Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay: the dream team ready to zap Zurich rivals

The world rankings suggest the American duo are the pair to beat as the PGA TOUR changes format at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are one of the most eye-catching pairings on show this week as golf takes a break from the norm at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Instead of regular strokeplay, the PGA TOUR serves up two rounds of fourballs (days one and three) and two rounds of foursomes (days two and four).

The field comprises 80 two-man teams and the low 35 pairings (and ties) make it through to the weekend.

A scan of the betting shows Cantlay and Schauffele as the joint 7/1 favourites alongside defending champions Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer.

And that's understandable. Add up up the combined world rankings of all the teams on show and Schauffele (5th) and Cantlay are by far the lowest.

However, world rankings only count for so much in an event like this. Chemistry is a huge factor, and its hard-to-compute dynamics are obviously a big reason why Europe has dominated the USA in so many recent Ryder Cups despite, on paper, having the weaker line-up.

Cantlay and Schauffele have yet to play Ryder Cup but they were both on the US Presidents Cup team which defeated the Internationals in a 16-14 thriller in Melbourne in December 2019.

What's more, the two rookies from California played four matches together after being paired up by skipper Tiger Woods.

They won two and lost two before both won their singles matches.

While their records were identical on that occasion, that wasn't the case in the Masters at Augusta National a couple of weeks ago.

Schauffele made a late run at winner Hideki Matsuyama before finishing third while Cantlay flopped badly, shooting 79-73 and missing the cut. Cantlay also failed to make the weekend at last week's Heritage after a pair of 71s.

But he has done better in this event, finishing tied eighth alongside Patrick Reed in 2018 and tied 14th with the same partner in 2017.

Schauffele's only appearance was in 2017 when he took tied 11th with Tag Ridings. While Cantlay is 10th in the world rankings, Ridings was outside the top 500 at the time.

So can the Schauffele/Cantlay partnership prove the dream ticket?

The duo talked about their relationship on the eve of the tournament.

On pairing up

Xander Schauffele: "Pat and I are good friends, we play almost every week at least once and we figured it was a bit of a no-brainer."

Patrick Cantlay: "Yeah, it should be great. Like Xander said, we struck up a pretty good friendship at Presidents Cup and played well too. So we figure we would play this week and it's the only team event other than those big team events at the end of the year, so it should be really fun and we're really looking forward to competing."

On the shape of their games coming in

Xander Schauffele: "Good. I think it's a different test out here. The grass is a bit different than what I'm used to at least on the West Coast or in Las Vegas. And it's a little bit wet, got some mud balls and definitely got some interesting lies. So my game feels good, just trying to adjust to the facility and looking forward to the week."

Patrick Cantlay: "Yeah, it's a golf course that I like and it's a format I like. I think it's fun that we don't get to play this format all the time, so it should be a nice change of pace and it will be great teaming with Xander. I always have a good time when we play together, if we're playing against each other in a friendly match or on the same side and so it will be nice to have him on my team this week.

(Missed cut at Masters) "I did not hit the ball well the first day. Which rarely is a thing for me. But it was that day and just couldn't overcome it the next day. So the golf course was playing more difficult this year and so those mistakes were highlighted a little more and some days you just don't have it and those two days I did not."

On the similarities/differences in their games and personalities

Patrick Cantlay: "I think we have a similar demeanor, I think we're pretty even keel and we don't get caught up in too much, whether it be good or bad. And you all seem to write articles saying that we're under the radar or unsung or whatever, you guys have better adjectives for that. But I think we get along really well because we think about life and golf very similarly. We each have a little different strengths in our golf game, but all in all I think we're both all around pretty solid tee to green and on the green. So nothing too flashy about what we do."

On who is funnier

Xander Schauffele: "Both rather dry, I would say. I'm definitely more sarcastic than Pat is. Pat is much more linear than I am."

Patrick Cantlay: "We have fun though."

On college days

Xander Schauffele: "We met a long time ago in college. We actually played in a twosome at CordeValle when Pat was the top-ranked player, I was a freshman at Long Beach and my coach at the time at Long Beach wanted me to play with the top player in the world to kind of compare and Pat shot a swift little 65 there and I think I shot 78. So I've come a long way here. Pat and I joke about that now, it's been a -- we have known each other for quite some time, obviously we have become friends in the last couple years on tour, but I've known of Pat and things like that but we never really met or were too close back then."

On who asked who to be partners for this event

Patrick Cantlay: "I've been grinding on Xander for a while now, since Hawaii. So I'm glad it came to fruition. Couldn't ask for a better partner. So I'm excited that he agreed to do it."

On the importance of chemistry

Xander Schauffele: "Pat and I play every week so we usually are competing against each other week-to-week, especially in our little nine-hole matches, so we know our games inside out, I think that will give us an advantage. Sort of, Pat knows my strengths and I know his, along with our weaknesses, so we'll try and communicate. Our caddies are close, we'll have a very open conversation in practice rounds as well as tournament rounds to make sure we're doing the right thing."

On what is more important this week - matching personalities or complimentary games

Patrick Cantlay: "I don't know if games really match up for this type of format. I think you definitely want to get along with who your partner is and then you want to grab the best player you can possibly grab. So I feel like I got the best of both worlds this week, we get along really well and we would play together anyway. So I think getting along is key to getting, feeling comfortable and not putting like more pressure on yourself because I think sometimes you can get into the team format and feel like you may be letting the other guy down, but in this case I'm not going to think about that once. It's just not going to be a factor, I'm just going to try and go out and do my best and I know he's doing the same, so there's really nothing along those lines to talk about, which I think is key in this type of format."

On whether the upcoming Ryder Cup contributed to them playing this week

Xander Schauffele: "I mean, for me, Pat was leaning on me hard since January, so he had a lot of -- his whole team -- we're all close, so it was funny, I get a text from Jamie, his coach and Preston and it was -- I was kind of messing with Pat, too. I had a little inside game with Jamie to lead Pat on for a few months here, even though I was kind of committing to playing anyways, but, yeah, I think like, look, like we said earlier, Presidents Cup was really fun, we played all four matches together.

"I think we definitely feel like we could have been more successful, but we definitely meshed and clicked really well and our games matched up and our mentalities aligned and I think (US Ryder Cup captain Steve) Stricker, he knows that I would love to play with Pat and vice versa. So like I said, it's a fun week that we don't get to do very often. Yes, it's a Ryder Cup year, but I think it's more so Pat and I are buddies and we're definitely trying to win this golf tournament."

READ MORE: Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson: A great Ryder Cup pairing, but can they win this week's Zurich Classic?

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