour.
Recently, Shaveli explained that his interests are with the PGA Tour. But that doesn’t mean he’s never been curious about an alternative to the current setup. He went to the Saudi International, after all, where there was a lot of talk about the competition ring. But he said there was nothing in that decision more than dollars and cents.
“I went to collect the apparition fee, and I’m not going to sit here and lie about it,” he said. “Nothing really came of it other than to play a tournament on a different continent and collect some cash.”
We see? The shooter is straightforward, as soon as he spins it around.
We talked about the Genesis Invitational, which was a particularly pivotal week for the LIV-PGA Tour dynamic. This was the week that LIV seemed to be getting close to taking off. This was also the week that excerpts from Alan Shipnock’s book were released, an excerpt that included biographer Phil Mickelson talking about his feelings for the Saudis. His “scary” comment made headlines. Mickelson disappeared. The tour garnered vocal commitments from top pros – including Schauffele. It was a strange chapter in the saga since Schauffele and Mickelson are friendly and used to play sporadic practice runs together at home. Shaveli was not eager to convict Mickelson. Praise his general vision. But he didn’t leave him off the hook either.
“He said what he said, and in terms of feeling bad about him, it’s tough,” Shaveli said. But like some other players, he is somewhat sympathetic to Mickelson’s claim that he believed his comments were unpublishable, calling them “a pro’s worst nightmare” when speaking to the media.
As for Mickelson’s biggest goal? When it comes to leverage, Schaeffel thinks he was right.
“The main points he was trying to make, and what he really wanted to see, we might now live with on the PGA Tour, and it’s unfortunate that he’s not part of that, because that’s pretty much what he said.” But at the same time, he kind of knew that it would take Something drastic, and he had to choose which side of the fence he wanted to be on.”
So far they have found themselves on opposite sides of this fence.
Schauffele met with the LIV group. “I felt stupid not to do that,” he said. He wasn’t sure how things would get out of there. I wasn’t sure what the end result would be. Now, though, it is believed that there was undoubtedly a financial gain for all the players involved.
“Everyone who went there obviously got a lot of money secured, and the people on that side of the fence here are making more money because of the LIV tour and what they gave,” he said.
Schauffele was also in PGA Tour Players Meeting in Delaware resulted in a relatively united front; He felt that this was a turning point for the collective strength of its players. He appreciated the leadership presence of Tiger Woods as well as the more recent leadership of Rory McIlroy and also credited Cantlay, whom he called a “very good thinker”.
“One of the things I’m afraid of is that we need to keep staying together through this process because we are stronger together,” he said. “Yeah, sure, coming out of that room, I think everyone felt a lot better than they did before they walked in.”
As for the flow of professionals from one round to the next? Schauffele is surprised when the new professionals leave. Loyalty to the institution has proven resilient, to say the least.
“As far as the other guys going in there,” he said, “I really can’t tell you.” “I think everyone has a number or a reason, and they don’t seem too afraid to get rid of it. So I can imagine, if you tell me five or 10 more guys are going next year, I wouldn’t bet against you. I don’t know any other names personally, but The way things are going, based on our short historical analysis here, you wouldn’t bet on it either.”
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