Xander Schauffele continues strong Masters play in opening round
After a sizzling start, Xander Schauffele’s opening round in the 2020 Masters sputtered in the middle. On a day when conditions allowed low scoring at Augusta National, last year’s runner-up knew he could ill afford to fall too far behind.
His late charge to a 5-under-par 67 began in Amen Corner following a perfect drive on the 505-yard, par-4 11th that left him 184 yards to a hole location tucked behind the pond in the back left portion of the green. On a typical Masters day, that’s a dangerous flag to attack but greens softened by morning rain gave Schauffele the confidence to take dead aim and fire. His approach finished slightly left of the cup, six feet away and he drained the putt, the first of four birdies in his final eight holes.
“It's one of those things. The greens are really soft, so there isn't a whole lot to be scared of. I had a really good drive, pretty good stock 7 iron for me,” Schauffele said. “I tried to aim out just a little bit to the right and hit a little draw. So I was able to sort of capitalize on a good number and a good shot and kind of got the round back on track.
Not many majors have passed without Schauffele’s name on the leaderboard in recent years. He’s landed in the top six in the last four U.S. Opens, and was the runner-up at The 2018 Open Championship and, of course, last year’s Masters, finishing one shot behind Tiger Woods.
He wasted little time returning to a familiar place Thursday. Starting on No. 1, accurate irons and pitches led to birdies on the first three holes. He made a 9-footer at 1, a 3-footer at 2 and a 2-footer at 3.
“I got off to a nice start. It seems like a lot of people are getting off to a nice start with the greens being a little softer. Then kind of dealt with what everyone else dealt with, had a mud ball there (on No. 5),” he said.
On No. 7, his approach shot into the soft green nestled near the back fringe rather than rolling down to the flatter part in the middle.
“I three‑putted from a spot that I don't think I've ever practiced from because the ball will never stay where it did,” he said. “So I kind of fought the same battle everyone else did. Fortunately, I was able to adjust kind of quickly.”
Schauffele crushed a drive around the corner at 13, hit his 165-yard approach on the green and two-putted for birdie. He birdied 14 with three strong shots and closed the round by rolling in a downhill 36-footer left-to-right putt on 18.
It was a seven-birdie effort for Schauffele, who led the field with 25 birdies last year. If past performance is any indicator, expect the 27-year-old Southern Californian to remain there until this Masters has been completed.