NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Xander Schauffele is trying to make it to Atlanta and Paris at the last possible moment.
The reigning Rookie of the Year and would-be defending champ at East Lake opened with a 7-under 63 Thursday at the BMW Championship, leaving him one off the pace set by co-leaders Tiger Woods and Rory McIlory.
Schauffele entered this week 41st in FedExCup points, with the top 30 advancing in two weeks to the Tour Championship. Following the PGA Championship, he missed out on automatic qualifying for the U.S. Ryder Cup team when he finished 12th on that points list. And he admitted Thursday that the pressure of trying to qualify for the team has hampered his play following his runner-up finish at The Open.
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Tony Finau is the consensus front-runner to nab the 12th and final spot on the team, but captain Jim Furyk was clear Tuesday night that a few guys remain in the mix.
“I feel like I need a win,” Schauffele said Thursday. “Might not be enough. Tony is an ATM or top-10 machine, you know. He's been killing it and playing great golf. I feel like if I were Jim right now, I would pick him, to be completely honest. I could win and he could finish in second or third and, you know, I'd be happy with my win and wouldn't be disappointed with the year.”
As for trying to make it back to East Lake, since the beginning of the FedExCup Playoffs in 2007, only three of 10 Tour Championship winners have been available to defend their titles the following year – Phil Mickelson (2009), Brandt Snedeker (2012), and Jordan Spieth (2015).
“Yeah, it's hard,” Schauffele said. “You know, I think the stats are out whoever won the Tour Championship never made it back the next year. There's a reason for that. It's hard. It's just tricky.”