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Xander Schauffele struggling with ‘sense of purpose’ amid Tour shutdown

As the physical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to amplify around the world, the mental repercussions of living a more isolated life are beginning to set in - even among PGA Tour pros.

Xander Schauffele is ranked 12th in the world and was riding a streak of four straight top-25 finishes heading into The Players. But his world, like everyone else’s on Tour, was upended when the tournament was canceled after a single round and the next several events were wiped off the calendar.

In the three weeks since, Schauffele hasn’t touched a club. He has been spending most of his time in his two-bedroom apartment with his girlfriend in the Bankers Hill area of San Diego, spending more time playing board games like Scrabble and Risk than fine-tuning his swing. With California governor Gavin Newsom shutting down golf courses across the state this week, he hasn’t been tempted to try to sneak onto any nearby tracks.

“I’m just trying to be a law-abiding citizen here and just do my part, I guess,” Schauffele said Wednesday on a media conference call.

Schauffele, 26, has stayed in shape by utilizing the small gym at his apartment complex. But as a player accustomed to sticking to a strict routine from one tournament to the next, he’s struggling with the mental side of an unexpected hiatus with no end in sight.

The PGA Tour continues to plan for play with a focus on how the circuit hopes to make up for lost playing opportunities.

“Haven’t completely lost it, but sort of speaking for myself, I’ve lost a sense of purpose for a little bit of time here in terms of work, I guess,” Schauffele said. “Feeling unemployed and with no date in terms of us coming back.”

Schauffele admitted that his first few days at home were somewhat welcomed. He had been on the road for a while, playing five of the seven weeks ahead of The Players, and any time he’s able to spend at home with his girlfriend during the hectic season is considered a respite.

“But I’d say after a week, it started to feel like I was home for two months,” he said. “After a week I’d say it probably sank in that I think we’re kind of in here for the long haul.”

That sentiment is one likely shared by many around the country and the world, Tour pro or otherwise. Schauffele’s new normal has focused on staying inside as much as possible, and now even walking his dog, Chewy, has been restricted largely to his concrete neighborhood with area parks closed. As the days continue to slide by, much of his effort has gone toward maintaining his mental well-being.

“I think all of us are in the same boat, and we’re all just trying to find ways to distract ourselves or stay mentally fit,” he said. “Just trying to keep my thoughts in line, realizing this is a tough time and it’s a necessary time for us to stay indoors, and we’re doing the right thing by staying indoors. Maybe it’s not really mentally fit, it’s mentally sane, I guess. I’m so used to being outdoors, and this is the polar opposite.”

Schauffele doesn’t have plans to dust off his clubs anytime soon, and he perceived Wednesday’s cancellation of the Wimbledon tennis tournament that was scheduled for mid-July as an ominous sign that the Tour might not be able to resume in late May as currently planned.

But once his life inside the ropes does get back to normal, he remains confident that this unexpected layoff won’t have any long-term impacts on his ability to contend.

“I feel like I’m at a state where I can pick up my clubs and play whenever,” Schauffele said. “It’d probably take two weeks for me to feel really confident, I guess, to not back down from anything. But if I had to go tee it up in a Tour event tomorrow, I think I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable overall. I’d have the belief that I could do it.”