Through 18 holes of play, Xander Schauffele leads the 2024 PGA Championship, marking his second time leading or co-leading a major championship after one round. Starting strong in major championships has never been a problem for Schauffele, whose opening rounds have been his best rounds, historically.

In 27 major championship starts prior to today, Schauffele has been within three strokes of the lead 10 times. He’s gone on to record a top-10 finish in eight of those tournaments, never finishing worse than T-17. Whether he can close out a big tournament remains a question, a concern heightened by his poor Sunday performance in the final group last weekend at Quail Hollow.

You could make a strong case that Xander Schauffele is the best active golfer who hasn’t won a major. He is a tremendous player without a true discernible weakness. He has also recently added significant speed gains to his arsenal, a valuable weapon on a golf course like Valhalla that places a high premium on power. Legitimate chances to win major championships don’t come around often, even for top golfers in their prime. This PGA Championship is within Xander’s grasp.

If he goes on to win this PGA, Xander Schauffele ascends to a new stature within the sport. If he falls short, criticism that he is a talented golfer who can’t close will only get louder. The remainder of this major championship is obviously important for every player in the field, but it feels like an especially big opportunity for Schauffele. He has a real chance to shift his own narrative.

This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For more coverage of the PGA Championship, visit our PGA hub here.