ATLANTA – Technically, Xander Schauffele is a member of that groundbreaking high school class of 2011, but he never really felt like he was among the inner circle.
“I've always been on the outside looking in,” the PGA Tour rookie conceded. “You've got Justin [Thomas], you've got Jordan [Spieth], you've got Daniel Berger, you've got Emiliano Grillo. It's kind of weird being in their company.”
That might change after Sunday at the Tour Championship, where Schauffele won with a closing 68 to edge Thomas by a stroke. It was Schauffele’s second victory of the season and promises to propel the 23-year-old into the conversation with his fellow 2011 graduates.
Not that Schauffele was allowing himself to think in those terms even after his victory at East Lake, which secured a third-place finish on the season-ending points list and a three-year Tour exemption.
“I just feel very fortunate to even be here really starting off the week,” said Schauffele, who held off Thomas with a birdie at the 18th hole. “I was just happy to walk around the property, the Tour Championship, last 30 guys in the field. It was a very eerie vibe walking around and I just felt very lucky and here I am talking to you so I feel even luckier.”
Schauffele’s victory likely locked up the Rookie of the Year Award for the San Diego native. Patrick Cantlay – who advanced to East Lake in just 12 starts – had a chance to make the race close, but he needed to win the finale.