Spotlight on: elite field specialist Xander Schauffele in this week’s Hero World Challenge

The American has landed two top 10s at Albany in the Bahamas and is hungry for the win.

This summer's Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele has a good record in elite field events.

And he knows it.

In the past, he's said: "I think if I'm playing well, and I get into these no-cut events, there's a chance that subconsciously I'm sort of freewheeling it. I'll take more risk and not really feel any pressure to pull it off because I know there's no penalty in the end."

Freewheeling has allowed him to win the Tour Championship in his rookie year on the PGA Tour, claim the WGC HSBC Champions in his second year, the Tournament of Champions in his third, and that glittering gold in Tokyo this August.

Ahead of this week's Hero World Challenge - with just 20 of the world's finest players in the field - Schauffele's answer to questions about the future of golf reiterated how his mind works, and perhaps further explains how he is able (and ready) to peak when up against the elite.

"My big thing, and I think it's sort of a principle in this matter," he said. "Is that I need to play against the best players in the world.

"For me, I need to play against the best in order to be the best and wherever that is is where I will go. Right now the PGA Tour has the best players in the world, so I'm playing on the PGA Tour, it's pretty simple."

He will be making his third start in Tiger Woods' event at Albany in the Bahamas and has so far landed a pair of top 10s.

Can he complete the year with a victory? Let's take a closer look.

Schauffele on playing with the best

"I'd say I'm amongst the top players in the world. I feel comfortable saying that based on ranking or feeling or just being out here with the guys in like an office environment. Yeah, I'm pretty comfortable. This is my fifth or sixth year on Tour so I've become more and more comfortable out here. But I still haven't accomplished a lot of things I want to do."

Schauffele on his secret Strokes Gained category

"My big takeaway since I've been on Tour is that you always look at the top players and sort of see what they do really well or what they don't do really well. There are certain things you can or can't control. And I feel like having a really good attitude is one of those things you can control.

"Everyone is competitive, everyone's fiery, you're going to swear or say stupid things, but overall having a generally good attitude about how you carry yourself and how you handle yourself on the golf course is a good way to go about things. So I try my best to make that one of my strengths.

"I always joke about Strokes Gained Attitude with Webb Simpson. I'd be happy if a kid said 'I'd love to have the attitude Xander has.'

"It's about never really letting a moment be too big. And realizing that, I'm very competitive, but sometimes it is just golf and sometimes you don't have your best stuff. Sometimes having a really good attitude can eked you through. Instead of finishing 20th, you may finish fifth just because you looked at it in a better light."

Schauffele in elite events

It's not just in no-cut tournaments that Schauffele shines - he has also always enjoyed golf at the highest level.

He has nine top 10 finishes (six of them top five) in just 18 Majors Championship appearances.

He also finished tied second in his PLAYERS Championship debut, and has nine top 20s from 15 WGC starts.

Schauffele at Albany

In both his visits (2018 and 2019) he got off to slow starts, with rounds of 73 that left him T16th and T13th respectively).

But thereafter he found his feet.

Rounds of 68-66-70 earned him eighth in the first visit and two 70s and a 68 pushed him up to 10th two years ago.

Schauffele at similar venues

Course designer Ernie Els has offered up five par-5s and two short par-4s, giving aggressive players from the tee a fine chance of making headway.

In that respect, Albany resembles both TPC Scottsdale and Plantation in Hawaii.

The former is a desert course, but has plenty of holes which beg to be attacked.

The latter is by the sea, like Albany, had again has a collection of holes which reap birdies and eagles is approached with bold tactics.

Schauffele is 4-for-4 at making the top 20 at Scottsdale, has three times been in the top five with 18 holes to play and was second there this year.

He only finished 22nd on debut at Plantation, but since then has logged first, second and tied fifth.

Schauffele in the first round

He played with Justin Rose on Thursday and might be viewed as an excellent price.

Since the start of 2019 Schauffele wins the tournament head to head by 20-12.

But that dominance is revealed by better weekend scoring.

In the first round Schauffele leads on 16-15, in the second he trails 18-15, but in the final two laps he thrashed the Englishman 28-15.

Rose also has an excellent Albany record with three top five finishes on the bounce.

Conclusion

It's probably best to swerve any first round punt given those two 73s with which he has started.

His outright price looks good and he will tempt plenty as a top five selection.

READ MORE: Punter's pointers: Strong field assembles in the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge

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