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Why Xander Schauffele could face a Covid-19 scenario like Jon Rahm

Xander Schauffele

Xander Schauffele, near the top of the leaderboard after his first round at the WM Phoenix Open, says he will be tested for Covid-19 every morning for the rest of the tournament after his longtime caddie tested positive for the virus.

Austin Kaiser, Schauffele said, tested positive Wednesday morning and Schauffele tested negative. Should Schauffele test positive at any point, he would also have to withdraw from the tournament. 

During Thursday’s first round, Schauffele, with a friend caddying for him, shot a four-under 67 and was tied for third late in the day. 

“Got off to a good start for this tournament, so I got to test tomorrow morning and hope that I don’t end up like Jon Rahm at the Memorial,” Schauffele said after his round. “So hopefully I’m fine.”

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Rahm led by six shots at last year’s Memorial Tournament after Saturday’s third round only to be told that he had to withdraw after testing positive for Covid. According to the PGA Tour, Rahm was notified on Monday of that week that he was subject to contact-tracing protocols, as he had come in close contact with a person who was Covid-positive.

Schauffele said he, Kaiser and their wives were staying in a two-story house in the Scottsdale, Arizona, area, with Schauffele and his wife in the upper level, and Kaiser and his wife on the bottom floor. Schauffele said Kaiser called him to say he wasn’t feeling well, and Kaiser was moved to Schauffele’s room before Kaiser and his wife left for their home in San Diego. 

Schauffele said that Kaiser is unvaccinated, and that when he talked to him on Wednesday night, “he was running like a 103 fever, headache, body aches.” Among the people in the house, Schauffele said, only Kaiser tested positive. 

“We literally, we’re FaceTimeing each other, and he tested positive right away, and I was kind of sitting there, really didn’t know what to do, so I called the Tour, and they kind of advised me,” Schauffele said. 

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“And he got out of Dodge, and I literally — like we all had our masks on. We stayed upstairs and kind of like waved at him goodbye, and that was it.”

Caddying for Schauffele now is Kevin Techakanokboon, a friend who flew in on Wednesday. Schauffele said Techakanokboon has caddied for him once before. 

At the end of the post-round press conference, a reporter asked Schauffele: “What does it feel like playing here now after going through 2020 and the pandemic without any galleries? Does it feel different to come back into a place that’s this bopping?”

“It’s nice. It’s refreshing. I can’t even imagine a tournament like this where everyone’s wearing masks and walking around and doing the whole thing,” Schauffele said. “But you get a fresh reminder, just like my boy got popped there with Covid and so it’s still here and you got to be cautious and do the right thing, especially when you’re trying to compete. And if you’re reckless, then you’ll get popped.

“He was as careful as possible, we were all on a commercial airplane coming back, so I don’t even know, I must have been exposed at some point, so however he got it as well, but fortunately I’m fine. For now.”

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