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Xander Schauffele isn’t letting illness slow down his title defense at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Schauffele outlasted Tony Finau in a playoff to win last year in Shanghai, and last week he tied for 10th at the Zozo Championship. But the days in between starts did not go well for the four-time PGA Tour champ, who arrived in China while battling the flu.
“You hear from my voice, I’m a little out of it,” Schauffele told reporters. “I didn’t play in the pro-am. I didn’t play any practice round.”
That lack of practice didn’t affect Schauffele in the opening round, where he shot a 6-under 66 to move into a tie for third, two shots behind leader Haotong Li. His round included nine birdies, highlighted by a stretch of six birdies in eight holes on his outward nine.
Schauffele told reporters his goal for the day was simply to “hit it anywhere on the green” in order to get his round underway, but his opener became another example of beware the injured (or ill) golfer.
“Maybe I should just keep my flu going, and if I can rattle off a 66 every day, I think that would be enough,” he said. “I think a couple more nights of sleep, I’ll be in better shape. But it was a dream start with what things were looking like.”