PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Xander Schauffele “politely declined” a request to speak to press following his British Open final round Sunday.
That might have been the smartest move he made all week.
After all, had Schauffele never mentioned his driver failing a random test following Friday’s 65, no one outside the inner circle of the PGA Tour would have known of his run-in with the R&A’s random driver tests in its search of non-conforming clubs.
If Schauffele keeps quiet, he might prevent a spiraling debacle that could taint his recent success, his relationship with his sponsors and most of all, turn fellow players against a player who is otherwise likable and to be admired for his recent play.
By pushing for an increase in the R&A’s driver testing sample size and attempting to out other failed tests at Royal Portrush — incorrectly at least in the case of PXG — he could force testing of all drivers at all majors.
The gentle jeering from other players last week that prompted his rage at the R&A’s handling of his test result could turn the comedians to enemies in a flash. Not because there is a juiced driver problem in golf, but because Schauffele opened the door for more scrutiny, more annoyance and unnecessary pain for his sponsor.
Keep venting about the R&A violating his privacy when the sight of Schauffele doing emergency testing on the range probably gave away his “secret,” and players could eventually speculate that a mistaken analysis by the club’s maker was something else entirely.
Keep up the full course press about this grave injustice, and the R&A and USGA might just change their minds about the results of their testing. Get them in a really bad mood and they might just decide to reveal names, club types and manufacturers of failed tests. Shoot, they could even decide to stop being so nice and DQ a player in their championships for having a club exceeding the speed limit.
In the case of Schauffele, the host organization acted like the officer who pulls you over and decides to let this one slide. There is virtually no chance a rules official on their team went to Schauffele’s father here and sarcastically asked how the replacement testing was going, as Schauffele asserted. Instead, that official likely approached out of empathy since the prevailing mindset of golf’s rulemakers is to prevent a violation.
We can all grasp why Schauffele was upset. It was a major. He’d found a driver he liked. No one wants their beloved gamer taken from them, but Schauffele’s also a modern day professional golfer with access to an expert fitting team, launch monitors and all the free clubs he can stockpile if he wants to have 20 backup sets.
The Portrush incident should pass quickly if Schauffele accepts the injustice of it all and moves on. But this emerging talent could just as easily derail his future by overreacting to an unfortunate, but ultimately minor blip on major championship radars.