KAPALUA, Hawaii — Xander Schauffele was coming up the ninth hole at Kapalua’s Plantation Course on Friday when his caddie, Austin Kaiser, said what they both were thinking.
“Y’know, we have a lot of tournaments coming up on the West Coast Swing, and it’s a big swing for us,” he told his player. “Are you going to look back and feel like, really proud of yourself for gutting it out and maybe hurting yourself more? Or should we pull out and be smart here because we have a long way to go?”
The answer was clear: That was enough golf for Hawaii. He withdrew from the Tournament of Champions with a back injury at the turn.
Schauffele shed some light on the injury in a post-round interview that alternated between thoughtful and wryly funny. He said the injury harkened back to the week of the Hero World Challenge in December, where he was unable to play in the pro-am but got gradually better throughout the week. He skipped the pro-am this week and said he was “chipping his way around” through the first day but didn’t feel any improvement. “It’s just not getting better,” he said. “It actually feels worse when I swing.”
Schauffele said he has an MRI scheduled for his arrival home and regretted not getting a scan after the Bahamas, saying he felt so good the past few weeks that he wasn’t worried.
“That was probably a little immature on my part, to be honest,” he said.
The injury is a first for the 29-year-old Schauffele, who said he’s never hurt himself while swinging or working out. And while he doesn’t fully understand the injury, he knows it doesn’t feel good.
The injury happened while working out in the Bahamas, he said. “I had like a minute and a half rest between working out and literally while walking around talking to someone. It’s not something that like, jolts through. I just really stiffens up like a rope and then it’s obviously, the facet is protecting itself, the facet joint or whatever you call it. I can’t really speak to it.
“It’s just something that I don’t know if I’m making myself worse or not. And, like, I’m all for trying to game it and make it happen, but I’m like, flinching at drives and chunking irons and just my head is in a terrible spot.”
Schauffele said his dream is to “go float somewhere” away from the torsion involved in his golf swing. He added that he was particularly frustrated given he’s had so much success at this week’s venue, Kapalua, where he’s a past champion.
Schauffele couldn’t resist peppering in some of his dark deadpan humor.
“My wife would probably say she has a higher pain tolerance than me,” he said. “But yeah, it’s manageable. If someone told me they were going to shoot me if I didn’t finish this tournament, I would finish this tournament. But I really am worried about, it happened in the Bahamas, same thing is happening a month later, I don’t know what the hell it is and I haven’t gotten a scan yet and everyone’s telling me, like, you need to chill out.
“So I wanted to be stupid and kind of chug forward, but I got six people telling me to pack the hell up, so …”
He couldn’t help but wonder, half-kidding, if his healthy lifestyle had done him in.
“The irony hurts,” he said. “I try to exercise more, eat better and do everything better and I should have just stayed fat and like, more mobile, I guess, and not worked out and try to do all these good things and I would have been like, a golfer from the early ’90s.”
Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.