Xander Schauffele shines with gold for Team USA in Tokyo
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By Toshiki Hashimoto
KAWAGOE, Japan - Xander Schauffele after a late wobble managed to clinch gold for the United States at the Olympic golf on Sunday with a one-stroke victory as South Africa-born Rory Sabbatini claimed an unlikely silver for adopted nation Slovakia.
Taiwan's CT Pan claimed the bronze, eliminating American Collin Morikawa on the fourth extra hole of a playoff on a scorching day at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
"Man, it feels good," said Schauffele, who claimed the title with a final round 67 for an 18-under total of 266.
"I kind of wanted this one more than any other.
"Everyone is back home watching. I was feeling the love from San Diego and Las Vegas this whole time."
Overnight leader by a stroke from home favourite Hideki Matsuyama, Schauffele needed to scramble hard through a nervous back nine as his driving went to ruin.
Sabbatini, who took Slovakia citizenship at the end of 2018 after marrying wife Martina, had stormed home with birdies on 17 and 18 in an Olympic record 61 to finish 17-under and put pressure on Schauffele.
The 27-year-old American stumbled with a bogey on the 14th to fall back to a share of the gold medal position with Sabbatini, who was waiting nervously in the clubhouse.
It took an eight-foot birdie putt on the 17th for Schauffele to break clear by a stroke but more nerves were to come as he slashed his drive into the deep rough on 18.
Hitting his recovery into the fairway, Schauffele composed himself before producing a sparkling iron shot that landed four feet from the pin, allowing him to knock in the title-winning par.
Schauffele brought his swing coach father Stefan to the Games, nearly 40 years after the former decathlete's dreams of representing Germany at the Olympics were crushed when a car crash left him blind in one eye.
"For me, I really wanted to win for my dad. I am sure he is crying somewhere right now," said Schauffele.
My dad's dream of becoming an Olympic decathlete came to a sudden end in 1986 when a drunk driver crashed into his car. You can read more about his journey and why it means a lot for me to be here in Tokyo with him: https://t.co/k2LEV2Csta #Tokyo2020 @StefanSchauffe1 pic.twitter.com/yXHUajje8h— Xander Schauffele (@XSchauffele) July 28, 2021
He had earlier had one hand on the gold medal after a flying start with four birdies in his first eight holes.
But Sabbatini came from nowhere, holing 10 birdies and an eagle on the par-four sixth as his caddie-wife shrieked in celebration.
The strain finally told on Schauffele as he sliced his tee-shot into the trees on the right of the par-five 14th, forcing a penalty drop.
He recovered well to limit the damage to a bogey and hung tight for the title as his playing partner Matsuyama fell away.