Xander Schauffele was still running hot Saturday in the British Open, and it had nothing to do with a 69 that left him 11 shots out of the lead at Royal Portrush.
Schauffele accused the R&A of trying to ruin his image by not keeping private that his Callaway driver failed to conform to the limits of the trampoline effect. He says one player jokingly referred to him as a cheater, and he claimed he was not the only player whose driver didn’t pass in random testing this week.
“The R&A, they (ticked) me off because they attempted to ruin my image by not keeping this matter private,” Schauffele said. “This is me coming out and treating them the exact way they treated me.”
Schauffele was among 30 players randomly selected to have his driver tested at Royal Portrush to make sure it conformed. Tiger Woods was on the list and gave a thumbs-up when asked if his driver passed the test.
Schauffele says he wasn’t aware his driver didn’t conform until notified. He worked into Tuesday evening to find a replacement, didn’t feel he had the right club when he opened with a 74, made some adjustments and followed with a 65 on Friday.
What bothered him was that the R&A didn’t test the entire 156-man field — and that the matter wasn’t kept private.
“Other drivers failed,” he said. “This matter should be private. But the R&A didn’t do their job in keeping it private. … It’s an unsettling topic. I’ve been called a cheater by my fellow opponents. It’s all joking, but when someone yells ‘Cheater’ in front of 200 people to me, it’s not going down very well.”
Schauffele brought up the failed test after he finished his second round on Friday, so it wasn’t clear what the R&A said or did.
A spokesman for the R&A said in a statement, “We always listen to feedback from players and have done so in this situation. We will continue to treat this as a private and confidential matter.”
Schauffele says he was angered by an official who said to his father, “How’s our testing going after Thursday?” He said the “cheater” reference was from a player who had heard about the failed test and was playfully giving him a hard time.
Schauffele didn’t find any of it funny.
“Everyone on the grounds knew for some odd reason,” he said. “So that’s enough to throw me off my game. It was just handled unprofessionally. And it did tick me off.”
Danny Willett is back in a good place and it’s showing at Royal Portrush, where he’s headed for his best finish at a major since winning the Masters in 2016.
Willett shot 6-under 65 that matched the second-best round of the week behind Shane Lowry’s 63.
“It’s one of those where the juices are flowing,” said Willett, who hasn’t had the sensation much in the past three years.
The Englishman was a surprise champion at Augusta National after benefiting from a Sunday collapse by Jordan Spieth. A former top-ranked amateur, Willett was No. 9 in the world after his Masters win and his career was trending only one direction.
Then came the dark times. He tried to implement some changes to his swing, while he also battled a back injury that led to him doubting if he could continue his career. He was ranked No. 462 midway through last year.
A big moment came in the final event on the European Tour last year when he won the World Tour Championship in Dubai, his first victory since Augusta. His tie for 12th at the U.S. Open last month was his first top 20 in a major since that 2016 Masters.
“We’re in a really good place,” said Willett, now ranked No. 75. “I’ve said it for the best part of 12 months now. It might be this week, next week, six months down, we don’t know. But there’s enough good in there to do it again, which is a nice feeling. It gives you that little bit of sunlight at the end of it.”
He puts much of his improvement down to breathing better during his rounds, which relieves some of his stress.
“When I was at my worst, that was one of the main factors,” Willett said. “And now you can keep yourself relaxed and kind of go about things business-like, but you might as well have fun doing it.”
STANLEY HAS HIS SAY
Kyle Stanley has had his say on the late-round confrontation with playing partner Bob MacIntrye on Friday.
“It’s kind of a non-issue,” the American said.
It all started when Stanley sent a tee shot into the crowd at the 17th hole in his second round. The ball hit the mother of MacIntrye’s caddie, and the Scottish player said he was angry that Stanley didn’t yell “Fore.”
The two players briefly exchanged words.
Stanley said he was “caught off guard” by MacIntyre’s criticism because he felt it was enough his caddie, his playing partners and some volunteers or marshals all shouted the warning.
“When you talk about somebody playing within the boundaries of etiquette in golf, that’s kind of a touchy situation,” Stanley said. “To paint somebody in a bad light, not playing within the etiquette of the game, you’ve got to be careful when you do that.
“He’s a young player. I’ve been out here a while. So I don’t feel the need to be schooled on the rules of golf.”
MAKING UP THE NUMBERS
Gary McNeill was hitting it well on the range as one of the first players at Royal Portrush on Saturday, and felt good heading to the first tee. Then he saw thousands of pairs of eyes watching him.
“As soon as I took the club back,” he said, “it felt like a feather.”
The head professional at Royal Portrush since 1999, McNeill realized at 8:30 p.m. Friday that he might be needed the following day as a marker in the first group of the third round. Seventy-three players made the cut, so Paul Waring would be going out on his own and was happy to have some company.
McNeill, who was Irish Amateur champion in 1991, had a blast. His highlight was rolling in a long putt across the green at No. 17.
“I’m really glad I put myself through it,” McNeill said. “But I need to lie down after that.”
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.