MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Xander Schauffele swaggered onto the interview dais here at TPC Southwind, but with his PGA Tour credential lanyard draped around his neck.
Didn’t he, uh, want to flex a little?
“Good call,” he said, digging into his pocket.
Out came his Olympic gold medal.
About 48 hours after he climbed to the top of the podium at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Schauffele arrived on-site for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. For one of the game’s most understated superstars, this was an unusual reception. Volunteers and tournament staff congratulated him. He participated in a media car wash for upcoming promos. Then there was a phone interview, a TV interview, a virtual news conference.
Schauffele’s father, Stefan, was going to bring the medal back home with him to San Diego, but Schauffele told him that he wanted it here with him this week in Memphis.
It's easy to see why.
“It's sort of my moment in the sun with it,” he said Tuesday.
After all, there was much to celebrate, not just an important victory professionally for Schauffele, who won for the first time while holding a 54-hole lead, but a deeply personal triumph for him and his family. Schauffele’s mother grew up in Tokyo, and his grandparents still live there; his father was an Olympic hopeful in the decathlon before sustaining injuries in a car accident.
“I probably won’t have [the gold medal] for some time because I know my dad really wants to have it,” Schauffele said. “As much as I win for myself, it’s rare for me to sort of share and me wanting to win it for him, you know what I mean? Most of us golfers, we’re relatively selfish and do things for ourselves, but to me it’s sort of more than that and that’s why I think it’s so unique and special for my family. I’ll let him parade around San Diego with it.”
Following his media duties in Tokyo on Sunday night, Schauffele enjoyed a few beers during the shuttle ride back to the hotel. There he met up with his grandparents, who broke through the bubble to visit with the newest medalist. They stayed in the room next door, and it was the first time he’d seen them, he said, in three or four years.
“It’s pretty hard to impress someone who’s almost 90 years old and has been on this planet for a long time,” Schauffele said. “They’ve seen a lot of things, and to see my grandpa and my grandma’s reaction when I pulled out this gold medal, it really was surprising, it shocked me. It was just so cool because they’ve never seen it before, and it was so new and so fresh.
“That’s the kind of reaction and something that I would want everyone, kids or my kids’ kids down the generational line to sort of have. It’s a really cool piece to have in the family.”
After having breakfast with his grandparents, Schauffele boarded the Tour charter flight from Tokyo to Memphis, arriving in this week’s host city at about 10 a.m. local time. He relaxed the rest of the day, even taking in a bit of Olympic pingpong on TV with housemate Justin Thomas.
“I caught myself watching with my jaw on the floor for an hour, because I love playing pingpong,” he said. “I was like, Holy smokes, this is what it’s like? I don’t know if I could score a point on someone.”
Oh well – he’s plenty good at his chosen sport.
The challenge now will be balancing the desire to relish in his achievement while also trying to cap off this season in a memorable way. This week’s WGC starts a run over the next two months that includes three playoff events (with a $15 million prize waiting for the winner) and a Ryder Cup debut.
“I think playing really well and having a gold medal is just feeding my energy,” he said. “You want to win each and every week, and now that I finally got this taste of winning and being able to win from up front, that’s why I think all of us compete. That’s the rush we really chase, and it does feel good. It’s really rewarding to pull this off and I’m ready to get back to work.”