KAWAGOE, Japan — Xander Schauffele gained an Olympic gold medal he badly wished by overcoming extra stress than he might have imagined Sunday.
Proper when Schauffele appeared to lose his agency grip on the gold, the 27-year-old American responded with two clutch putts on the finish for a 4-under 67 and a one-shot victory over Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia in a wild end to the boys’s golf competitors.
One was a 6-foot birdie putt for the lead. The final one was a 4-foot par putt for the win.
“Simply in shock,” Schauffele mentioned. “I used to be making an attempt so arduous to simply keep calm. … However man, it was anxious. And I made that putt and it was simply an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders and simply very relieved and completely satisfied.”
The stress made the recent air really feel even thicker at Kasumigaseki Nation Membership. When the final group walked onto the 18th inexperienced, 9 gamers remained within the combine for a medal.
One in every of them was Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, simply not the medal that his golf-mad nation wished for him. He was one shot out of the lead when he missed a 3-foot par putt on the fifteenth gap and by no means caught up. He missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th gap for the bronze.
After which he left with no medal in any respect.
Matsuyama was a part of a seven-man playoff for the bronze, which included Rory McIlroy and British Open champion Collin Morikawa. Matsuyama made bogey on the primary additional gap and was eradicated, ending every week of excessive expectations.
No gold, silver or bronze. The 29-year-old Japanese star nonetheless has a Masters inexperienced jacket.
C.T. Pan of Taiwan, who closed with a 63, gained the bronze in a playoff amongst seven nations that lasted 4 holes.
Matsuyama and Paul Casey have been eradicated with bogeys on the primary additional gap. McIlroy, Mito Pereira of Chile and Sebastian Munoz have been eradicated with pars on the third gap. Pan holed an 8-foot par putt on the 18th, after Morikawa’s strategy plugged within the sand wanting the inexperienced and left him a protracted par putt he could not convert.
Schauffele, whose mom was raised in Japan and has grandparents within the metropolis who have been saved from watching him underneath the ban on spectators, appeared to have this gained all alongside.
Sabbatini set the Olympic document with a 61, ending with a fist-pumping birdie on the 18th gap. That put him one shot behind Schauffele, who nonetheless had two good scoring probabilities among the many six holes forward of him on the again 9.
After which one swing modified every part.
Schauffele despatched his tee shot properly proper of the green on the par-5 14th and into the bushes. He needed to take a one-shot penalty simply to get out, took three extra photographs to achieve the inexperienced and made a 5-foot putt to restrict the harm to a bogey.
He was tied for the lead, with Matsuyama one shot behind.
Schauffele saved his California cool and hit driver right into a greenside bunker on the seventeenth gap, the place the tees have been moved ahead to create some pleasure. He blasted out to six ft and made birdie to regain the lead.
One par for the gold. If solely it have been that straightforward.
Schauffele despatched one other drive to the best, getting a pleasant kick into the tough however blocked by the bushes, forcing him to put up wanting the water. From 98 yards, he hit a lob wedge some 15 ft behind the pin and watched it spin again to 4 ft.
He regarded extra relieved than he was elated after the putt dropped. It was his first victory since January 2019, and the No. 5 participant on the earth discovered the best place to finish the drought.
Schauffele had been pointing to the Olympics, particularly in Tokyo, ever since he first joined the elite in American golf three years in the past. His German-born father, Stefan, had dreamed of being an Olympian till his automobile was struck by a drunk driver on his option to decathlon coaching when he was 20, costing him his left eye.
Peering by his monocular, Stefan Schauffele noticed his goals fulfilled by his son.
The embrace they shared afterward was pure gold.
“To have my dad right here as properly is de facto particular,” Schauffele mentioned. “I gave him a hug off the again of the inexperienced there. I do know this implies loads to him, so I am simply completely satisfied to form of ship this.”
Sabbatini had lots to be completely satisfied about with silver. Born in South Africa, he determined on the finish of 2018 to grow to be a Slovakian citizen by his spouse, Martina, who had a relative operating the tiny Slovak Golf Federation. His spouse caddied for him this week.
That made him eligible for the Olympics, and now Slovakia has its third medal within the Tokyo Video games. It has a gold in girls’s lure and a silver in males’s kayak. Sabbatini is the primary Slovakian to compete in Olympic golf.
“The only real goal of it was to generate future generations of Slovak golfers,” Sabbatini mentioned. “It isn’t precisely the prime sport for teenagers to develop up and need to go play in Slovakia, so hopefully we are able to encourage future Olympians.”