‘The US Team Just Feels Like It's A Really Hard One To Qualify For' - Defending Gold Medallist Schauffele Shares The Steps He's Taken To Realise Second Olympic Dream

Xander Schauffele triumphed by one shot in Tokyo three years ago, and he is hoping to make it consecutive Olympic gold medals in Paris later this year...

Xander Schauffele with a wedge in hand at the 2024 Masters
(Image credit: Getty Images)

World No.4 and defending gold medallist Xander Schauffele really wants to go to Paris as a member of Team USA's male Olympic golf quartet later this summer but knows he will have to maintain his best form if that dream is to become a reality.

The 30-year-old stood on the top step at the Tokyo Games three years ago after beating Slovakia's Rory Sabbatini by one as Chine Taipei's C.T Pan triumphed in a seven-nation playoff for bronze over four holes.

Qualifying for the upcoming iteration has been underway for almost two full years now, and the cut-off date is shortly after the US Open at Pinehurst No.2 Course next month.

Team USA will take four male players to France for the men's Olympic golf tournament at Le Golf National between August 1-4. Currently, Schauffele is one of them. The other three as things stand are World No.1 Scottie Scheffler, World No.3 Wyndham Clark, and Schauffele's great friend and World No.8 Patrick Cantlay.

Meanwhile, there are several other huge names well capable of bringing a medal home with them - including Open Champion Brian Harman, Ryder Cupper Max Homa, and two-time Major winner Collin Morikawa. See also Sahith Theegala, Cameron Young, and Russell Henley.

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Given the make-up of men's pro golf, making the American Olympic team is thought to be the hardest task to carry out - not made any easier by the expanded squad size compared to many other nations.

Discussing his hopes for later in the summer prior to this week's PGA Tour Signature Event - the Wells Fargo Championship - Schauffele said: "Yeah, it's hard, you kind of have some plans in place.

"The US team, I'm sure there's other teams, but the US team just feels like it's a really hard one to qualify for even though they're taking four guys. Imagine if they were taking two like most countries, it would be pretty brutal.

"But yeah, just trying to position myself. I haven't really thought too far ahead. I've sort of planned if I were to qualify of sort of staying overseas, either popping in or hanging around versus coming back and doing the whole back and forth thing. Other than that, that's sort of the extent of my brain traveling that far."

One man who will almost certainly have to plan for Paris is Scheffler, who will miss the Wells Fargo Championship this week due to the impending birth of his first child.

Schauffele also discussed the positive effect that Scheffler has had on him in terms of driving him to find "any edge" over the pair's rivals. The World No.4 admitted he has added a few more miles per hour into his swing speed in recent months which, in turn, has added greater distance.

Asked how he gained the extra speed, Schauffele said: "I can't really pin it on one thing. I started working with a new trainer, he's definitely helped me feel a lot stronger, just my baseline strength is probably better. Then working with Chris as well, moving the club a little bit differently, that's been very helpful. I think a combination of the two.

"I don't know how to weigh the situation between them, what's more or less, but those two things have definitely helped me pick up some speed. It was [intentional], yeah, so it's nice to be able to accomplish that goal."

Scottie Scheffler walks behind Xander Schauffele in the golden hour sunlight at the 2024 Masters

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Then pushed on what it was that caused him to go searching for increased distance, Schauffele pointed to Scheffler.

Schauffele said: "If you just kind of look up, I mean, Scottie is an outlier in many ways currently. He's actually dropped speed, which is just mind blowing. No one hits their irons or gets up and down around the greens better than him. So his iron play's elite, so he can afford to sort of drop some distance off the tee.

"I mean, I think he's hitting more fairways. I haven't really done too deep of a dive, I just saw that his average ball speed was down. I played with him a couple years ago and he was sending it past me, so at that time I feel like I needed to pick up some pace. And now that he's dropped back, he's just doing Scottie things.

"But, in general, if you look at the sort of top 10, 15, 20 players in the world, there's sort of a threshold that you need to hit if you're not sort of a crazy-elite iron player or crazy 3 scrambler or things of that nature.

"So I figured any edge I can get on the field, if it's flying the ball 15 yards further and being able to take out a bunker on a hole that other guys can't, that will help me over the span of a season."

Jonny Leighfield
Staff Writer

Jonny Leighfield is our Staff News Writer who joined Golf Monthly just in time for the 2023 Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. He graduated from the University of Brighton with a degree in Sport Journalism in 2017 and spent almost five years as the sole sports reporter at his local newspaper. An improving golfer who still classes himself as ‘one of the worst players on the Golf Monthly team’, Jonny enjoys playing as much as he can and is hoping to reach his Handicap goal of 18 at some stage. He attended both the 150th and 151st Opens and is keen to make it an annual pilgrimage.