AUGUSTA, Ga. — Xander Schauffele, perhaps the best golfer on the planet without a major championship victory, stood on the tee box at the par-3 16th in Sunday’s final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
Schauffele had just made four consecutive birdies to cut Hideki Matsuyama‘s lead to 2 shots with three holes to play, putting serious pressure on the player who was trying to become the first man from Japan to win a major championship.
Schauffele, 27, pulled back his 8-iron and sent his ball soaring over water and toward the small green protected by three bunkers. His ball landed just short of the green, bounced backward, just below the front bunker, and dropped into the pond.
By the time Schauffele was finished with the hole, he had recorded his first triple bogey in a major championship — after going 1,041 holes without one — and knocked himself out of contention.
He finished in a tie with Jordan Spieth for third place, 3 shots behind Matsuyama.
“I hit a good shot,” Schauffele said. “I committed to it. It turned out bad. I’ll be able to sleep tonight. There might be some tossing and turning, but I’ll be OK.”
Schauffele said he told his caddie, Austin Kaiser, that he hit the tee shot on the 16th hole just like he wanted. It’s just that Augusta National’s unpredictable winds knocked his ball down.
“I hit a perfect iron,” Schauffele said. “It was 184 yards. I can hit my 8-iron 180 yards out here. I turned it right to left; the wind was into left to right. It got smoked and eaten up. You could kind of see it. The ball hovered there.”
Schauffele said he might have been more conservative if he wasn’t trying to catch Matsuyama.
“I was chasing,” he said. “I was still 2 back. Hideki is a great left-to-right iron player. I figured, if I hit it close, he was going to hit it right on top. I was in full chase mode, so I have no regrets from that aspect.”
Schauffele was fortunate to get back into contention late in the round. After posting a birdie on the par-5 second hole, he had back-to-back bogeys, followed by an ugly double bogey on the par-4 fifth.
“I fought hard,” he said. “It was a messy start. Hideki was robot-like for 13 holes and didn’t make a mistake. I thought I gave him a little bit of a run and a little bit of excitement to the tournament at the end. Unfortunately, I hit it in the drink there.”
It was the eighth time that Schauffele has finished in the top 10 in 15 career starts in majors. He finished tied for second behind Tiger Woods at the 2019 Masters.
Once again, he is left searching for his first major championship.
“I finished second a lot,” he said. “I didn’t even finish second this time. I’ve had worse second-place finishes. Not that I’m getting used to it, but this is all credit to moving along, forward. I think, once I do win again, it will be a nice moment for me and my team, and I’ll be comfortable at that time.”