Xander Schauffele ups the aspirational ante, completing his Couch to US Open Challenge

It’s going to be a huge week for the San Diego native who will play his national championship watched by family and friends.

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Xander Schauffele to win the US Open 16/1

Couch to 5k is quite a common endeavour among normal folk.

The Schauffele family, however, are not really normal folk, not in the sporting sense at least.

One of Xander Schauffele's grandfathers, for example, represented Austria at football, and was a winner of national titles in both his home nation and also in France.

Another grandfather raised the bar: he played football for VfB Stuttgart and then successfully turned his hand to track and field.

Perhaps, then, it's not so surprising that when Torrey Pines was announced as the host of this year's US Open, and San Diego-native Schauffele was still a callow youngster with notions of playing golf for a living, he set himself an ambition that maybe didn't extend much more than five kilometres from where he sat, but did involve more than huffing and puffing his way there in a power-waddle.

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"It's really cool," he said of his home town hosting the national championship this week. "To sum it up, I was walking down the first fairway today with my dad and we were joking about how seven years ago, when they announced this site, we were sitting on the couch, and we were like, 'Hey, we need to do whatever we can to get into this tournament.'

"And here we are trying to win the thing. Maybe I didn't set lofty enough goals seven years ago, but they're definitely lofty enough now.

"I dreamed my career would look like this. To actually do it is something else."

Schauffele might insist that his targets were far from grand, but there speaks an elite level athlete, one who has never considered staggering five kilometres in the time it takes Rory Sabbatini to complete 18 holes.


On the other hand, he knew the risks of joining the pro ranks. Many make the move, few succeed, only a miniscule percentage of them actually make it into the world's top 10.

"The transition is tricky and difficult for some, it's definitely a change," he said. "It's pretty cool to sit here and be doing it."

In many ways his entry into the professional game has been more or less exemplary: he needed just one year on the second tier, claimed victory as a PGA Tour rookie, backed that up with success in the year-ending Tour Championship, finished second in his debut at THE PLAYERS Championship, is both a World Golf Championship and Tournament of Champions winner - and then there is his Major Championship record which just is sensational.

He's started 16 of the sport's most-valued tournaments and landed eight top 10s, four of them top three finishes, including April's Masters.

In the US Open itself his record leaps from the impressive to the exceptional: four appearances and never finished outside the top six.

Local knowledge?

A peculiarity of this week is that, prior to January, Schauffele's course experience had counted for nothing at Torrey Pines. He'd missed four cuts in his five starts and finished only T25th in the exception.

Recording tied second five months ago, however, offers hope, as does the time spent at home recently, venturing back and forth to the course.

"I played there a lot last week," he said Tuesday. "Obviously it's changing each and every night. Much firmer and faster greens today. Rough is getting longer each and every day, as well.

"With the heat wave coming through, I'm assuming the greens will get really firm."

Secret weapon

The 27-year-old is also excited by his not-very-secret weapon: the armlock putter he recently turned to.

He admitted at Muirfield Village, where it was unveiled, that he believed they should be banned, but he is also of the opinion that it will be of specific assistance on the notoriously bumpy Torrey Pines putting surfaces.

"Still fresh in my bag," he said. "I just felt like it's such a big advantage that I could utilize, especially on poa annua.

"They're tricky greens to putt on. The longer the day goes on, the bumpier they get with people walking on them.

"Launch conditions are very important out here and I feel like my launch is even more consistent with this armlock-style putter.

"I'd be lying if I said I'm 100% super-comfortable with it, but it hasn't even been three weeks since I started using it. Each day I use it, I get more and more comfortable."

READ MORE: Torrey Pines revisited: A reminder of how Jordan Spieth has rediscovered his mojo

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