Brilliant Schauffele Wins in Hawaii but it's More Sunday Disappointment for Rory
Xander Schauffele shot a remarkable final round of 62 to pip Gary Woodland to the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Hawaii. Thew young American played his final 16 holes in 12 under par and finished with a 72-hole total of 269, 23 under par.
As good as Schaufffele’s performance was, however, the tournament will equally be remembered by many for another poor final round by Rory McIlroy and, in Woodland’s case, for it being the seventh time he has lost after holding the 54-hole lead. Not that he could have done a huge amount to prevent his younger rival’s victory. Woodland finished with a five-under 68 and was the only man in the field to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.
He spoke afterwards about just how difficult it is to win golf tournaments on the PGA Tour. “I don't think it will ever be easy because I still believe I was playing well enough to shoot 66 today,” Woodland said when asked if his rounds of 67-67-68-68 would give hm some consolation.
Not long after making a clutch 11-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to stay on the pace, Woodland faced one from 10-feet on the 18th to force a playoff. He missed but said it was his approach from 267-yards with his four iron that missed the green on the right that was the problem. Woodland admitted his drive had gone further than he had hoped, putting him between clubs.
“The game was in a good spot. You have an iron into the par five in the middle of the fairway on the last hole you expect to make birdie. I had killed the par fives all week this week, which is what you got to do out here,” he said. “So I knew what he was doing and the competitor in me knew I needed to do one better and unfortunately I didn't get it done.”
“There were a couple shots early on the front nine I would like to have back to a couple left pins, I just wasn't aggressive enough,” he said. "This one will hurt tonight.”
McIlroy had another day to forget and will need nobody to tell him that he is starting to make a habit of failing to get the job done when starting the final day in the final group. On six occasions around the world last year McIlroy played in the final group in the final round and in all six he failed to win.
He talked about needing patience in those moments but his temperament was tested to the limited this time. The Northern Irishman, playing in this tournament for the first time, started three off the lead but was quickly overtaken. Only five of the 33 players in the field shot worse than McIlroy’s 72 in calmer conditions. The field average was 69.7 and McIlroy ended up in a tie for fourth with Dustin Johnson and Marc Leishman. He ended the week eight shots behind the winner. Justin Thomas was third.
“My attitude was much better today, I didn't press at all, I was very patient, it's just something I'm going to have to persist in, just keep putting myself in these positions and honestly, I don't think anyone could have beaten Xander today,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I could have shot a better score, but I did what I wanted to do. I gave myself plenty of chances, I hit most of the fairways, I hit most of the greens, just couldn't get the ball to drop.”
After three good rounds on the greens, he made a total of just 31 feet on the greens on the final day - it is a sadly familiar story. “Anything that was right-to-left I missed on the high side and anything left-to-right I missed on the low side. So just one of those days where it just didn't happen,” he said. “I'm going to go home and sort of reflect on this week and reflect on what was good and what maybe wasn't so good and work on a few things and come back out and having learned a little more about my game than I knew coming into this week.”
Schauffele was six behind after a dropped shot at the opening hole. “You kind of look around and realise you have nothing to lose,” he said. “All of my wins have been from behind. This was in sort of dramatic fashion and it turned into a birdie fest coming down the stretch.”
Schauffele played his last 16 holes in 12 under par with two eagles and eight birdies for a course record tying 62. He had an 11-foot eagle putt on the last to break it with a 61 but it slid by.
“I shot two under and it felt like an 80 next to him,” playing partner Marc Leishman said.
This was Schauffele’s fourth victory, all of which have been come-from-behind victories. “The next step in my career is to learn to be cool under the gun, having a lead and maintaining it,” he says. “These are all stepping stones in the right direction and I think the end goal is for me to be able to go wire-to-wire and obviously a major would be nice but go wire-to-wire and show myself that I got the nerve to do it.”
What’s in the Bag - Xander Schauffele
Driver: Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero (9°), Graphite Design BB 7X shaft
Fairways: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (15°), Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 8X shaft
Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (18°), Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 8X shaft
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro 19 (4-PW), True Temper Dynamic Gold X 100 shafts
Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 4 (52°), True Temper Dynamic Gold X 100 shaft
Putter: Odyssey O-Works Red #7 CH
Golf Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X
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