‘Seemed like a good idea at the time’: Xander Schauffele’s run-in with a cactus
Welcome to the desert, Xander Schauffele! During the first round of the WM Phoenix Open Thursday, Schauffele had yanked his tee shot left on the par-4 6th, and when he found his ball, it was safely just outside of a prickly cactus. Or so he thought.
Schauffele took his stance over the ball, his back to the cactus, only to find that he wasn’t totally comfortable. And can you blame him? He thought part of the cactus was loose from the rest, and he was right. A couple pads of thorns were dislodged from the desert plant, and right behind his ankles. So like any golfer desperate to make a score would do, he moved the loose impediment.
“It felt loose,” Schauffele said later. “So I went to go have a look with my right hand, and some people in the crowd are like, ‘He’s from San Diego.’”
They’re right, but what could that San Diego line mean?
Well, Arizona-natives understand that while plenty of cacti are harmless and passive, others can be rather aggressive when moisture is around. Enter the cholla, one of those more-aggressive species of cacti that will latch on to any form of moisture that comes its way. Such as Schauffele’s right hand.
As he picked up the pads of thorns, PGA Tour Live broadcasters cooed in amazement. But when he tossed the plant aside, about “six or seven” needles stuck into his hand.
“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” Schauffele joked to the crowd, slowly yanking the thorns from his fingers. Luckily for Schauffele it wasn’t any worse. He punched out from the dirt lie, landed on the green and made a rudimentary two-putt par. Naturally, he was asked by the press what it felt like to get needled during the round.
“It was just funny. I grabbed it, and had a bunch of thorns sticking in my hand. Someone yelled, ‘Oh, this kid’s from San Diego.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, that was a rookie move.’ So next time I’ll grab a towel or use my glove hand.”
It was a busy post-round press conference for Schauffele, whose caddie Austin Kaiser is currently quarantining after testing positive for Covid. He was asked four different times to explain his cactus situation, and it seemed like he was sharing some regret. But considering he made a more comfy lie for himself and it led to par, during a 4-under 67, well, there was not much regret at all.
“It was worth it,” he said. “I would have done it over again.”