Scheffler, Schauffele, Bryson and bourbon: 50 observations from the PGA

Xander Schauffele

Xander Schauffele on Sunday after his victory at the PGA Championship.

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Friday, I’d fallen. 

Kentucky bourbon, right. A likely suspect, for sure. Got to pace yourself. But no, I was (mostly) dry this week, which Valhalla GC was (mostly) not following storms. Dirt had turned into mud. Grass had turned into a slip-and-slide. And slip and slide I did, to the right of the 9th hole, while watching Mark Hubbard, a surprise PGA Championship second-round hopeful. 

He hadn’t seen me. But about 250 others did. Their reaction, as I lost it, landed on my right side and covered my hat, shirt, pants, shoes, notebook, ID and face in sludge?



And that was that. I moved on. They moved on. No cracks. I might’ve said something, which maybe says something about me. And something more about the Louisvillians. They were happy you drank their booze. Toured their baseball bat and boxer museums. Went to their horse track. Came to their championship golf course. Took home some dirty clothes and a sore right arm. They were happy you came.  

As we look back at the PGA Championship week that was, let’s make that observation No. 1 then. It’s a strong one. Let’s try for 49 more as we post up at Against the Grain, a fine downtown brewery and public house attached to Louisville Slugger Field.

2. Some Valhalla thoughts. Sunday was a hoot. Tight leaderboard. Star-packed leaderboard. And we like when the majors turn into star wars. 

But was the gang tested?

Were good shots overly rewarded?

Were bad shots properly punished?

Were there bogey holes?

Now, as noted above, the track was softened due to rain. But things seemed overly gettable, which is the opposite of diabolical, which is what we typically get in a major. 

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3. Justin Thomas, a Louisville native, says you can take the Valhalla criticism and shove it up your golf bag, though. 

“I would be pretty hard pressed to say any players didn’t enjoy this week in terms of the amount of fans that were out there [and] were unbelievable,” he said Sunday. “Guys can say whatever they want about the golf course; it always produces unbelievable leaderboards and a great finish, and it looks like it’s doing the same again this year. 

“So, yeah, selfishly I hope it has an opportunity to come back, but I just think that the Midwest has very, very passionate sports fans and they love getting to go watch golf tournaments and I think Louisville shows out when they have the opportunity to and they did this week.”

4. Another Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup would be good here. The support was unquestioned. 

5. But the entrance problem needs to be corrected. There was just one — for an estimated 200,000 fans over the tournament run — and it was just off a four-way street, where traffic snarled and pedestrians slipped into the lanes. That’s clearly dangerous. 

6. My thoughts for John Mills. Friday morning, the 69-year-old was struck by a shuttle bus as he walked into Valhalla for his shift as a security guard. It was tragic. It put a pall over the event. Could it have been avoidable? 

7. But let’s try to reserve judgment on Scottie Scheffler, who, according to a police report, had tried to enter the course shortly after the Mills accident, was stopped by an officer but continued driving, causing injury, according to an incident report. He is to face four charges. Notably, though, there were witnesses — and GOLF’s Alan Bastable talked to one and you can read that story here

8. Still, how bizarre that it happened to Scheffler, the world No. 1. 

9. At the start of his Friday press conference, he said he wouldn’t talk about the incident, then talked only about the incident. Here’s one exchange, started by a reporter:

“We’ve come to know you as a pretty unflappable person out here, not affected by a lot of stuff. Can you describe how rattled you were when — you just referenced being in a jail cell and whatnot. Just describe that mindset and how surreal that was for you.”

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“Yeah, I was pretty rattled to say the least,” Scheffler said. “The officer that took me to the jail was very kind. He was great. We had a nice chat in the car that kind of helped calm me down. I was sitting there waiting to kind of go in and I asked him, I was like, ‘Hey, excuse me, can you just come hang out with me for a few minutes so I can calm down.’ I was never angry. I was just in shock, and I think my body was just — I was shaking the whole time. I was shaking for like an hour. It was definitely a new feeling for me. He came out and we had a nice chat and then the officers inside the jail were tremendous. A couple of them made some jokes I think when they figured out who I was and what happened and how I ended up there. 

“This one older officer looked at me as I was doing my fingerprints or whatever, and he looks at me and he goes, ‘So do you want the full experience today?’ I kind of looked at him, and I was like, ‘I don’t know how to answer that.’ He’s like, ‘Come on, man, you want a sandwich?’ I was like, ‘Sure, I’ll take a sandwich.’ I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. I mean, they were really kind. I’m grateful that we have such strong police, and they’re our protectors out there, and like I said, we just got into a chaotic situation this morning. That’s really all it was.”

10. The fans quickly reacted to the news. On Friday afternoon, I saw this:

11. Some player thoughts. Let’s start with Scheffler. A week ago — which kinda seems like a year ago — he went into the PGA with questions on how he’d play following a lay-off after the birth of his first child, then shot a first-round 67. He shot a 66 hours after being arrested, though he believed the effects of the ordeal led to a third-round 73. But then he shot a final-round 65 and tied for eighth. What do we make of it all? 

There might not be a more mentally stable pro. 

12. He wins the U.S. Open next month at Pinehurst. 

13. I’m sticking with the observation I made during the Masters — I think your Open Championship winner is Brooks Koepka

14. Who, as the defending champion, was also one of this week’s biggest disappointments. A third-round 74 doomed him. 

15. This was good, though. On Sunday, after he finished with a 66, he had this exchange, started by a reporter:

“What was the difference between yesterday and today?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “what, about eight shots?” 

He wasn’t wrong. 

16. Xander Schauffele always had the game. The move to swing coach Chris Como helped. But the move away from his previous coach, dad Stefan, says more to me. How do you have that conservation? The Schauffeles did, and now Xander is a major champion. 

17. From about 25 yards away on Sunday, I watched his second, third and winning shots on the 18th hole. The birdie putt won him the tournament. But I won’t forget the second shot. Feet in the sand. Ball just outside of a fairway bunker. A shank was in play. Instead, he muscled a ball about 220 yards down the left side of the hole, and two strokes later, his hands were raised in victory. 

18. He wins next year’s Masters. 

19. Or Sahith Theegala might. A major is close for him. 

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20. Time for a drink. As readers of this space know, we’re fans of beer here, so first up is the Loo-a-vuhl Pale. I’ve struggled saying Louisville all week — my upper Midwest jaw can’t adjust — so this is perfect. 

21. Bryson DeChambeau will win another major (or two) — and he might have won the week. He finished runner-up, but he was a fav of the fans. Why? Hard to say. He’s goofy, but entertaining. He’s talented. He’s engaging. He’s also worked at it all. On Friday, he had this exchange, started by a reporter:

“The fans are really, really behind you. Are you feeling a difference in how it was a couple of years ago?” 

“Yeah. I’ve worked really hard to have people help hopefully understand who I am a little bit better,” he said. “YouTube has been a great platform to help that out. The Break 50 series are a lot of fun. I love doing it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a challenge that’s never been done nor accomplished without any strokes. 

“So it just keeps my brain fresh and in an entertainment mode, and realizing what the game is all about, not just for myself and winning money or winning trophies but entertaining, as well. Obviously we all want to win trophies. But being able to entertain the fans is what we’re all here to do, and I think that’s what’s the most important thing.”

22. This is a must-watch video, on a lot of levels. 

23. I wonder how the Viktor Hovland-Joe Mayo conversation went. The player-coach found success. They broke up. Player collapsed. Player considered not playing the PGA. Player reconnected with coach. Player almost won the PGA. I’m thinking they’ll stay together. 

24. Collin Morikawa seems close to a breakout. But a Sunday 71 was not good. 

25. Playing with Schauffele on Sunday, he applauded him on the green instantly after his putt. Classy. 

26. Ten years have now elapsed since Rory McIlroy won his last major, also at Valhalla. Did you think that would happen back in 2014? Golf is hard. The reasons are numerous. 

27. News of his divorce on the Monday of this PGA was interesting. We’ll leave it at that.  

28. The most raw press conference this week? It came from Robert MacIntyre. Missing his home back in Scotland, he’s trying to adjust to the U.S. On Thursday, he had this exchange, started by a reporter:

“About the kind of struggles coming and playing in the States, did you expect to have to deal with those kind of obstacles when you came, or did it kind of hit you out of the blue?” 

“To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect,” MacIntyre said. “I was coming out, it was going to be a new environment. I knew a lot of guys, but it’s just a different environment on the PGA Tour. It’s very much business. There’s not as much chatting that goes on. In Europe, we travel the world. You know what I mean, we go to Asia, the Middle East. We go all over the place. When you’re in these countries and you don’t speak the local language, you kind of have to stick together. There’s just a group of guys that I kind of hang about with in Europe that make life on the road a lot easier. 

“Out here, it’s me and my girlfriend, who I feel like we do a good job in trying to enjoy it as much as we can. We get people from my team, family, coming out every now and again, just trying to freshen things up. But it’s different. Life is different. I mean, yeah, I don’t know what else to say. If you go to Europe, if you go to European people and American people, we’re just different.”

29. I don’t know if any pro has more fun than Shane Lowry, and Sunday, he was hitting balls next to MacIntyre on the range. 

30. Some of the best wings I’ve ever had came at Hammerheads here. 

31. Jon Rahm seems lost, if you’re judging by major performances. Nine-over at the Masters and a tie for 45th. Missed cut at the PGA. Maybe it’s the LIV move. Maybe it’s a natural funk. Let’s give it a year.  

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32. Ludvig Aberg’s missed-cut showing was also surprising. 

33. What do we make of Tiger Woods now, after his missed cut? Is this our new reality with him — just asking this question? Each mediocre showing is tough to watch.  

34. Lots of talk on the state of golf, but I think there’s also at least one simple explanation. Woods isn’t playing as much. Golf is maybe facing what basketball did when MJ hung ’em up. The question for golf is, can it find its LeBron, Kobe and Steph? 

35. I thought this exchange between Max Homa and a reporter was also notable. 

Reporter: “I wanted to ask you, there’s been a lot of talk about the state of golf now and what impact all of the off-course stuff is having on casual fans in terms of popularity and whatnot. I wonder from your advantage point, where do you see the state of the game now in terms of casual fans and why?”

Homa: “Yeah, it’s been a bit tricky. I do feel like the internet probably makes it seem worse than it really is. It’s a very small community and they’re incredibly loud. So I think if you spend a lot of time on the internet, it does feel like professional golf is crumbling. 

“It’s tough to decipher, because when we’re on the grounds of events, it’s amazing. Last week at Quail Hollow was awesome. Felt no different at Bay Hill. Felt no different — the Players felt no different. So it’s odd, it doesn’t feel like it’s dying, yet you hear a lot of very valid complaints on the internet. 

“So I think it’s been, it’s very troubling. I don’t like where it’s going. It’s got to be exhausting to be a casual golf fan at this point in time. I don’t know why you would want to hear about the business side of this game. As a fan of other sports, I do not care about the business side of what the Lakers and Dodgers are doing. So, yeah, it is troubling; however, it’s just difficult because we come here and yesterday was slam-packed and it was awesome and everyone just seems like in such good spirits to just see us playing a somewhat meaningless practice round to their point of view.

“So it’s tough to kind of completely figure out. I hope at some point soon we can just get back to entertaining people and playing golf and seeing who shoots the lowest score and not talking about what our Player Advisory Council is going to do and who — the fans of golf should not know who is on the board. Like that just seems like a pretty obvious one. So that would be the goal going forward. 

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“So I think, you know, in some positive light as a fan of just the game of golf, the benefit is golf is thriving. That’s cool. Men’s professional golf might be in a weird spot, so hopefully we can continue to get more people to play golf and then once everybody can get this thing figured out, hopefully we get those people playing golf to also enjoy watching a little bit of golf. We have a lot going on here, but hopefully at some point everybody can find the plot again.”

36. Farewell, Michael Block. Thanks for giving us the meme and social-media fodder. Thanks for also giving us hope that it’s never too late to fulfill a dream.  

37. Nelly Korda has now won six of seven tournaments. We’re talking about the PGA here, but I hope you’re appreciating her, too. 

38. Some things seen and heard from folks on the course! On Wednesday, I was asked for directions to the driving range. And for an autograph. 

39. On Thursday, two fans ducked under a rope and ‘petted’ the grass on the tee box.  

40. On Saturday morning, I spotted three women walking up par-3 14th hole — only walking up the par-3 14th was off limits to fans. But they had seen un-muddy grass and took their shot.  

41. On Sunday, while walking into the media center, the crew was greeted by a golf ball sitting near some stairs. It’d come off the club of Erik van Rooyen, after he went left with his tee shot on the nearby 10th hole. Dylan Dethier explains the scene below:

42. There is also this video below.  

43. One of the best omelets I’ve ever had came at Wild Eggs here. It came with four eggs, cheese, chicken and buffalo sauce. 

44. Time for some stories I liked! Dethier called up Stefan Schauffele after his son’s win — he was 4,400 miles away — and you can read that story here

45. GOLF’s Sean Zak nearly walked onto the tee with Scheffler on Friday, and you can read that story here

46. GOLF’s James Colgan followed and talked with controversial PGA Championship invite Talor Gooch, and you can read that story here.  

47. One of GOLF’s newest hires, social media editor Adam Christensen, went to his first major this week and took in the Woods scene. You can read that story here.  

48. For me, this was a fun one. On Wednesday, I talked with Tracy Phillips, the 61-year-old club pro who once quit golf for 20 years and was making his PGA Championship debut. You can read that story here

49. And on Sunday, I followed all of the leaders on the 18th hole. I almost saw someone get hit by a ball, too. You can read that story here

50. Time for a bourbon. Whiskey Row is right down the street. No falling down, though. 

51. Bonus! Here’s proof I was here. That’s my question, before Woods’ answer. 

Editor’s note: I also wrote observations from the Masters — 102 of ’em! — and you can read that story here.

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