LAHAINA, HI – JANUARY 06: Xander Schauffele of the United States hits a tee shot on the 13th green during the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on January 6, 2019 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
By Mike Johnson
Xander Schauffele is in his third year on the PGA Tour and already has ascended to No. 6 on the World Ranking after his win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. In an interview with Golf Digest’s equipment editor E. Michael Johnson, Schauffele talks about his equipment, including why the look of a driver is vitally important to him, how eliminating glare from his irons helps him and why that “topped” tee shot Sunday at the Sentry was actually the shot he was trying to hit.
What’s your process for testing drivers?
I guess it seems pretty basic. My dad, who I rely on a lot, and I look at hitting a variety of shots from a trajectory perspective. High and low; curve and less curve both ways.Does the club roll when I try to hit a cut or draw because the bottom needs to be able to roll a little bit There’s also the sound and how it feels it in my hands when I do try to move the ball. With the driver I tend to know pretty quick. I’ve been in the same shaft [Schauffele uses a Graphite Design BB 7X shaft in his driver] for a while. I’m just able to load it and control it the way I want to and that makes seeing differences easier since I’m not wondering if it’s the club or the shaft. That helps the fitting process a ton.
We’ve talked in the past about how important the look of a driver at the address position is to you. What about the Epic Flash appealed to your eye?
It’s still very important. Square one. The first thing you do before you take a swing with a driver is put it down and see how it looks to your eye. If you don’t like how it looks, it’s going to be difficult to hit a good shot. Most companies keep the graphics up top pretty simple and not too aggressive. But something as simple as whether the decal is lined up properly or the the lines on the face are parallel. The topline is very important. I like something that is a little more open looking or at least neutral to open.
The Epic Flash metalwoods have a pretty complex tech story regarding the face and the use of artificial intelligence. How much of that do you want to know about or do you focus more strictly on what it can do for you?
What the club does for me. I know what Callaway is doing and the technology they’ve put into this club with the Flash face is very interesting to me, but at the end of the day I don’t think of that stuff. I’m trying to play and hit shots. The boys at Callaway came up to me and said, “This is going to be a club you’re really going to like” and after three swings I was ready to believe them and after 15 I was ready to put the club in my bag. When I find something I like, it doesn’t take long for me to figure that out.
A lot of tour pros tell me fairway woods are the most difficult club to get comfortable with. But given the shot you hit on the 72nd hole it looks like you’re plenty comfortable with Rogue Sub Zero. Is a fairway wood more difficult to get right than others because it is part fairway wood and part second club off the tee?
My dad taught me how to get into clubs and what to look for in clubs and he always stressed to me that a 3-wood, 4-wood or 5-wood was the toughest club to dial in and if you find a good one to keep it. You have to think about the shaft profile and such. The clubhead is so small and simple, that they’re so hard to make flat. So if you have to hit a fairway wood off a tee and it’s upright, that’s great. But if you’re hitting that club off the ground it’s a different story and you might start hitting it off the heel a little bit. I’ve been lucky with Callaway that they’ve been able to help me flatten it out and get the right lie angle to where I can get a good strike off the tee or off the ground.
Moving to the irons, when you were a teenager you played blades and you learned there was no reason to make the game harder. What you’re in now with the Apex Pro 19 is more of a modern players iron. What about those irons resonate with you?
For starters they’re not plated. They rust pretty easily and while it might not seem like a big thing, having glare come off my irons is not something I enjoy and these prevent that from happening. They’re easier to line up because of that, too. They also have a sleek topline with a cavity-back that gives you just enough forgiveness with a blade-like feel. And you can still hit all the shots with them. For me the trickiest thing is figuring out the spin and loft. Not all of them are the same so they take a little bit longer for me to figure out. I got into these irons pretty quick for me.
What is it about a mallet putter as opposed to a blade that you like? Is it stroke-related, alignment-related or a little of both?
A conventional blade has more toe hang so that’s for people who want to rotate the face more. I’m not that person. I don’t have a strong arc to my stroke so the mallet works better for me. Also everyone eyes a putt in a unique way and everyone lines up differently. I seem to line up better when I have a lot of lines and I’m OK with a kind of weird shape with fangs and lines all over the place. It;’s all eye calibration and what you see with that putter. I picked it up last year at Colonial C.C. I wasn’t putting very well, looked down at it and thought it looked pretty good and I’ve stuck with it every since.
OK, have to ask about that squirrely tee shot on Sunday on the 13th hole. Is that something that you just laugh off or is it more like, “Whoa? Where did that come from?”
You know, I read a few things about how I topped that shot and I didn’t. That shot I hit was a bumped driver. You can tell from my swing speed that I was hitting it about 40 percent. I had been doing it all week, I just hadn’t been on TV when doing it and I knew I was going to take some crap about the ball speed because I just kind of chipped it out there. It’s a shot I hit when it’s super windy. I didn’t have a 3-iron in the bag so it was either a 4-iron or a 5-wood and I didn’t want to hit a 3- or 5-wood up in the wind and the 4-iron wouldn’t get out there far enough, so I decided to try and chip my driver. On No. 4 at Kapalua I was hitting the same shot and driving it low and watching it run. It’s a new addition to my arsenal.
-8 thru his last 10 holes.
2 eagles on his round.
1 shot behind the leader.
Just when everything is going your way …
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 7, 2019