The Masters: No regrets for Schauffele after another close major call

By Sports Desk April 11, 2021

Xander Schauffele has no regrets after a rare triple-bogey ended his Masters hopes in another close call at a major tournament.

Schauffele – runner-up at the 2019 Masters and 2018 Open Championship, having also finished third at the U.S. Open almost two years ago – had to settle for a share of third position alongside Jordan Spieth on Sunday.

The former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year closed within two shots of eventual champion Hideki Matsuyama before losing his way on the 16th hole at Augusta, where he ended up finishing four strokes adrift.

A run of four consecutive birdies heaped pressure on Matsuyama, but Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee – found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

An ill-timed triple-bogey sent Schauffele down to equal third – it was his first triple-bogey in a major championship, a run of 1,042 holes.

"I hit a perfect eight iron. It was 184 yards. I can hit my eight iron 180 yards out here," Schauffele said when asked about the 16th tee. "I turned it right to left. The wind was into left to right. It got smoked and eaten up. You could kind of see it. The ball hovered there.

"So I was chasing. I was still two back. Hideki is a great left to right iron player. I figured, if I hit it close, he was going to hit it right on top. I was in full chase mode, so I have no regrets from that aspect."

Schauffele added: "I never gave up. It was pretty wild. Kind of a weird start. It almost took the edge off.  I knew the first through five, if you could be even par, it would be a really good score. I imagined to play five the way I did all week, which is five-over for the week or even worse.

"I fought hard. I felt like I made it exciting at the end, hit a really good shot on 16. I committed to it. I hit a perfect shot. We thought it was down left to right. It was not down left to right, and the rest is history."

After his latest close call, Schauffele said: "It's another lesson to put in the memory bank. 2019, I had a rookie hiccup moment of, oh, my goodness, I'm leading the Masters. This year I was chasing. I'm playing better than I was in 2019, and I made a mistake on shot selection and wind.

"If you look at my second shot after I dropped, I hit a nine iron that went downwind. I think the way that thing flew, it flattened out and flew 160 yards. Austin and I just kind of painfully laughed at each other and said, 'Well, I guess it switched again'. It is what it is. I think I just need to hit a different shot in there."

"It's hard to win out here," the 27-year-old said. "Especially at this tournament. I think I'll throw 16 in the memory bank. I think a lot of great shots into 16 are left to right. High cuts into that mound. I've been hitting a good high cut all week. I just didn't think of it at that time. I hit like a hard draw eight-iron, and it wasn't the shot.

"Moving forward, just kind of throw it in the memory bank. I'm going to keep collecting thoughts. Hopefully, I keep coming back here for years to come, and the goal is to win one day."

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    Austria boss Franco Foda has a selection dilemma in Bucharest as he bids to deliver the country's first ever win at the European Championship.

    No team have played more games at the Euros without earning at least one win than Austria, who have fallen short in all six of their past finals fixtures.

    The Group C clash with North Macedonia on Sunday is one in which many expect Austria to prevail, but Foda must decide whether Marko Arnautovic, the team's star forward, starts the match.

    Arnautovic has indicated he feels ready for a pivotal role after recovering from a thigh injury, but there is no certainty the 32-year-old will play from the start.

    The former West Ham man, now with Shanghai Port, played half an hour for Austria in a friendly against Slovakia last Sunday but Foda may prefer a match-fit Sasa Kalajdzic to lead his attack.

    Foda said in a pre-game news conference: "Ultimately, I have to make the decision about whether Marko is ready for 90 minutes or not."

    A fit and firing Arnautovic's value to his country is obvious, having been directly involved in seven goals in his eight appearances during the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign (six goals, one assist).

    Foda also kept North Macedonia guessing about where David Alaba will feature, the erstwhile Bayern Munich star and new Real Madrid recruit being a top performer both in defence and midfield.

    "We have decided where he will play," Foda said, but gave no detail about that decision.

    The Austria coach added: "We can make history, and we want to. We absolutely want to win and start the European Championship with a positive result. I have a good feeling."

    North Macedonia are making their big-tournament debut as an independent nation and proud captain Goran Pandev said: "Believe that we are ready and we will do our best to make the public and the Macedonian people happy again."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Austria - Marcel Sabitzer

    Sabitzer is coming off a strong season in the German Bundesliga with RB Leipzig and has been linked with clubs including Roma and Arsenal. Austria have plenty of decent pedigree in their squad, but the man who scored eight goals and had three assists on league duty for his club side last term, creating 30 chances in all, is one of a handful with real star quality.

    North Macedonia - Goran Pandev

    At the age of 37, Pandev leads his country on the big stage, and what a moment it will be for him. A star forward in Serie A for over 15 years, notably with Lazio, Inter, Napoli and Genoa, Pandev may be past his prime but he will hope to lead by example at this tournament.

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - These teams have only played each other twice before – both times in qualifying for this tournament – with Austria winning those matches 4-1 and 2-1.

    - Including the play-off rounds, North Macedonia won each of their final three games in Euro 2020 qualifying – as many as they had won in their previous nine games of the qualifying campaign beforehand (D2 L4).

    - Austria have yet to reach the knockout stages or even win a single game at the European Championships (D2 L4).

    - Austria have won only one of their last 15 games at major tournaments (D5 L9 – World Cups and Euros), a 2-1 victory against United States in the group phase of the 1990 World Cup. They last reached the knockout stages of a major tournament at the 1954 World Cup, finishing third.

    - Austria have scored only two goals in their six games at the European Championship finals; one of them was a penalty (Ivica Vastic vs Poland, Euro 2008). They have never been ahead at any point in those six games.

    - North Macedonia's 1.25 goals scored per game during Euro 2020 qualifiers (15 in 12 games) was the joint-lowest average of any team to have qualified for the finals, alongside Wales.

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    Beginning their second innings 85 runs in arrears after dismissing New Zealand for 388, the hosts lost Rory Burns for nought to the second ball of the innings – the opener reaching for a Matt Henry delivery and edging to stand-in captain Tom Latham at second slip.

    Henry (3-36) got one to nip back at Dom Sibley (8), who could only squirt the ball to Daryl Mitchell in the cordon, and it was 30-3 when the seamer trapped the off-colour Zak Crawley lbw for 17.

    Crawley reviewed more in hope than expectation, much like Ollie Pope, whose breezy 23 off 20 balls ended when all-action left arm paceman Neil Wagner brought one back in to the right hander.

    Like Burns, Dan Lawrence followed passing 80 in the first innings with a second-ball duck, Wagner (3-18) having him caught behind before Ajaz Patel again exposed the folly of England failing to pick a specialist spinner.

    Patel bowled James Bracey (8) sweeping and when Root edged to keeper Tom Blundell when trying to cut the slow left-armer – concluding a painstaking 11 from 61 deliveries – the game was emphatically up for his side.

    That brought Mark Wood and Olly Stone together with the score on 76-7, something of an unfair predicament for the two fast bowlers, who worked tirelessly on a fairly benign surface to briefly bring their team back into the contest.

    New Zealand had progressed to 290-3, within 13 of England's first-innings total, when Stone (2-92) had Ross Taylor caught behind for 80, with Henry Nicholls (21) falling in similar fashion to Wood (2-85).

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    By stumps he had been and gone with the bat, bowled by Trent Boult for one after Wagner ended Wood's fun on 29, leaving Stone (15 not out) with only last man James Anderson for company.

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    Switzerland managed double the number of shots than Wales and had a Mario Gavranovic goal ruled out by VAR late on, but Moore rescued the Dragons a potentially huge point.

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    "When you go 1-0 down and you can crumble but we showed a lot of grit and character like always and we showed our class to fight back and get the goal.

    "We worked very hard. It's hard in this heat. I'm proud of the boys. After the match we said we need to use this as a springboard.

    "We now need to recover and move onto the next game."

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    Like captain Bale, Wales' caretaker boss Rob Page believes his side can take confidence from the point gained against Switzerland.

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    "Turkey are a different opposition to what we've faced today, but we will have to be solid and well organised again.

    "Italy have quality in abundance and we respect Turkey too. It's all about focusing on that now and we will be preparing for that test now.

    "That's the foundations. If we need to dig in we will but we've proved we can play."

    Moore's goal was his sixth for Wales in 18 appearances, four of those being scored with his head.

    Page recalled the Cardiff City striker to his starting line-up in a big tactical decision that ultimately paid dividends.

    "Kieffer has been terrific at international and club level," added Page.

    "He's got a great touch and his link-up play is great. He's got all his attributes for a centre-forward and has given us the rewards today."

    Switzerland are now unbeaten in their last six European Championship games in normal time, but Vladimir Petkovic's men had enough chances to pick up all three points against Wales.

    Goalscorer Embolo, whose six shots was the most ever attempted by a Switzerland player in a single European Championship match, admits the draw is a disappointing result.

    "I feel a bit of frustration as we had the chances for the second goal but didn't take them," he said.

    "Perhaps we were too passive after the first goal. We deserved the win, but it turned out to be a draw and that's a pity.

    "But we have to take the positives, rest up, focus on the next game and bring the good things from this match into the next one."

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