For Xander Schauffele, ‘scary’ Masters greens prompt creativity

By Reuters
April 10, 2024
Mar 22, 2024; Palm Harbor, Florida, USA; Xander Schauffele hits from the bunker on the fifth green during the second round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay. — USA TODAY

AUGUSTA, Georgia: While he still searches for his first major victory, Xander Schauffele has a strong record at the Masters. But that doesn’t mean he feels any differently about the challenges of Augusta National.


At his pre-Masters press conference on Monday, Schauffele was asked whether players handle the ins and outs of Augusta -- particularly the challenging greens -- better with each passing year.

“I mean, maybe the scare factor goes away,” Schauffele said. “I still think they’re pretty scary, to be completely honest.”

Schauffele played the back nine for a practice round on Monday, and he said he tried a bunker shot toward one of the pin locations that rolled 15 feet to the left of his intended target. So he started practicing the shot at a much less comfortable angle.

“And it’s scary to aim 25 feet right, having to hit the exact pace to have it roll down that slope as a putt to hit it to tap in,” Schauffele said. “We’re not really used to that. So that part to me is still kind of scary.

“But even watching coverage, there’s so many small nuances I feel like to the property. ... There’s so many small little things, even when I was watching some of the old Masters highlights at home, just -- I feel like 18, for some reason, I feel like that ball just rolls further off the green, that front part, than it used to. I was watching (Chris) DiMarco get up-and-down, what, last week or so, against Tiger, and he did it twice, and then Tiger made that putt to win.”

Schauffele said what sets the Masters apart is how it demands players to not only hit the right yardage number on each shot, but to also use certain shot shapes and ball flights to get around the course.

“The whole creativity part, imagination part, it’s really special. It’s rare,” he said. “I think that’s why this property is really special. And it happens to be a major, but I think if it wasn’t, for example, I think it would still be a world-beating tournament.”

Schauffele, 30, feels confident about his game as he enters his seventh start at Augusta. He tied for 10th last year, one of three top-10 finishes that includes a T2 in 2019 and a T3 in 2021. He has only missed the cut once.

“I just have a lot of fun on property,” Schauffele said. “It’s a stressful week, but I think once the gun goes off on Thursday, you just kind of -- not wheel it, but, you know, everyone works -- I feel like I work extra hard in the beginning part of the year to try to get ready for this tournament, and I’m at home trying to hit shots that I normally wouldn’t practice off severe slopes and things of that nature is. “So maybe it’s just extra preparation, I’m not really sure, but you really have to be creative around the property, and I think I enjoy that challenge a lot.”