Schauffele: Rory McIlroy in ‘tough spot’ due to intense microscope

(Reuters) — As someone who has held the unofficial title of “best player yet to win a major,” Xander Schauffele can empathize with Rory McIlroy’s decision not to compete at this week’s Travelers Championship.

On the heels of missing a pair of short putts over the final three holes on Sunday to finish second by a stroke to Bryson DeChambeau at the U.S. Open, McIlroy left Pinehurst No. 2 without speaking to reporters and announced the following day that he will not play again until next month’s Scottish Open.


McIlroy’s decade-long major drought will endure at least until at The Open Championship in July. Meanwhile, Schauffele is still riding the high of his first major title triumph at last month’s PGA Championship. Until surviving DeChambeau by a stroke at Valhalla Golf Club, Schauffele had a reputation for struggling to close on final-round leads.

“As a competitor, all of us have had our highs and lows to a certain degree. It’s a tough spot,” Schauffele said when asked Tuesday how much empathy he has for McIlroy’s current situation. “I’m sure him and his team are discussing what happened and sometimes you just need to step away from it all and really try and be as objective as possible, because you’re very much in the moment there and it obviously didn’t go his way and he’s just, you know, he needs some time away to figure out what’s going on.”

McIlroy has been criticized for bolting Pinehurst and returning home without speaking with reporters after Sunday’s final round. He issued a statement on Monday congratulating DeChambeau and announcing that he will be taking a break from golf for a few weeks.

The Northern Irishman acknowledged that it was “probably the toughest” day of his professional career, but vowed to show resilience when he returns for the Scottish Open followed by The Open at Royal Troon.

“It’s different for everyone. It’s hard to for me to compare my losses to his losses,” Schauffele said. “I would say his, he’s under a bit more of a microscope. When things are going really well people are all over him, and unfortunately when things don’t go your way people are all over him.

“So, there’s a microscope on him on why he didn’t win and things of that nature and he’s going to have to answer those questions at some point and he will, because he always does. So, for me, I wear ‘em pretty hard, but sometimes it’s nice to just get back on the horse and compete.”

Schauffele is coming off a T7 at the U.S. Open — the seventh top-10 in the past eight individual starts for the world’s No. 3-ranked player entering the final signature event of the year.

Schauffele also secured one of the four spots on Team USA for the Paris Olympics, where he will defend his gold medal come August.

“It’s super special,” he said. “It’s always an honor to represent your country in any given tournament or event, so it was a really cool thing I was able to share with my family after winning the gold medal, and qualifying was my first goal this year. It’s a very hard team to qualify for, as you guys have seen on this U.S. side.

“That was a really big goal of mine to get back and really looking forward to competing again.”

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