‘Stay out!’ What PGA’s turbulent final 60 minutes felt like from up close

Xander Schauffele

Xander Schauffele hits his winning putt on Sunday at Valhalla Golf Club.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Stay out. Stay out. Stay out. STAY OUT!

To the left of Valhalla Golf Club’s 18th fairway, some 325 yards from the tee, some 250 yards to the hole, amidst Sunday’s PGA Championship final round, Xander Schauffele’s golf ball had somehow obeyed the heed of fans about 25 yards away. Though, as the scene quickly unfolded, they wished it’d been ignored. 

Schauffele seemingly would’ve liked for them to have shut up, too. 

Is that how this week would end, a collection of seven days that had been pushed and pulled in more directions than a high-handicapper’s golf ball? The unfortunate accident, first and foremost. Scheffler. McIlroy. And a soft course that’d turned into a shooting gallery. There were chirps there. Was this major worthy? Where was the jolt? To award a Wanamaker, you wanna have a buzz. Still, Valhalla had given us a packed leaderboard Sunday, both in terms of number of players and the number of players who are stars, and a par-5 closer. 

Stars birdie those holes, you know. 

You get where this is going. But how would it go? Who’d make a move? Let’s make our move over. It’s getting late. There’s about an hour to go. 

But watch out!

Justin Rose, playing in the fourth-to-last group, went left and right at you at about 6 p.m. local time. The ball finished to the right of a clear souvenir bag. Looked like there were a couple of shirts in there. At least that was what Rose estimated. He’d picked it up, found its owner and offered a compliment. “Good shopping.” Rose then took his drop and played forward. The hole yields scores, but it’s not without danger, not to mention gift bags. To the right off the tee on the 573-yarder is water. Rory McIlroy nearly found it on his way to the 2014 crown. To the left off the tee is a bunker. That was where Rose was just short of. That’s where you were. 

That was about 10 yards short of where Viktor Hovland ended up. He was a couple of feet from the start of the sand. Bryson DeChambeau was in it, about 20 yards ahead. Playing in the third-to-last group, they’d charged. DeChambeau had made six birdies and was 19 under. Same for Hovland, the birdies and the score. On 18, they were a shot back of Xander Schauffele, the leader after days one, two and three, and now four. They needed that birdie. They needed to wait. Up ahead, Rose and playing partner Robert MacIntyre were finishing. 

They waited five minutes. 

Hovland looked over the lie. The ball was sitting up in the first cut of rough. He talked with caddie Shay Knight. Five times, Hovland took his white hat off and cleared his brow. Sunday was sticky, even in the gloaming. He mostly held his hands on his hips. He shuffled his feet some. The pause wasn’t ideal. Not now. He positioned himself. He backed away. Some mud on his ball perhaps. He called over Knight, who got on all fours for a look. OK, clear. He muscled his iron to a strip of fairway on the right side of the hole, about 45 yards away from the cup. DeChambeau quickly fired after that. He’d been crouching for a bit as he waited. On his shot from the bunker, he worked his ball along the left side, about 30 yards away from the flag. 

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Run! You need to see these! 

If they were to get up and down, they pull even. Pitch in, they lead.

Hovland pitched to 10 feet. DeChambeau was next. Two practice swings. A walk forward to the green. Another practice swing. A step back. A step forward. Two waggles. Another practice swing. A pitch. Some frustration. He was 11 feet out. 

“I knew what I had to do,” he said. “I knew I was trying to make eagle. That third shot just didn’t come out like I thought, and it is what it is.”

Move over to the green! 

DeChambeau was away. There’s a buzz — and a buzz. We’re in Bourbon Country, you know. But the thousands were just murmuring. DeChambeau looked at his putt from behind the hole. He looked at it from behind his ball. He talked with caddie Greg Bodine. He patted down spike marks. He placed his ball down. He gave the putt a look. He stepped back. He took a couple of swings. At 6:25, his ball rolled toward the hole. After two seconds, it dropped. 




DeChambeau’s arms shot up. He fist-pumped. He plucked his ball from the hole. He fist-pumped again. He slapped hands with Bodine. “I thought I left it short again like a — like a you-know-what, like an idiot,” DeChambeau said.

Hovland’s turn. He went through his AimPoint putting maneuvers. Shuffled the feet. Shuffled the feet. He placed his ball. He backed away. He returned. Four practice strokes. He missed. Then he missed again. No tie. He finished third.  

Book it back to the fairway bunker!

Schauffele’s coming!

At 6:40, tied with DeChambeau, he teed off. Seconds later, the gang behind you pleaded. 


It did. It didn’t go into the sand — by about a foot. Oooohhh. Which meant Schauffele’s feet would have to stand in the bunker and the ball would slightly be above him. Unideal. At 6:42, he started to look it over. Playing partner Collin Morikawa hit first. Schauffele talked with Austin Kaiser, his caddie. From outside of the bunker, he took one, two, three, four practice swings. He walked backward. He stepped into the bunker. He nestled in. He stepped out. One more practice swing. He then for-real swung. The ball dropped about 35 yards in front of the green, on the left side. So difficult was the shot he just hit that analyst Johnson Wagner even tried to duplicate it on Golf Channel. 

“I just kept telling myself, man, someone out there is making me earn this right now,” Schauffele said of his second stroke. “I just kept grinding. I get up there and just kind of chuckled. I was like, if you want to be a major champion, this is the kind of stuff you have to deal with. So I dealt with it, and happily was able to push that thing up. 

“My only concern was sort of shanking it from more of a baseball swing.”

Two more shots, he’d win. 

Three more, he’d tie. 

More than that, you know the score. 

Run again! To the green!

At 6:50, Schauffele pitched on. Five bounces. It stopped 6 feet away. 

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Six feet from victory. 

Six feet from major championship No. 1. 

Six feet and the gang behind the green can explode. His wife, Maya, was there. Friends were there. His coach, Chris Como, is there. Notably, he once worked with DeChambeau. 

At 6:52, Morikawa was done. 

Schauffele was squatting a few yards behind his mark. He walked toward it. He placed his ball down. He stepped backward. He stepped back to his ball. He squatted again. He stepped back again. He squatted again. He stood up. Two practice strokes. He returned again.  

At 6:53, he putted. 

His ball rolled for two seconds. 

It hit the lower left side of the hole (think about at the 7 mark on a clock), twirled, stopped (think about at the 2 mark) and dropped. A lip in. Who cares? 



Lowest score in major championship history! 

Kaiser slammed down the pin he’d been holding. Schauffele raised both arms. Caddie and player hugged. Schauffele hugged Morikawa. He hugged Kaiser again. 

“I was pretty nervous,” Schauffele said. “I walked up, I saw a little left to right. I kept reading it, kept kind of panning. Started to look right to left to me, and I thought, oh, my gosh, this is not what I want for a winning putt. Fortunately, it was uphill, it was 6 feet-ish. I ended up playing it straight. It did go left, caught the left side. Just so much relief. 

“When it lipped in — I don’t really remember it lipping in, I just heard everyone roaring and I just looked up to the sky in relief.”

At 6:55, he walked off the green. 

Game over.  

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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