AMERICAN Xander Schauffele will enjoy home support this week when he makes his first appearance in Germany at this year’s Porsche European Open.
The 25-year-old, who is a quarter German on his father’s side, is teeing it up in Continental Europe for the first time this season – bidding to add a second European Tour title to his trophy cabinet after his WGC-HSBC Champions victory in 2018.
The World No. 9 is joined in the field at Green Eagle Golf Courses in Hamburg by compatriots Matt Kuchar, and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed – who finished ninth in Hamburg last year.
Schauffele said: “Being a quarter German, it’s cool to tap into my heritage and play in a home away from home.
“I’ve got my family here and a bunch of my father’s friends and friends I’ve known from a young age are coming out here on Friday for the weekend.
“I’ll be going to visit them in Berlin after this tournament – it’s a lot of fun – anything to help me feel comfortable away from home is always a nice thing,” said the runner-up at last year’s Open at Carnoustie.
The 2017 Tour Championship winner at East Lake added: “It’s a long golf course, it’s the longest course I’ve ever played.
“Most of the holes played this morning in about 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” said the San Diego pro, who was runner-up behind Tiger Woods at the Masters, in April.
“When I got here it was about 12.5 Celsius, playing a 660-yard hole in that temperature into the wind was probably the longest hole I’ve ever played in my life.”
Kuchar, who won twice on the PGA Tour earlier this seaon makes his first appearance at this event and will play in his first tournament in Germany in more than a decade.
Kuchar said: “It’s great to be back, I had a fantastic experience. I had a great time in Hamburg – the city was amazing and I actually saw the Dalai Lama speak, which was a real highlight being in his presence.
“Being invited to come to the Porsche European Open, I was excited.
“We love to travel and go to new places – tying in a tournament and the experiences of the Porsche European Open, I did the driving experience yesterday and what a thrill that was – you feel like a kid again.”
The member of last year’s beaten US Ryder Cup team in Paris was embroiled in a row over the amount he paid to a local caddy in Hawaii after he won the Sony Open.
Surrey’s four-time European Ryder Cup player Paul Casey also returns to Hamburg, hoping to build on his seventh-place finish in 2018.
Casey, who is still the last player to win the English Amateur Championship back-to-back after his win in 2000 – the year he turned pro – said: “I really enjoyed last year, so I was keen to come back.
“It’s funny how you change golf courses and locations – the course suits me,” said the winner of the Valspar Championship at Florida’s Copperhead Course back in February.
“It’s a long golf course and I’m a good driver of the ball, which is paramount around here.
“You can take advantage of a lot of the holes, especially the par fives – the finish isn’t a common one for what we’re used to playing, with three par fives on the last four holes. It means it could be a very exciting finish.
“I’m a massive car guy, so I get to experience the Porsche products this week which is also nice.
“I’m excited for the world premiere for the Taycan. I’ve been told there will be one as a hole-in-one prize on the 17th hole – so I’ll be aiming straight at the flag all week.”
Defending champion Richard McEvoy, who won his first title in what was his 285th European Tour appearance, will begin his week in the company of Casey and Reed.
The Essex man finished one stroke ahead of Sweden’s Christofer Blomstrand, Renato Paratore of Italy and German amateur Allen John, who has since turned pro.
McEvoy, who hails from Thorpe Hall, the same club where amateur legend Sir Michael Bonallack was a member, said: “It’s great to be back somewhere that I really enjoyed last year with my first victory on Tour.
“It put a smile on my face straight away as soon as I turned up here, knowing that I was coming back to somewhere I had great feelings from last year.
“This year hasn’t been the year that I had hoped for so far. I’ve had slight injury problems and stuff which haven’t helped.
“But it’s nice to come back somewhere and get some good feelings and good vibes to try and help turn my year around.”
Also teeing it up this week are Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, winner of his first Rolex Series event at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open in July, and last month’s D+D Real Czech Masters champion Thomas Pieters.
The 150-man field face the formidable Porsche Nord Course in Hamburg, the third-longest course visited by the European Tour this season. The 663-yard par five 16th hole is also the longest at any event in 2019.P