Tour Confidential: Xander’s PGA win, Scheffler’s bizarre week, Rahm’s controversial comments

xander schauffele after winning the 2024 pga championship.

Xander Schauffele is all smiles after winning his first major title.

Getty Images

Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us at @golf_com. This week, we discuss Xander Schauffele’s first major title, Scottie Scheffler’s unpredictable week, Jon Rahm’s thoughts on the PGA Tour and more.

Xander Schauffele, long thought of as golf’s best player to never win a major, finally got his. Schauffele made a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of Valhalla Golf Club to win the PGA Championship on Sunday, edging Bryson DeChambeau by a stroke. Schauffele started the day tied with Collin Morikawa and leading a handful of worthy contenders, but he closed with a 65 to finish 21 under. Given he’s had trouble converting leads before (like last week), did you think he would get it done on Sunday?

Jessica Marksbury, senior editor (@jess_marksbury): I admit I was among Schauffele’s non-believers this week. I just didn’t have faith in his closing ability. But his performance for all four rounds was really impressive — especially Sunday. To shoot 65 under that kind of pressure, making clutch putt after clutch putt, was awesome to see. He deserves this win, and may be one of those guys where the floodgates open and the wins stack up in quick succession.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): Schauffele’s struggles to close always seemed a bit strange, since he’s so highly regarded among his peers for his mental strength. Has he had some hiccups? Absolutely. But as much as anything, his many near misses before this are a reminder of how tough it is to win. Am I surprised? No. He was going to get one eventually. But I’m also not surprised that he had to scrap hard for it, right down to a final putt that came close to lipping out.

Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): With how often X put himself in contention, it felt like only a matter of time. But we’ve also seen some extremely talented players go through their entire careers without a major win. I’ll be the first to admit that I did not believe he’d convert on Sunday, but I’m glad he proved me wrong. Schauffele is a hell of a player and a deserving champion. (I’m also glad our colleague Dylan Dethier can finally stop picking him to win every major.)

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): I’m just here for a quick victory lap. Yes, of course I thought he’d win on Sunday. That’s why I told you so in this space all week long!

Whose performance this week were you most surprised by?

Marksbury: I had almost forgotten how electric it can be when DeChambeau is in the mix. We got a taste of it at the Masters but he wasn’t much of a factor over the weekend. His performative energy brought a lot to this tournament, right up to the very end. I loved it!

Sens: Agree with you on DeChambeau. Whatever you think of him — and he definitely polarizes opinions — he’s a riveting performer. Brooks Koepka’s woeful third round was surprising, and I’ll add the showing by Wyndham Clark. Remember earlier this year when he was being touted as one of Scottie Scheffler’s chief rivals? It’s now two missed cuts in majors for him this year.

Melton: Scottie’s Saturday. Within the context of everything he went through this week, it makes sense. But after his flawless play on Friday, I tricked myself into believing he was immune to just about everything. Once the adrenaline wore off, it was a different story. But T8 in a week you get arrested isn’t half bad, though.

Dethier: I was impressed with just how hard Bryson and Viktor pushed Xander; this tournament turned into an epic three-horse race down the stretch. There was a little nerviness near the end, and Hovland will want a few of those back, but mostly they traded impressive birdies and made Xander earn it. I know it was a soft setup and scores were low, but these guys threw down a high level.

Viktor Hovland has struggled since his fall 2023 surge and admitted on Saturday that he was so dispirited with his form he almost didn’t even play the PGA Championship. Yet Hovland was in contention and finished third for his best finish of the season. Are you buying or selling Hovland’s return to form?

Marksbury: Hard not to buy after what he showed this week! Had a few more putts dropped on Sunday, we may be telling a different story. But isn’t that always the case at a major? Now that Schauffele has his, you have to think that Viktor is probably next in line to shoulder the “best-player-to-have-never-won-a-major” title. Hard to imagine a reality where he doesn’t win one.

Sens: I’m buying it. They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but Hovland himself said the tweaks he made there with his longtime coach Joe Mayo made sense to him right away. He brought them with him when he left the Strip, and I expect he’ll hold on to them.

Melton: Buying! I don’t know what Joe Mayo did with Vik, but he worked wonders. Hovland looked like the Hovland of old at Valhalla. I expect him to be a factor in both of the two remaining majors.

Dethier: Yup, time to buy. Hovland surprised even himself with just how quickly he was able to return to form. Get used to seeing more of him near the top, where he belongs.

Much of the week was focused on Scottie Scheffler, who went from a heavy betting favorite to a mega-news story after his arrest prior to his Friday tee time. Where does this moment rank among the craziest golf stories in recent memory?

Marksbury: This feels close to the recent major Tiger dramas — the car crash, the Memorial Day arrest — in terms of shock value, but the fact that Scheffler’s situation went down during a major championship and on course property makes it all the more surreal. Based on the first-hand accounts we have of what transpired, the apparent injustice of it all makes it even more outrageous.

Sens: Agreed, Jess. From the player side, it’s the highest shock-value story we’ve seen since Tiger’s crash. But I’d say the Tour’s turnaround on doing business with LIV and the Saudis was right up there on the surprise-o-meter.

Melton: These two covered it well in their answers above, but I’ll add the Covid shutdowns in 2020 to the mix. That week at TPC Sawgrass started like any other and by Friday every sports league in America was shut down. Crazy times indeed.

Dethier: Hard to overstate that shock value. It’s one thing for a golfer to get into a traffic incident. It’s another thing for it to happen driving into a major. It’s another thing for it to result in an aggressive detainment. And for all of that to happen to Scottie Scheffler, the hottest player in the world? It still doesn’t feel real.

Scottie Scheffler on Friday at the PGA Championship.
Scottie Scheffler on Friday at the PGA Championship. Getty Images

Scheffler was in contention after two days but fell off the pace with a two-over 73 on Saturday (his first over-par round of the season). Yet he rebounded to shoot 65 on Sunday to tie for 8th. What did you learn about Scottie Scheffler this week?

Marksbury: Scheffler has a reputation as the nicest man on Tour, and his reaction to what I can only imagine was a very traumatizing experience places him in even higher esteem. I thought he handled himself with dignity and humility, and was genuine, especially when offering his condolences to the family of John Mills, the man who was tragically killed on Friday morning. He is a guy who really walks the talk, and that’s refreshing.

Sens: Tough times don’t often reveal new traits in a person. They expose what has been there all along. Scheffler has always seemed like a guy who has his head on straight and his priorities in order. This week reaffirmed all that.

Melton: That he’s still the baddest dude on Tour (in terms of his golf, not his rap sheet). He came into the week fresh off having a kid, got arrested during the tournament, played with a backup caddie and STILL finished in the top 10. I’d be stunned if he doesn’t win another major this year.

Dethier: He’s good under pressure. Under golf pressure. Under crisis. I’m sure there’s more to the story that we don’t know and may never learn, but from what we’ve seen he handled everything as well as I could have imagined.

Before the tournament started, Justin Thomas said “there’s not a lot of different ways to play the golf course,” which he believed contributed to bunched leaderboards at Valhalla majors. Yet it’s produced PGA winners like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and now Schauffele, who emerged from a strong group of candidates on Sunday afternoon. Does the strong list of winners prove this is a worthy major venue, or do Thomas’ comments about variety prove it’s not?

Marksbury: With leaderboards like the one we just had, and winners like all of the above-mentioned players, I think Valhalla gets an A+. It was exciting through and through, with birdies, eagles, and chip-ins galore. Fun viewing!

Sens: I understand the hand-wringing from those who say they want to see a stouter test. But I don’t think it’s worth getting overly worked up over the final score. Ultimately, this is entertainment, and on that front, Valhalla has been a very good stage. Anyone looking for more of a torture chamber won’t have to wait long. Pinehurst No. 2 could/should be a very stout exam.

Melton: I’d prefer a little more variety than what Valhalla provided. Sure, it gave us some exciting moments, but it was a sprint rather than a marathon. Bogeys were rare and there wasn’t much opportunity to see any shuffling up top after the first two rounds. It’s nice when birdies are a reward rather than an expectation.

Dethier: Soft courses make for lousy viewing. Golf is most fun when the ball is on the move, when precision matters and when every shot has consequence attached. There was a lack of consequence this week; off-line shots often didn’t lead to anything perilous or exciting. The conditions also meant there wasn’t much ball-rolling. Bummer! But big picture golf tournaments build to Sunday afternoon drama, when the exciting question is also simple: Can you execute when it matters? We still got that question. And an exciting answer.

Jon Rahm was heavily criticized by Golf Channel analysts after he said he’s still a PGA Tour member (just a suspended one) and wants to support the PGA Tour. “I don’t feel like I’m on the other side,” he said. “I’m just not playing [the PGA Tour].” Said Aaron Oberholser: “I want to wring his neck through the television. I’m that mad right now; I’m that mad. Every player in that locker room right now on the PGA Tour, if they watched that should be absolutely incensed with him.” Do you have any issue with Rahm’s comments?

Marksbury: When Rahm took the LIV deal, I think he did it with the expectation that it wouldn’t be long before the tours came to some kind of unifying agreement. It’s the only thing that makes sense, given all his pro PGA Tour rhetoric before leaving. But now that he’s hundreds of millions of dollars richer, I can see why his comments would leave a bad taste in the mouths of his PGA Tour peers. The point of all the contention between LIV and the PGA Tour is that you can’t have it both ways — not yet, anyway. Unification seems a little bit cloudier now than it did a few months ago, and that must be frustrating for Rahm.

Sens: The comments definitely have the ring of a guy who wants to have his cake and eat it. But they’re understandable if you think of them as proof that Rahm, at some level, is torn up about his decision. He made it thinking there’d be a truce, and now he’s playing on a circuit whose format/intensity doesn’t seem to suit him. Golf’s a mental game. And whatever inner-conflict Rahm has stewing inside seems like the best explanation for how he has played in the two majors we’ve seen him in this year. But if he’s got buyer’s remorse, he should just say it rather than trying to have it both ways and act like he didn’t bail on the Tour.

Melton: I mean, he can feel like he’s still a part of the Tour all he wants, but that doesn’t make it true. Leaving for LIV only divided the golf world further, and now he’s responsible for some of that division. I’ve always liked Rahm and appreciate that he speaks his mind, but I think he missed the mark on this one.

Dethier: Definitely didn’t think we’d have any calls for neck-wringing on Golf Channel this week, but these are the tense golfing times we live in. I mostly wasn’t surprised by Rahm’s comments. He’s a significant chess piece and his departure for LIV was therefore a big blow to the PGA Tour. But he hasn’t really acknowledged that piece of the story; to Sens’ point, he’d like some cake.

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