KAWAGOE, Japan — Xander Schauffele won an Olympic gold medal he badly wanted by overcoming more pressure than he could have imagined Sunday.
Right when Schauffele appeared to lose his firm grip on the gold, the 27-year-old American responded with two clutch putts at the end for a 4-under 67 and a one-shot victory over Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia in a wild finish to the men’s golf competition.
One was a 6-foot birdie putt for the lead. The last one was a 4-foot par putt for the win.
“Just in shock,” Schauffele said. “I was trying so hard to just stay calm. … But man, it was stressful. And I made that putt and it was just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and just very relieved and happy.”
C.T. Pan outlasted six other golfers, including Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa, to win the bronze medal on the fourth playoff hole.
The tension made the hot air feel even thicker at Kasumigaseki Country Club. When the last group walked onto the 18th green, nine players remained in the mix for a medal.
One of them was Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, just not the medal that his golf-mad country wanted for him. He was one shot out of the lead when he missed a 3-foot par putt on the 15th hole and never caught up. He missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for the bronze.