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By : BGA
Xander Schauffele wins Olympic gold in Tokyo for Team USA
Schauffele had to hold off a fast finishing Rory Sabbatini, playing for Slovakia, who was seven groups ahead of Schauffele and closed with a 61.
Sabbatini who finished with the silver medal had 10 birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in his round and was close to claiming the gold.
Sabbatini who was born in South Africa, was representing Slovakia. His wife who is Slovakian and her cousin is the president of the Slovak Golf Association.
“South Africa has so many golfers to represent them, but Slovakia doesn't have anybody to represent them,” Sabbatini, 45, said. “And we looked at it as a way to use it as a springboard to try and create more interest in the game of golf in Slovakia and to create more interest amongst the junior golfers.
“For me to be here today is very fortuitous. I'm just thankful to be here. But it's been such a prideful moment to be up there to represent Slovakia and to see the flag raised. Words really cannot express it. It's just been a fantastic experience all around for the entire Olympics and I'm just very thankful.”
“The honest truth is I had probably one of the worse warmups I've ever had in my golfing career,” Sabbatini said. “I couldn't find the golf ball and the club face to match them up at all. And to such a respect that I was like, ‘OK, I'm done warming up. It just was like, ‘OK, I guess I'll try to find it out there.’ Somehow I managed to find it. Did I think I had 10 under in me today? After yesterday, not a chance.”
Schauffele had a one shot lead heading down the last hole. He missed his drive right and had to lay up on the fairway with his second shot. With wedge in his hand, Schauffele knocked it to 4 foot and calmly rolled it in.
“I closed my eyes and I just tried to really become more present and just focus on the four-footer,” Schauffele said afterward. “Once again I just reminded myself, this is just a four-footer, all you have to do is make it, no big deal.”
Tied at 15 under and for the bronze medal there were 7 players. Collin Morikawa, C.T. Pan, Mito Pereira, Sebastián Muñoz, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Paul Casey all had to play extra holes to decide the bronze medallist. Of course all eyes were on the home town favourite Matsuyama but unfortunately he and Casey were knocked on the first playoff hole. Next to go were Pereira, Muñoz and McIlroy, when Pan and Morikawa birdied the 3rd playoff hole.
Eventually it was C.T Pan who claimed the bronze medal making par on the 4th playoff hole to beat Morikawa.
This win by Schauffele was even made more special with his dad, Stefan and swing coach in the crowds watching. Stefan Schauffele who was an Olympic hopeful for the 1988 Germany Olympics, was hit by a drunk driver during training, leaving him badly injured and blind in his left eye. His dreams were dashed that day but his son Xander had a chance to compete.
“I did think of him as soon as I made the putt,” Xander said. “I knew he was going to be there crying.”
“He put all his eggs in one basket for quite some time … to compete as a decathlete in the Olympics,” Xander said. “Life came at him fast, it was swiped away from him, but he saw potential in me … and so he put all his eggs in my basket.
“For this to come full circle, … I just feel very fortunate and really happy to share this with him.”