Schauffele Wins First Major at PGA Championship in a Thriller at Valhalla

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Xander Schauffele cashed in at just the right time Sunday, May 19, swirling in a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the PGA Championship, his first major title, with the lowest score in major championship history.

The Olympic gold medalist got something even more valuable in silver—that enormous Wanamaker Trophy after a wild week at Valhalla.

Mr. Schauffele closed with a 6–under 65 to beat Bryson DeChambeau, who entertained to the very end with a 10-foot birdie of his own on the par-5 18th for a 64.

Mr. Schauffele became the first player since fellow San Diego native Phil Mickelson in 2005 at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the last hole to win by one. And this took all he had.

He already had mud on his golf ball on two key holes along the back nine that kept him from attacking the flag. His drive on the 17th bounced back into a bunker, forcing him to scramble for par and stay tied with Mr. DeChambeau, who had finished two groups ahead of him. And then his tee shot rolled just far enough toward the edge of a bunker to present another problem.

Mr. Schauffele had to stand with his feet in the sand, gripping well down on the 4-iron, aiming out to the right and hoping for the best. He drilled a beauty, some 35 yards short but with a good angle. He pitched to 6 feet and was never closer to finally winning a major.

“I told myself this is my opportunity—capture it,” Mr. Schauffele said.

The putt broke just enough left to catch the left edge of the cup and swirled around before disappearing. Mr. Schauffele, who exudes California chill, raised both arms above his head with the biggest smile before a hard hug with Austin Kaiser, his caddie and former teammate at San Diego State.

Mr. DeChambeau was on the range, staying loose for a potential playoff, watching Mr. Schauffele from a large video board. He saw the winning putt fall and walked all the way back to the 18th to join in with so many other players wanting to congratulate the 30-year-old.

“I gave it my all. I put as much effort as I possibly could into it and I knew that my B game would be enough,” Mr. DeChambeau said. “It’s just clearly somebody played incredibly well. Xander’s well deserving of a major championship.”

Viktor Hovland, the FedEx Cup champion who wasn’t sure he even belonged at Valhalla while trying to work his way out of a slump, also had a 10-foot putt after Mr. DeChambeau hit his to tie for the lead. He missed the birdie, then missed a meaningless par putt and shot 66 to finish third.

Mr. Schauffele, who began this championship with a 62 to tie the major championship record, finished at 21–under 263 with that winning birdie. That beat by one shot the major record previously shared by Brooks Koepka in the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive and Henrik Stenson in the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon.

And so ended another memorable week at Valhalla.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who arrived five days after the birth of his first child, was arrested and briefly jailed on Friday morning for not following directions of police investigating a fatal car crash involving a pedestrian an hour earlier.

He got out of jail and to the course in time to play the second round and shot 66. But it caught up with him on the weekend. Scheffler fell out of contention with a 73 on Saturday—his first round over par since last August. He closed with a 65 to tie for eighth.

Two players—Mr. Schauffele on Thursday and Shane Lowry on Saturday—tied the major record with 62s. Scoring records seemed to fall just about every day on a rain-softened course.

All that, and it came down to one putt that Mr. Schauffele will never forget.

“I really didn’t want to go into a playoff with Bryson,” he said.

In so many ways, his time was overdue. He had gone nearly two years since last winning at the Scottish Open. Mr. Schauffele had eight consecutive finishes in the top 20 at majors coming into Valhalla. He already had a pair of runner-up finishes and six top-5s.

And in the last two months alone, he lost 54-hole leads when he was chased down by Scheffler’s 64 at The Players Championship and by Rory McIlroy’s 65 last week at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The victory was his eighth on the PGA Tour—that doesn’t include his Olympic gold from the Tokyo Games in 2021.

This one moves him to a career-best No. 2 in the world, still a long way from Scheffler but assuring Mr. Schauffele of qualifying for the U.S. team in the Olympics.

By Doug Ferguson

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