Xander Schauffele of the United States was as good as gold.
The 27-year-old Schauffele made clutch putts on the last two holes to cap a 4-under-par 67 and win the 2020-21 Olympic Men’s Golf Tournament by one stroke over Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia, who shot a record 61, on the East Course at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, Japan.
The fifth-ranked Schauffele, from La Jolla and San Diego State, took home the Gold Medal, Sabbatini earned the Silver and C.T. Pan of Taiwan won the Bronze with a par on the fourth extra hole to turn back Collin Morikawa of the U.S. in what started as a seven-man playoff for third.
“Man, it just feels so good right now,” said Schauffele, who has won four times on the PGA Tour, but not since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. “There’s probably more pressure in the Olympics than any tour event and it got a little dicey there toward the end. I was just trying to think about what that last putt was going to do rather than what it meant.
“I was just trying to represent my country the best I could this week and I probably wanted to win this tournament more than any other. I was trying so hard to win and you just need things to go your way, and they did at the finish. It was so much fun and I’m just a little speechless right now, in all honesty.”
Schauffele, who had a three-stroke lead at the turn, made his only bogey at No. 14 to drop into a tie with Sabbatini after driving into the bushes and taking a penalty drop, but then sank a six-foot birdie putt at No. 17 and a four-footer for par on the last hole.
His winning par came after again he drove into the trees on the right, laid up to within 98 yards and hit a brilliant wedge shot to just behind the hole.
Schauffele, who led by one shot over Matsuyama after three rounds, birdied four of the first eight holes in the final round but didn’t make another until No. 17 and finished at 18-under 266.
Sabbatini, the oldest player in the field at 45, collected 10 birdies and an eagle at No. 6 in his 61, which broke the Olympic record set by Matt Kuchar of the U.S. in 2016 and equaled by Sepp Straka of Austria in the first round in Japan and two others in the final round.
“I can’t really quantify how it feels,” said Sabbatini, who has won six times on the PGA Tour, but not since the 2011 Honda Classic. “It’s a different feeling representing other people and not only yourself. There’s more pressure but just being here was an honor and a pleasure.
“Sure, I wanted to win, but the Silver Medal is great. Hopefully, this will be a driving force in getting more people into golf in Slovenia, especially the juniors.”
Sabbatini was born in South Africa, but has dual citizenship after marrying Martina Stofanikova of Slovakia, who was his caddie in the Olympics.
The third-ranked Morikawa, from La Canada Flintridge and Cal, coming off his victory in the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in England, and Pan both shot 63 to lead the seven-man tie for third, three strokes back.
Morikawa and Pan were the last two men standing in the playoff and Pan scrambled for a par on the fifth extra hole to claim the Bronze when Morikawa’s approach shot plugged in a greenside bunker and he could not get up-and-down for par.
Also in the big tie were Rory McIlroy of Ireland (67), Mito Pereira of Chile (67), Sebastian Munoz of Colombia (67), Paul Casey of England (68) and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan (69).
Joaquin Niemann of Chile made 10 birdies in 65 and wound up four back in a tie for 10th with Cameron Smith of Australia, who finished at 66, and Straka, who came in with a second straight 68.
Fourth-ranked Justin Thomas eagled the 14th hole in a 65 and finished in a tie for 22nd that included his U.S. teammate, 12th-ranked Patrick Reed, who closed with a bogey-free 65.
Justin Rose of England won the Men’s Gold Medal in 2016 at Rio Janeiro, when golf was played in the Olympics for the first time since 1904, while Henrik Stenson of Sweden took the Silver and Kuchar won the Bronze. None of the three made the 60-man field in Japan.
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