It’s game on at the Tour Championship and Xander Schauffele put Scottie Scheffler on notice late Friday afternoon with a scoring flurry over the final three holes at East Lake.
Scheffler was going along quite well with three front-nine birdies and upped his lead to as many as eight shots at one point but the “X-man” proved it’s how you finish that counts.
With Scheffler struggling to find fairways and missing some golden birdie opportunities, Schauffele birdied 16 and 17 and made a huge move at the 18th. With Scheffler missing his drive way left and into the rough on the first fairway, Schauffele launched a perfect drive. Scheffler was forced to lay-up. Schauffele then hit a perfect five-iron that carried the front bunker, landed on the front of the green and came to rest just five feet from the hole.
Scheffler’s third put him 11 feet for birdie and, as was his issue, he missed another birdie opportunity. Of course Schauffele holed his for eagle and put a 63 on the board to Scheffler’s 66.
Heading for the final 36, here’s how they’re lined up (with the staggered start):
19-under: Scottie Scheffler (65-66)
17-under: Xander Schauffele (66-63)
13-under: Jon Rahm (67-63)
12-under: Patrick Cantlay (70-66); Sungjae Im (67-65)
11-under: Joaquin Niemann (64-67)
10-under: Rory McIlroy (67-67)
If it were, you know, a regular PGA Tour event, the actual scoreboard would look like this:
11-under: Xander Schauffele
10-under: Jon Rahm
9-under: Scottie Scheffler; Joaquin Niemann
8-under: Sungjae Im
Schauffele has the momentum heading into the final two rounds but acknowledged that he needs to keep playing well.
“It would be better to be two shots ahead. But yeah, it’s just kind of head down. There’s a lot of golf to be played on this property,” said Schauffele, who was eight shots behind Scheffler through three holes on Friday. “He’s doing all the right things. He’s playing very solid, not making any mistakes; when he is out of position, putting it in a good spot for his short game, making good putts. He’s going to be a tough guy to beat.”
Scheffler managed just one birdie on the back nine. He started missing fairways as he hit just three coming home. Still, he didn’t have a bogey on his card.
“I think it’s a position I’m comfortable in. I like being in positions where I’m able to win tournaments, and it’s something I’ve grown more comfortable with over time,” Scheffler said. “I played well with the lead at the Masters this year, and that was definitely a lot of pressure. This week is definitely a good amount of pressure, as well.”
Word Leaking Out On New LIV Defectors:
On Friday, word leaked out that Cameron Tringale will be heading for the LIV exhibition series. Probably a good decision for Tringale as he’s been unable to win on the PGA Tour. On the LIV, he can play against inexperienced youngsters and over-the-hill (yeah you Phil) veterans.
Other names continued to flow. Cam Smith is expected to head to the Saudi-money league along with fellow Aussie Marc Leishman.
Another name was Harold Varner III, who previously said he’d stay on the PGA Tour after conversations with Michael Jordan.
Another possible LIV guy is Adam Scott. Scott is 42 and his putting has kept him out of the winner’s circle.