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The second round of the 2023 Zozo Championship was not defined by any one player but rather the conditions at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club. With winds touching nearly 40 mph at certain stages, competitors were left to scramble as 60 of the 77 men in the field found themselves signing for an over-par round by day's end. Xander Schauffele was on the path to joining the majority before a late push put the pre-tournament favorite back in the red and back in contention heading into the weekend at 4 under and three behind 36-hole leader Beau Hossler. 

"It was hard," Schauffele said. "It seemed to be a lot of crosswinds on most of the holes, made it hard to hit it close. The par 5s were probably the only holes that you could birdie, and if you didn't hit in the fairway, you're struggling. So I did that early on and was able to clean it up late. Yeah, I think everyone's happy that the round's over."

After opening with a 3-under 67, Schauffele started his second round with a birdie and looked keen on carrying Thursday's momentum into Friday. A quick bogey quelled those thoughts as winds picked up and three dropped shots over the course of his next 11 holes saw the Olympic gold medalist drift six off Hossler's pace in the clubhouse.

The six-stroke margin was cut in half over Schauffele's last six holes as birdies on a pair of par 5s sandwiched another on the par-3 16th.

"It was getting away from me a little bit," Schauffele said. "Didn't feel like I was playing that poorly, just hit some bad shots at the wrong times on some of those par 4s. It was nice to see some putts go in there late and finish off with a birdie."

This weekend will represent a great opportunity for Schauffele to claim his first victory since the 2022 Genesis Scottish Open more than one year ago. A victim of the multiple-win seasons from the likes of Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler, Schauffele was without new hardware during the 2023 regular season despite his quality.

Enjoying the best season of his career in terms of total strokes gained, strokes gained approach and strokes gained putting, the seven-time PGA Tour winner accomplished plenty. He set the major championship scoring record minutes after Rickie Fowler did in the first round at the 2023 U.S. Open. He posted the low 72-hole total at the 2023 Tour Championship with Hovland but fell short of claiming the FedEx Cup. He possesses the longest active made cut streak on the PGA Tour with his last weekend omission coming at the 2022 Masters.

Conventional wisdom suggests if Schauffele continues to play in this manner he will stumble into the winner's circle sooner than later. Someone will crumble down the stretch or won't enjoy a career week. He will be the one to make a timely putt, and the ball will bounce his way. That very well could happen this weekend, and if it does, Schauffele's strong finish to his second round to keep him in touch may be to thank.