FORT WORTH, Texas — Xander Schauffele entered this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge having played the tournament three times, spanning eight rounds, two missed cuts and only one score in the 60s.
He’ll tee it up in Sunday’s final round with a one-shot lead at 13-under par after having shot two 66s and a 65 this week at Colonial.
“Playing it more makes me more comfortable, obviously, so that helps,’’ Shauffele said Saturday. “But I think in years prior it was much windier and I didn’t play the greens as great. It’s just a comfort factor. My caddie has gotten better, as well, in terms of picking lines and doing his job. So, I think collectively we’ve done a better job preparing for this week.’’
Schauffele, who has four career PGA Tour victories, will have to stave off some big names on Sunday if he’s going to win a fifth.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa and Branden Grace are all one shot back at 12-under.
Harold Varner III and Daniel Berger are two shots back at 11-under.
And No. 1 ranked Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Rose, Abraham Ancer and Corey Connors are just three back at 10-under.
That’s a lot of firepower nipping at Schauffele’s heels.
Asked if, with the stout field, this feels like a major championship, Schauffele said, “I think the fans sort of make majors, as well, so not having any out here is a bit tricky. But you look at the names on the leaderboard, it’s sort of what I expected, just everyone coming out of quarantine wanted to play, and I think the next three weeks that will really show.’’
He said Sunday, with no fans, might feel like an amateur event.
“I think it’ll feel almost like amateur golf or junior golf where we all want to win,’’ Schauffele said. “We all want to compete, and we’re all super competitive. When we were younger and playing in college or over the summer an amateur schedule, it was quiet. There weren’t any fans out, and we all were kind of going head-to-head, and everyone wanted it just as much as the next guy in line.
“I sort of feel like it might kind of feel like that [Sunday] where coming down the stretch if you’re in the hunt, it’ll be really quiet and everyone is going to be minding their own business.’’