Xander Schauffele is trying to double dip on his Japanese success.
More than two months after taking home the gold medal at the Olympic Games, Schauffele is back in Japan as one of the favorites heading into the Zozo Championship.
Moved last year to California because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zozo returns to Japan for the first time since Tiger Woods’ record-tying victory there in 2019. Even with limited fans on-site, Schauffele is expecting a warm welcome – not only because of his family’s Japanese heritage, but also from his historic achievement during the summer.
“Returning to Japan has been really cool,” Schauffele told reporters on Wednesday. “I’ve been looking forward to this tournament for quite some time. It’s easy to say that I’m very happy to be here.”
Schauffele will be grouped for the first two rounds with hometown hero Hideki Matsuyama and reigning Open champion Collin Morikawa.
Following a sleepy couple of rounds last week in Vegas, Schauffele exploded with a final-round 63 to crack the top 20 at the CJ Cup. After hopping on the Tour charter to Japan, he is hoping that form carried across the Pacific as he looks for his first top-10 in a full-field event since the Scottish Open in July.
“Winning here would be really cool,” he said. “It would be really special to win twice in Japan, especially since I don’t live here. I think it would be a huge honor for my family if I was able to do that, and I’m going to do my best this week.”