Tokyo Olympics: Xander Schauffele wins gold on dramatic final day

Tokyo Olympics: Schauffele clinches men’s golf gold medal
Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
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American Xander Schauffele clinched the Olympic men’s golf gold medal on a nail-biting final day that ended with a seven-way play-off for the bronze medal.

CT Pan of Chinese Taipei finally claimed it on the fourth knockout hole, with Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Great Britain’s Paul Casey eliminated earlier.

Schauffele’s overnight lead was wiped out on Sunday before he birdied the 17th to win by one stroke on 18 under par at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini closed with an Olympic record 10-under round of 61 to finish in silver at 17 under.

The drama continued as Pan pipped Open champion Collin Morikawa to bronze in a play-off that also included McIlroy, Casey, Japan’s Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, Chile’s Mito Pereira and Colombian Sebastian Munoz.

CT Pan wins bronze after dramatic seven-way play-off

Schauffele led by one shot heading into the final day and stretched that advantage to three strokes with a birdie-birdie start, adding two more before the turn.

But a flying finish from Sabbatini and a bogey for the American at 14 saw his lead wiped out as he approached the final stretch.

Schauffele took a penalty drop on that hole after leaking a drive into the bushes and then caught a branch on his downswing, escaping with just the one dropped shot as he went on to complete a final round of 67.

The 27-year-old spoke before the Games about how his father and swing coach, Stefan, was a former German decathlete whose own ambitions of competing at an Olympics were ended when he was left blind in one eye after a car accident.

Schauffele responded to slipping into a tie for the lead by making a birdie on the 17th to move clear once more and looked set to realise his father’s Olympic dreams.

There was a nervy, errant drive on the final hole but the world number five held his nerve to sink a gold medal-clinching par putt.

“I really wanted to win for my dad. I am sure he is crying somewhere right now. I kind of wanted this one more than any other,” said Schauffele, whose grandparents live in Tokyo.

“You are trying to represent your country to the best of your ability and then you add family stuff on top of that. I’m probably going to have a nice call with my grandparents tonight.

“Everyone is back home watching. I was feeling the love from San Diego and Las Vegas this whole time. I’m a little speechless right now, quite honestly.”

The most dramatic of finishes

A seven-way play-off is extremely rare at the highest level of golf and unprecedented to decide who finishes third.

But that is the drama a scramble for medals provides and a shootout was necessary with seven of the world’s best tied at 15 under par after four rounds.

Britain’s Casey was the first to drop out after failing to recover from a wayward drive, with home favourite Matsuyama also falling at the first hurdle.

The five remaining hopefuls could then not be separated on the par-three 10th as all made par.

American Morikawa pitched his approach on the 11th to within two feet but Pan followed him down for birdie.

World number 118 Pereira saw his putt lip out and McIlroy also burned the edge of the cup, while Munoz bogeyed to leave just two players in it.

The final pair headed back to the 18th but when Morikawa found a bunker it opened up for Pan and the world number 208 made his par to take bronze.

‘Overwhelming pride’

Justin Rose won gold for Britain in Rio five years ago and Casey was in contention for a medal all week before his hopes ended in the play-off.

“The overwhelming thing is pride. Great emotions, but frustration at the same time,” said Casey. “It’s highlighted to us how much the Olympics means to everybody.”

GB team-mate Tommy Fleetwood posted a fourth successive under-par round of 70 that included an eagle, four birdies and five bogeys to finish tied 16th at 11 under.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, who was eligible to play for Team GB but represented Ireland at amateur level, was sceptical heading to Japan but enjoyed his Olympic experience.

“I’ve never tried so hard in my life to finish third. It’s not a position that I find myself in very often,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The nice consolation is it’s not going to be my last chance, I’ll be back in Paris in three years’ time and will give it my all.

“This isn’t just another golf tournament, it’s much bigger than that, and I didn’t realise that until I got here.”

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