Rickie Fowler waited for Xander Schauffele to ship a message

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Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele shot matching rounds of 62.

Darren Riehl

LOS ANGELES — Xander Schauffele grinned at Rickie Fowler.

“I saved making birdie. I used to be like, ‘second nonetheless, second nonetheless, second nonetheless.’ I used to be like — bastard!”

The 2 stood behind the interview space, their work all performed for the day. Fowler hadn’t been leaderboards. He’d been plowing forward, making birdie after birdie after birdie, 10 of ’em in all, a part of a record-breaking spherical of eight beneath par. It wasn’t till the ninth gap, his 18th of the day, that he obtained a take a look at who had joined him on the leaderboard.

“I appeared over and I noticed you had been seven beneath and I used to be like…oh,” Fowler stated.

Schauffele had been chasing him the entire time. The 2 had opened a spot on the remainder of the sphere — by the top of the morning wave, they’d bettered each different participant by 5 photographs — and Schauffele had been maintaining tabs on Fowler’s scores.

“I used to be peeking all day, child!”

It was a cool scene, the first two 62-shooters in U.S. Open historical past dapping it up, sharing good vibes. Higher but, it was a scene that confirmed us concerning the characters concerned. It confirmed us one thing about golf, too.

Through the years Rickie Fowler has made it a behavior of sticking round to congratulate his buddies as they arrive off the 18th inexperienced on Sunday, celebrating their victory. This has garnered him some measure of reward. However it’s earned him some ridicule, too, significantly as his victory whole has plateaued whereas the victory totals of his well-trophied pals have continued to rise.

In case you take a step again, praising a person for congratulating his pals is an indication of cynical brain-rot greater than the rest. It’s all the time been a credit score to Fowler that he makes this effort even when his personal week has led to one thing lower than victory. Nonetheless, it should have been satisfying for Fowler to attend round this time for a unique kind of congratulatory scene altogether.

Fowler had teed off at 8:02 a.m. alongside Jason Day and Justin Rose. He birdied his first gap, bogeyed his second, birdied his third and was off. He beat his enjoying companions by 11 and 14 photographs, respectively. After the spherical he signed his card and went by means of the media gauntlet and spent quarter-hour signing autographs in an adjoining fan zone. And then he returned to media, the place he stood and waited.

Schauffele had began two teams behind him, at 8:24, with Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland. Whereas his margin of victory wasn’t fairly as dramatic (Rahm and Hovland every shot 69), Schauffele’s 62 matched Fowler’s whole, leaving him the only real proprietor of the U.S. Open championship report for simply 20 minutes. When he completed his ultimate interview, there was Fowler ready for him with a hug, a phrase of congratulations and a reminder to maintain it going. On Thursdays you’ll be able to root for all your mates; it’s not ’til the weekend you actually need to beat ’em.

The scene (and the rating) was a reminder that Fowler’s sport is nearly as good because it’s been in years. He’s logged 11 top-20s in his final 15 begins (and simply missed one minimize in that stretch). He’s climbed from exterior the highest 150 on the planet to No. 45 getting into this week. He’s discovered a brand new model of an elite iron sport and he’s discovered a brand new placing stroke that appears awfully good, too. He hasn’t received since 2019 however his return to the highest of the rostrum has felt, in latest months, more and more inevitable.

The scene was a reminder that Schauffele’s sport is among the many most constant on the planet. Certain, the World No. 6 hasn’t received since he ripped off two in a row final summer season. However he additionally hasn’t missed a minimize because the 2022 Masters. He’s completed top-20 within the yr’s first two majors. He’s contended in mainly each U.S. Open he’s ever performed. And his sport travels anyplace, as a result of he’s good at each side of it.

The scene was additionally a reminder of the straightforward joys of a very good spherical of golf. No, you possible don’t know the sensation of capturing 62 at a serious championship (until you’re studying this, Branden Grace) however I’m certain you understand the excessive of stringing collectively 18 holes in a complete that exceeds your expectations. There’s a euphoria to the accomplishment and a reduction to the truth that you didn’t screw it up. And it you’ve got a buddy that performed nicely, too? That pleasure is a multiplier.

In his post-round press convention Schauffele was requested about Fowler. The 2 reside close to one another now; Schauffele relocated to south Florida earlier this yr, which suggests they’re each California transplants in Jupiter. They’ve gotten to spend extra time collectively in consequence.

“Yeah, Rick’s superior,” Schauffele stated. “He’s actually most likely one of many nicest guys out right here. I imply that once I say it.” (Schauffele is sarcastic typically sufficient that the “actually” and the “I imply that” had been each crucial for clarification.)

“I couldn’t be happier for him to see him in good kind. Being in Florida somewhat bit extra now, I’ve performed some video games with him, and he’s only a pleasure to be round. It’s not stunning to see him shoot eight beneath, both. I’m joyful that he’s ready get again into good kind and may compete at a excessive degree.”

There’s all the time stress because the first-round chief to reply big-time questions, about what-ifs, though the job is only a quarter accomplished. Fowler acknowledged that. However he was joyful to step exterior the second and assume big-picture, too. He recalled dressing up as Fred {Couples} as a child. The final decade-plus, youngsters have been dressing up like him.

“My dream was all the time simply to play on the PGA Tour. Yeah, win, however to play on the PGA Tour, and no matter got here with that got here with it,” he stated.

“Yeah, in the event you had been to inform me as a child that I’m out right here and I’ve received a number of instances — yeah, I’d be stoked. However clearly being human and me and being out right here, I would like extra. That’s why we’re nonetheless chugging alongside.”

Chugging proper into the historical past books. In good firm, too.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior author for GOLF Journal/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams School, the place he majored in English, and he’s the creator of 18 in America, which particulars the yr he spent as an 18-year-old residing from his automobile and enjoying a spherical of golf in each state.

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