MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It was fitting that Xander Schauffele had dozed off by the time fellow American Nelly Korda claimed gold at the Olympics.
His week in Tokyo had taken a lot out of him.
Battling a post-Olympic hangover, Schauffele hasn’t played his best this week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, where he was in Saturday morning's third group. With a 7:45 a.m. tee time, he could only stay awake through Korda’s 13th hole before he headed to bed, but he was pleased to wake up and see another American atop the podium.
“It was just really cool,” Schauffele said following a third-round 70 that left him outside the top 60 in this limited-field event. “I’m sure she’s feeling great and there was extra pressure with her being No. 1 in the world, so for her to top it off with a gold medal is probably pretty sweet.”
Schauffele said he doesn’t know Nelly, but he has had a couple of interactions with her older sister Jessica, who like Schauffele is sponsored by Adidas. The gold medalist sent an encouraging text message to another U.S. team member, Danielle Kang, before the competition, and he tweeted his support to Korda on the eve of the final round:
As for Schauffele, it’s been an exhausting few days as he comes down from the high of winning Olympic gold, his first title anywhere in 2 ½ years. He was motivated to play well at the WGC, his final regular-season start of the season, and his body felt better than expected with his physiotherapist on-site. But for all of the recovery ice baths he’s drawn, he still has made some uncharacteristic mental mistakes and lacked focus at times. That’s understandable: Fans are giving him a standing ovation as he steps onto the tee of a par 3, and he smiles every time he spots the “Congrats Xander” message written in chalk on a trampoline near the 18th hole.
“There’s been a lot of support and positivity, so it feels good,” he said.
Following this week’s WGC, Schauffele will return home, put the clubs away for a few days and host a couple of dinners with members of his team who weren’t able to make the trip to Japan. Then, it’s back to work: The playoffs begin the following week.
This has been a rare week in the spotlight for one of the game’s understated stars. Staying in a house with Justin Thomas (one of his Olympic teammates) and Jordan Spieth, Schauffele had to be prodded to retrieve the medal out of his room so he could show his housemates upon their arrival.
“He’s so humble,” Spieth said. “Like, if it were me or Justin, we would just be wearing it at dinner, we wouldn’t take it off. It was super cool.”