62 gives Schauffele title on 'crazy day'

A joyous Xander Schauffele after winning the Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club in Hawaii.
A joyous Xander Schauffele after winning the Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club in Hawaii.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MAUI • Xander Schauffele started the final round five behind the pace, opened with a bogey but still managed to win the Tournament of Champions by one stroke from overnight leader Gary Woodland after a course record-equalling 62.

He flew under the radar despite making birdies on four of his next five holes, before chipping in for his first eagle at the ninth at the Kapalua Plantation course on Sunday.

He holed out for his second eagle from 107 yards out on the fairway at No. 12 and birdied Nos. 14 and 15.

In a see-saw battle, an aggressive 200-yard approach left him with a nine-footer for birdie at the 17th, the first of the day on the hardest hole on course. He birdied the par-five 18th with two putts from 12 feet, then watched from the scoring tent as Woodland failed to sink a 10-footer to force a play-off.

"Honestly, it was a crazy day," Schauffele said after signing for a 23-under total of 269. "Got nothing to lose. Wind was down, the easier holes played easier and the tougher holes played harder. We figured if we could kind of sneak a few in on the tougher holes, we might have a chance."

The 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year has won all four of his titles in come-from-behind fashion, including a play-off victory at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai in October.

His fellow American Woodland, who led four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy by three strokes going into the final round, had five birdies in his 68 for 270.

But the duel between the duo never materialised in the tournament, which is open only to PGA Tour event winners and saw seven of the world's top eight in action.

Woodland is now zero for seven when leading into the final round of a PGA Tour strokeplay event. McIlroy, whose 72 was the worst of the top 10 finishers, will sympathise with him, having recently also struggled to convert his chances.

The Northern Irishman played the final round of the first Major of 2018 with eventual winner Patrick Reed at the Masters but faded to finish equal fifth. He was also paired last year with Tiger Woods (Tour Championship), Justin Thomas (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) and Francesco Molinari (European Tour BMW PGA Championship). He was beaten each time.

He said: "My attitude was much better today. I didn't press at all, I was very patient."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2019, with the headline '62 gives Schauffele title on 'crazy day''. Print Edition | Subscribe