Xander Schauffele risked being thrown off the USA Ryder Cup team for refusing to sign a participation contract which would have allowed fly-on-the-wall Netflix docu-series Full Swing access to the Team USA locker room.
Schauffele’s father Stefan has told The Times that the world No 6’s spot in Zach Johnson’s side was in doubt over a dispute with the PGA of America regarding a player participation agreement that was signed before the biennial contest.
It was widely reported before last weekend’s Ryder Cup in Rome that Schauffele and his closest friend in the USA locker room, Patrick Cantlay, had led a move to block Netflix’s access to the team room as they felt players should be remunerated for their participation.
What was not known was quite how close Schauffele came to losing his spot on the team as a result of that stance.
Shauffele, who is represented by his father, suggested three amendments to the player participation and benefit agreement contract that had been drawn up by the PGA of America before the match.
“The PGA of America were not willing to even talk to us about [the three amendments],” Stefan Schauffele said. “It was very late in the schedule right before the team came here [to Rome] to practise because they had moved the deadline and they said, ‘If you don’t sign it by then, you’re off the team’, but they never gave us the contact information of their legal counsel.”
Eventually, after a team vote instigated by captain Johnson, it was decided unanimously by the American team that the camera crew would not be granted access during Ryder Cup week. This was said to protect the “sanctity and sacredness” of the US team room.
Stefan Schauffele added: “Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend [September 2], finally, the head of the PGA of America got wind of this, because it was not him that was blocking it, and put our lawyers in contact with the PGA of America’s general counsel, and then it took a few hours to hash it out and it was fine. Then I received a message that Xander was back on the team. That you can quote. That’s the extent of this and I think it’s shameful.”
Neither Schauffele nor Cantlay went on the reconnaissance trip to Marco Simone golf course, because they were on Cantlay’s stag do ahead of his wedding which took place in Rome on Monday.
Team USA and Cantlay in particular were repeatedly forced to deny reports that Cantlay was refusing to wear a cap in Rome because he felt players should be paid to participate - and that his stance had led to a rift in the team. Cantlay dismissed a Sky Sports report as having “not a shred of truth”, instead saying it was simply because there was not a hat that fit him appropriately. And his team-mates largely backed him up on Sunday, claiming spirit in the locker room had not been the cause of the heavy defeat.
However, victorious Europe captain Luke Donald declared on Monday his belief that Ryder Cup players should not be paid for appearing when the chance to represent either team carries so much honour.
“I’m against it 100 per cent,” Donald said on Monday morning. “This is the purest form of our sport. This is a week where it’s not about that.
“We do play for money most weeks like every job, but this week is more about what true sport means and what true motivation is. It comes from intrinsic stuff not external rewards. The reward is being together and sharing that journey. And making history.”