Xander Schauffele shoots 62 to tie major record for 2nd time

Xander Schauffele goes over some of his best shots from his historic first-round 62 with Marty Smith. (2:33)

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Xander Schauffele is picking up right where he left off.

For the second time in a less than a year, the third-ranked player in the world tied the record for the lowest round at a major championship by shooting an opening-round 62, this time in the first round of the PGA Championship.

A year after he shot a U.S. Open-record 62 in the first round at the Los Angeles Country Club, Schauffele’s 9-under round Thursday featured nine birdies and no bogeys and broke the Valhalla Country Club course record of 63 set by José María Olazábal in 2000, which had been tied for the PGA Championship record.

“I can’t nitpick,” Schauffele said when asked to compare the two rounds. “I’ll take a 62 in any major any day.”

Schauffele’s record round separated him from the rest of the field by 3 shots. Tony Finau, who has 10 top-10 finishes at majors without a win, Sahith Theegala and Mark Hubbard carded 65s, while Rory McIlroy shot a 66 to settle in for a seven-way tie at 5 under at the site of his last major win in 2014.

Also at 66 was two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, who played one of the best rounds of the afternoon wave, carding seven birdies in his last 12 holes.

After a three-week hiatus for the birth of his son, Scottie Scheffler returned to the golf world and wasted no time eliciting his first roar by holing out for eagle on his first hole of the tournament.

What followed in the ensuing 17 holes was a round that featured Scheffler’s B-game, at best, and included two bogeys and four birdies on his way to a 67, 5 shots behind the leader in a large group that includes defending champion Brooks Koepka, who had an eagle and a birdie in his final three holes.

“I felt like there was a couple things I can clean up going into tomorrow, but overall today was a solid round,” Scheffler said after his 41st consecutive round at par or better.

Tiger Woods finished with back-to-back three-putt bogeys and is 10 strokes behind Schauffele.

The first round ended with 64 players breaking par to surpass the PGA Championship record of 60 set in 2006 at Medinah, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Schauffele, who started on No. 10, birdied five of his first nine holes and carded a 31 before turning over to the front nine and continuing his birdie march. Over the final eight holes, he made four birdies to open a 3-stroke lead — tied with Bobby Nichols (1964) and Raymond Floyd (1982) for the largest in this event after 18 holes.

He had a chance to set the major record with a birdie putt on No. 9, but his 33-footer missed to the right. By the time he putted for par, playing alongside Louisville native Justin Thomas, it was clear Schauffele had taken center stage.

“When you’re playing with one of the easiest 9 unders you’ve ever seen, it makes you feel like you’re shooting a million,” said Thomas, who shot a 2-under 69. “Xander, he’s such a complete player. … He’s playing really, really great golf right now. So you feel like he’s one of those guys, every time he tees it up right now, he’s going to be in contention.”

Second-Round Strife If Xander Schauffele is going to turn his early lead at the PGA Championship into his first major victory, he likely will need to avoid his previous issues in the second round — the only one he is over par in during his major career. Round Score 1st Round -40 2nd Round +24 3rd Round -14 4th Round -12 — ESPN Stats & Information

Schauffele, a San Diego native, is no stranger to first-round leads at major tournaments. He has the lowest career first-round scoring average in majors among the players in the field who have appeared in at least 25 majors. It has yet to result in wins, however.

Last year, Schauffele’s opening-round 62 at the U.S. Open, which was equaled by Rickie Fowler and tied the first-ever 62 by Branden Grace at the 2017 Open Championship, put him in the driver’s seat for the tournament. But over the next three days, Schauffele withered and finished tied for 10th following a final-round 72.

Schauffele and top-10 finishes go hand in hand. He has eight of them this season, but no victories. That trend extends to major championships. Of this year’s field, only Fowler (13) has more career top-10 finishes at a major without a win than Schauffele (12), who has finished inside the top 10 at three of the past five.

Asked whether he is playing the best golf of his career, Schauffele couldn’t help but oblige.

“I’d say it’s very close to it, if not it,” he said. “I feel there’s spurts, moments in time where you feel like you can control the ball really well, you’re seeing the greens really well, you’re chipping really well. But over a prolonged period, it’s tough to upkeep high performance.”

Last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, Schauffele had his best shot at securing his first PGA Tour win since the 2022 Scottish Open as he led McIlroy by a stroke heading into the final round. But a final round of even par against McIlroy’s 6 under left Schauffele with another second-place finish — the 14th of his career.

“I think not winning makes you want to win more, as weird as that is,” Schauffele said. “For me, at least, I react to it, and I want it more and more and more, and it makes me want to work harder and harder and harder.”

But few players are playing better golf than Schauffele is right now. He ranks inside the top 10 in strokes gained, and it’s only his putting (42nd this year) that has held him back.

Schauffele’s profile suits Valhalla well. The 7,600-yard course requires players to be exceptional with their long irons, and Schauffele tops the PGA Tour this year on approach shots over 200 yards.

On Thursday, Schauffele continued his stellar approach play, gaining 2.5 strokes on the field. On the 498-yard, par-4 No. 6, Schauffele had 246 yards to the hole and hit it on the green, where he calmly two-putted for par.

His most impressive effort, however, might have been the par-3 eighth. After airmailing the green, Schauffele hit a perfect, low pitch that trickled to within inches for a tap-in par.

Scheffler, a four-time winner this year, showed little rust in his return to play, but he missed a few short putts — two of which resulted in dropped shots — that brought back some memories of his putting struggles earlier this year. Still, Scheffler appears to be right where he wants to be. Given his form as of late, he has shown us that a round like Thursday’s is as poorly as he can play.

McIlroy had his ninth opening round of 66 or better in a major, the most ever by any player.

“I sort of felt like it was pretty scrappy for the most part. I don’t really feel like I left many out there,” McIlroy said after his round, which included hitting balls in the water on Nos. 9 and 18. “I thought I got a lot out of my game today. Some good up-and-downs. I had a little bit of a scrappy part around the turn there. … Not really happy with how I played, but at least happy with the score.”

With 54 holes to play and plenty of leaderboard shifting to come, especially at a dramatic course such as Valhalla, Schauffele knows as well as anyone that what he does Thursday won’t matter if he can’t keep it up through Sunday.

“It’s just Thursday,” Schauffele said with a smile. “That’s about it.”

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