Olympic title secured but can Xander Schauffele win a Major in 2022?

After striking gold in Japan, the American will now have his eyes set on landing a first Major title next year.

When Justin Rose won the Olympic men's golf tournament in Rio in 2016, his animated celebrations were almost out of character.

Boy did he want that gold medal.

By contrast, Xander Schauffele was far more muted when he holed the winning par putt to secure victory in Japan on Sunday morning.

Of course, not everyone celebrates the same but Schauffele's comments afterwards were revealing.

"What is the meaning or the value of the gold medal for you?" he was asked in his press conference later.

"What does it mean to win a gold medal?" Schaffele responded, giving himself a little thinking time.

"It means you're the champion. It means you beat everybody. I think we play golf, for me specifically I don't play golf for money or medals, in all honesty, I just play to be competitive and I want to beat everyone.

"So for this week I'm lucky enough to be sitting here with these boys, but I'm also lucky enough to be the No. 1 player to beat everyone. So that's what it means to me."

Pressed further, he suggested that relief at just getting another win was one of the overriding emotions.

"I haven't won anything in quite some time, that bothered me and my team, they know more than anyone else I've been knocking on the door a lot," said the 27-year-old American.

"And so you kind of get that taste of winning and then it kind of gets swiped from you and you're a little bit sour, even if you're playing really good golf.

"So for me this was a really big point for me in my career I guess to sort of have a lead and be able to sort of cap it off. I haven't done that before, it's a first for me and it was hard. Every time I watch someone do it on TV it looks hard and today was hard and I'm happy to be able to pull it off."

Another big element to the victory was being able to win the gold medal for his father, who had had his own Olympic dreams - Schauffele senior was a decathlete - ruined by a car accident.

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Given his Japanese family connections, winning gold in these Games provided another welcome angle but now it's time for Schauffele to do something for himself.

Rose was already a Major champion (2013 US Open) when winning in Rio so for him it was more the icing on the cake: a prestigious bonus to an already glittering career.

For Schauffele this feels different: a neat story, an excellent win for the CV but ultimately a stepping stone to one of golf's ultimate prizes - a Major.

So, with gold in the bag, can Schauffele win one in 2022? Planet Sport looks at his chances.

The Masters - Augusta National

Record at The Masters

2018: T50 (71-78-72-75 = +8)

2019: T2 (73-65-70-68 = -12)

2020: T17 (67-73-71-70 = -7)

2021: T3 (72-69-68-72) = -7)

With a tied second in 2019 and a tied third this year when he was the only player to exert any back-nine pressure on winner Hideki Matsuyama, Schauffele must have a big chance of landing a green jacket sooner rather than later.

That was his own take in 2019 when walking off the course: "I'm not one bit sad. I told my caddie on the last hole that we just proved to ourselves that we can win on this property."

Schauffele is 26-under for his last three Masters and has shot par or better in 10 of his last 11 rounds. That run includes scores of 65, 67 and 68 twice.

PGA Championship - Southern Hills

Record at the PGA Championship

2017: MC (Quail Hollow, North Carolina)

2018: T35 (Bellerive, Missouri)

2019: T16 (Bethpage State Park, New York)

2020: T10 (Harding Park, California)

2021: MC (Kiawah Island, South Carolina)

To date, this has been Schauffele's worst Major: it's the only one in which he's failed to post a top five.

In fact, the missed cuts on debut in 2017 and again in 2021 are the only times in 18 Major starts that he's not made the weekend.

At Bellerive, he was tied 15th after 54 holes before dropping to T35 while Schauffele was T8 with 18 to play at Bethpage before a closing 76 dropped him to T16.

However, on home Californian turf at Harding Park in 2020 he signed off with 67 to sneak into the top 10.

Schauffele admitted he just didn't take to Kiawah Island earlier this year so he'll hope that Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa will be a better fit.

There were four Major champions - winner Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman and Geoff Ogilvy - in the top six the last time the Tulsa course hosted a Major (the 2007 PGA Championship) so it's a good venue for classy types.

That must bode well for Schauffele.

US Open - Brookline Country Club

Record at the US Open

2017: T5 (Erin Hills, Wisconsin)

2018: T6 (Shinnecock, New York)

2019: T3 (Pebble Beach, California)

2020: 5 (Winged Foot, New York)

2021: T7 (Torrey Pines, California)

Schauffele hasn't won one but his record in the US Open is phenomenal: he's played in five and is yet to finish outside the top seven.

Twice (2017 and 2019) he's started out with a 66 and, remarkably, he's gained over 60 strokes against the field across his five US Opens.

So will it be sixth time lucky?

The 2022 event takes place at The Country Club at Brookline in Massachusetts and Schauffele will be one of the favourites to win.

As with Southern Hills, he hasn't contested an event there previously but clearly his all-round game has worked well on a variety of US Open tracks.

Open Championship - St Andrews

Record at the Open Championship

2017: T20 (Royal Birkdale, England)

2018: T2 (Carnoustie, Scotland)

2019: T41 (Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland)

2020: No tournament

2021: T26 (Royal St George's, England)

After an encouraging top 20 on debut at Royal Birkdale where he closed with a 65, Schauffele really announced himself as a future Open champion at Carnoustie in 2018.

Middle rounds of 66-67 took him into a three-way tie for the lead with 18 to play and he was in the hunt most of the final day before bogeying 17 and finishing two back of winner Francesco Molinari.

He said later: "I think I just enjoy playing links golf overseas just because versus parkland golf, you have a lot of options off the tee, and you can play shots off the greens in so many different ways."

He didn't get in a blow at Royal St. George's but a return to Scotland could do the trick.

While there are some obvious differences, St Andrews shares several common traits with the Plantation Course at Kapalua: some wide-open driving holes, big greens, drivable par 4s and testing winds.

Tiger Woods and Zach Johnson have won at both courses while fellow Open winners David Duval and Jordan Spieth have also triumphed at Kapalua.

Schauffele won at Kapalua in 2019; he should relish the test at St Andrews in 2022.

Conclusion

Schauffele's stats in the Majors are outstanding: he's made 16 of 18 cuts, posted six top fives, nine top 10s and 12 top 25s.

But it's the win he wants now to make the next jump in his career.

We know Augusta National will always offer him a great chance but there's nothing to suggest he won't enjoy Southern Hills (PGA) and Brookline (US Open) too.

But I have a sneaking feeling for St Andrews.

Schauffele had a little spat with the R&A during the 2019 Open over a non-confirming driver. His failed and he used a replacement but the Californian was unhappy that he was one of only 30 players tested and that the matter wasn't kept secret.

"The R&A, they p*ssed me off because they attempted to ruin my image by not keeping this matter private. This is me coming out and treating them the exact way they treated me," he said at the time.

Extra motivation for when The Open returns to the Royal & Ancient's HQ next year?

READ MORE: Fuelled by pride and heritage, Xander Schauffele rediscovers winning touch at the Olympics

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