Xander Schauffele produced a birdie and an outstanding up-and-down over the last two holes to hold off Rory Sabbatini and claim Olympic gold by just a single shot.
Xander Schauffele Wins Incredible Olympic Gold Medal
In a hugely dramatic final round, the American produced a 67 to win by just a single shot from Rory Sabbatini, who, around an hour and a half earlier, had shot an Olympic record score of 61.
With Schauffele and Sabbatini securing the gold and silver, it would be a seven man playoff for the bronze, with Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, Sebastián Muñoz, C.T. Pan and Mito Pereira vying for the final medal.
In an already tense day, it was C.T Pan who overcame the challengers, producing a par at the fourth playoff hole to claim the bronze for Team Chinese Taipei.
But the day was all about Schauffele, who said after his round: “It feels good. For me I wanted this for my Dad more than anything. I tried to represent my country, and then my family. It was really fun.”
His Dad, Stefan, was an aspiring decathlete in Germany. However, 40 years ago a drunk driver slammed into his car head-on near Weisbaden. On impact, a shard of glass wedged in his left eye, and six operations couldn’t save it. Taking two years away from his sport, he would lose sight in his eye, ending his Olympic dream.
The victory was, therefore, an incredibly emotional one for the Schauffele family, but now they have that illusive gold medal.
Starting the final round just one shot ahead, he would birdie the opening two holes, with further birdies at the 5th and 8th putting him two clear going into the back nine.
As the round wore on, it was Slovakian, Sabbatini, who was emerging as his nearest challenger, with a five-under par front nine cutting down his seven shot deficit to the overnight leader.
In search of his first victory since the 2011 Honda Classic, he would produce six birdies and a single bogey over the back nine to secure a 10-under-par 61, and a new Olympic scoring record.
With Sabbatini in the clubhouse at 17-under-par, he would endure a long wait as the leaders played out their back nine.
It seemed that the pressure was beginning to show for Schauffele, as he bogeyed one of the easiest holes on the course, the par-5 14th.
Now in a share of the gold medal position, the American would need to find a birdie over the subsequent final holes to avoid a playoff with the Slovak.
As the round drew to its finale, the 27-year-old would find his birdie at the driveable par-4 17th, splashing out from the greenside bunker, he would knock in his short putt to have a one shot advantage down the last.
There was still time for yet more drama though! With the American’s drive down the last being pushed to the right, he would be blocked out with his second, forcing him into a chip out down the fairway.
Leaving himself 100-yards in, Schauffele demonstrated his superb wedge play yet again. With the ball pitching past the hole, it would spin back to under three-feet, a huge moment under pressure.
Rolling the par putt in, the American would finally complete his and his Father’s Olympic dream of a gold medal.